The public park is a paradigmatic element of suburbia: a meeting point of the rural and the urban, a constructed landscape that provides a civil amenity to the local residents. Cuddington is my ongoing project to photograph Cuddington Recreation Ground, in the outer suburbs of south-west London, investigating the complex layers and interconnections, unfolding over time, that the public park represents.

The surrounding housing was built in the 1920s and 1930s during the inter-war expansion of London. These suburbs were built commercially but promoted utopian ideals, offering a new middle class of railway commuters the opportunity to live in a ‘natural’ environment of tree-lined roads, grass verges, private gardens and public parks, away from the pollution and cramped conditions of the 19th Century inner suburbs and city centre. The new housing was built on farmland, and the public park is both a relic of the previous, rural, landscape and a newly constructed and regulated space for leisure activities. Today, the park is used for walking dogs, informal sports and children’s play, as well as serving as a habitat for wildlife.

In my photography project, I am investigating the park’s multiple natures, at once a rural-agricultural landscape, a constructed, idealised landscape in the fashion of the 18th Century landscape architects, and an extension of the domestic suburban garden: a shifting landscape reflecting societal changes. I want to approach the park by referencing representations of landscape in classical painting, but also by considering it scenographically: as a place of performance. Residents enact their leisure activities, but the park’s boundary also connects the public realm with the private ‘backstage’ space of the rear gardens that back onto the park. Fences, shrubs and trees ensure a carefully calibrated level of visibility, with houses overlooking the neatly constructed public park, and park-goers able to glimpse the more-or-less orderly domestic zone in return.

Cuddington is in three parts: Arcadia, Boundary Conditions and Et in Arcadia Ego. Learn more about Cuddington as an artistic research project in this video.


This article was updated on October 2, 2022