Transplanting the King Edward’s Hollyhocks
cSPACE aspires to be sustainable – our approach to redeveloping the former King Edward School site has always been grounded in reuse and up-cycling. The many unique heritage pieces that we are preserving and reimagining stretch from century old boiler plates (read more here) to historic windows frames and locker doors. In 2013, we worked with 30 artists to reuse building materials for artwork during Phantom Wing. Early in our demolition stage, we held a public salvage auction to keep as much out of the landfill as possible.
Our philosophy for providing new life for old things had a unique twist this year as we gave a grove of Hollyhocks that had sprung up near the school an opportunity for a second life. In the immediate path of impending demolition, a call from our local neighbour Andrea made us rethink their value.
For the construction team, I’m sure these flowers might have been seen as a weed leading to water infiltration and cracking of a century old foundation. But that’s not a story worth telling! These hollyhocks are a poetic reminder, a trace of cultivation where a community would put down roots in the midst of the once vast prairie. They could have been a placemaking effort by a citizen of the community, a teacher or student who took it upon themselves to plant a moment of colour and beauty in this protected spot against the backdrop of a sandstone wall.
On the morning of April 21st, 2015 with shovels in hand, a transplant operation started – with seeds collected and several plants moved to live on in the cultivation of other places. Today, thanks to a neighbour’s thoughtfulness, the hollyhocks have re-rooted themselves elsewhere in the community to enliven those who acknowledge their beauty.
For us, with our view to towards the vision of a new arts facility and public park, we’re now all the richer for understanding how others connect to place. With a few remaining hollyhocks now in bloom at King Edward we are reminded how connections to place extend beyond the legacy of sandstone architecture, extending to small acts of making, of cultivation, that bring bricks and mortar truly to life.