Public Practice Research Project

Growing Together

Initiated in partnership with the Design Age Institute in 2021, Growing Together explores design and horticulture as catalysts for positive social change and nurtures community connections in response to the planetary emergency.

Growing Together engages local residents to share stewardship of the Dame Sylvia Crowe garden at the Design Museum. The garden was named in memory of the pioneering landscape architect who designed the landscaping for the Commonwealth Institute in 1962.

The project provides an inclusive learning and research space, raises awareness of sustainable design and horticulture practices, and facilitates collective action committed to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Biodiversity Action Plan 2022 – 2027.

Growing Together vision illustrated by Georgia Cottingham, 2021


The Growing Together project seeks to reduce inequalities in access to creative learning opportunities and green spaces, and benefit health and wellbeing. It brings together creatives and horticulturists to facilitate design thinking and knowledge exchange, and establish new social contracts.

From June 2021 to January 2022, designer Georgia Cottingham led creative consultation work to expose the interests and needs of older adults (50+ years). They attended four local community groups who did not engage with the museum: The Dalgarno Trust, Open Age, Kensington and Chelsea over 50s Forum, and The Octavia Foundation. Sharing their ideas about a green space at the Design Museum, participants were integral in shaping the project vision and design brief.

Horticultural educator George Hudson and design studio public works were appointed in March 2022 to oversee the co-design of the garden, as an accessible space for the museum to explore its ecological agenda. They held a series of workshops with local residents, aged 50 years+, with limited or no access to green spaces at home, and students from Hammersmith Academy. Participants made cyanotype prints, sowed seeds, planted bulbs, propagated plants, and tested natural dyes. They also explored principles of biodiversity, habitat provision and stewardship. Through this process, participants gained skills and insight whilst contributing their own ideas towards the co-design.

In October 2022, 15 of the older adults formed a volunteer cohort to share the stewardship of the garden with the museum. Their learning was facilitated by ecologist, educator and author, Michael Holland.

Social enterprise community interest company Renew:EL joined the project in February 2023, designing and installing a set of steps and handrail to make the upper level accessible. They also helped plant the lower embankments.

In March 2023, public works installed a set of garden planters on the upper level to absorb waste from the museum’s exhibitions and shops. The planters include two storage units for tools, which can unfold into seating and work surfaces.

Photo by Paola Vivas

Photo by Matthew Kaltenborn

Photo by Paola Vivas

Photo by Paola Vivas

Photo by Paola Vivas


The volunteer cohort have collectively developed the volunteer profile, and the Growing Together Manifesto, pledging to:

  • make a harmonious, welcoming space.
  • explore the challenges and opportunities of what a productive urban garden might be.
  • garden for a changing climate with care and without chemical control.
  • protect, enhance and improve biodiversity.
  • share responsibility for matter which comes into the garden, considering where is has come from and how it has been produced.
  • share responsibility for matter which leaves the garden, considering where is goes and what impact it will have.

Volunteers meet regularly to care for the Dame Sylvia Crowe Garden, and visit other green spaces across London. The volunteers' learning has been supported by visits hosted by Chelsea Physic Garden, Fulham Palace Gardens, Garden Museum, Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, Holland Park Ecology Centre, Kew Gardens, Phoenix Gardens, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Kitchen Gardens.

In addition, our volunteers co-curate seasonal Assembly events inviting horticulturists, designers, thinkers and creatives to produce and share knowledge in the garden.

Please note that we are not currently recruiting new volunteers.

Volunteers Hakimeh, Shayna, Amelia, Rosie, Shiv, Sandra, Selma, Mohammed. Photo by Paola Vivas

Dame Sylvia Crowe

Born in Oxfordshire, Dame Sylvia Crowe was an influential landscape architect, garden designer and author. One of the leading theorists and practitioners in her field, she promoted landscape architecture in the UK and internationally. She was president of the Landscape Institute from 1957 to 1959 and helped to found the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), of which she became acting president. Crowe designed the new grounds for the Commonwealth Institute in 1962.


The project is enriched with insights and ideas from many contributors. We're grateful to each person who has challenged and expanded our thinking and practice – thanks for helping us to grow.

To the Growing Together project Critical Friends group – Noordeen Fahmy, Alice Laughton, Robert Halbert-Pereno and Pak Ling Wan for advising and supporting the project.

To contributors to our Assembly events including planting designer and writer Susanna Grant, social enterprise Hackney Herbal, gardener Oliver Haden, psychiatrist, psychotherapist and author Sue Stuart-Smith for your wisdom and inspiration.

To partners Design Age Institute and Opportunity Kensington Business Improvement District, for your guidance and energy.

To this project's funders Lightbulb Trust and Kusama Trust for your generosity, conviction and patience.

Designing for a Greener Future

Learn more about the Design Museum's commitment to the green transition.

Background image by Matthew Kaltenborn