The Garden of Pooled Talents

The University of Sheffield Masterplan realigns traffic flows around campus to facilitate ease of access and movement for pedestrians and bicycles. Running parallel to this strategy to reconcile people, places and traffic, is a vision to increase and improve greenspace on campus.

The Garden of Pooled Talents is one such initiative, bringing a cohesion of art, science and nature to a bare courtyard between university buildings. The design is a collaboration between Prof. Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, and artist Stephen Broadbent.

Combining effective use of space for movement and pause, clever plant choice and combinations for sustainable visual display, and reduction in hard surface to buffer negative impacts of the built environment, The Garden of Pooled Talents showcases the concepts of Designed Ecology.


The central pathway through the garden, not designed to be an access route between buildings, leads to a partially secluded space for a thought-provoking experience within a visual spectacle. The giant metal structures are symbolic of ladles pouring water onto the garden, at the same time paying homage to Sheffield’s cutlery-making tradition.

Images from July 2018

Despite the summer heat, the plants in this garden on the campus of the University of Sheffield are thriving. Professor Nigel Dunnet explains that this is a combination of plant selection and the substrate into which they are planted.

Different plant combinations were specified for the outer margins, for the inner section, and for the part shaded by adjacent buildings. University estate management reports that the garden received no irrigation at all this year, and has needed only a couple of hours of maintenance. Clever plant choice is critical to this success. For details on the plants specified, please contact CfDE.

Also important is the substrate that was used. As with many urban landscapes, the site was highly disturbed, and a growing medium had to be brought in. Drawing from his vast experience in designing successful urban plantings, Nigel specified the standard semi-intensive green roof substrate from ZinCo, the same that was used for the gardens at The Barbican.

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Nestled between buildings, the garden provides a welcome connection with nature. (Image: N.Dunnett)


Seating contributes to the function of the space, encouraging pause (Image: A. I. Gerber)


Cool blues refresh (Image: A. I. Gerber)

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Diversity of form and colour. (Image: N. Dunnett)


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