Saint Mary’s Church Gardens


Port Elizabeth, Bequia

Type: Heritage, new build

Status: Completed



Instagram: @gbbdstudio

The garden is positioned between the Church and the shoreline of Admiralty Bay. The design intent is to add visual clarity to the garden with a fresh and contemporary look, while drawing on the historical, cultural and scenic layers of the Church and the island. The garden not only provides a tranquil setting for the Church and bell pavilion, but also plays a role in the rejuvenation of Bequia’s dynamic waterfront. The aim is to have a positive impact on everyday life of those who visit it. To this effect, the proposed theme of the gardens is to invite, to connect, to reflect.

Three oval-shaped planters give structure to the space and define the area where bespoke designed benches encourage communication and interaction. The sculptured shape of the benches is influenced by the shape of the Bequia sailing boats, many of which are hauled up on the beach in front of the Church. A long gently-curved planter, much like the shoreline, surrounds the garden and creates a sense of intimacy. In here, nestled amongst the sea of Plumbago flowers, a single bench is placed from where the Church’s imposing elegance and the delicate structure of the bell pavilion can be captured.

Silver Trumpet trees (Tabebuia Caraiba) are planted along the perimeter planter providing shade and colour when in bloom with their amazing display of bright yellow flowers. The planters are filled with blue Plumbago flowers, also known as Sky flower. The profusion of blue flowers creates a sense of serenity and contrast with the seasonal display of yellow flowers from the Silver Trumpet tree. The Plumbago shrub is known to be very hardy, resilient to diseases and drought tolerant and blooms for most of the year. The Silver Trumpet tree is also hardy and drought tolerant, and produces a spectacular flower display at the end of the dry season.

Curved paths, made of local stone, meander through the garden spaces. The paths are lined with a fishbone pebble pattern which has a reference to Christianity as well as to the seafaring life of many Bequians. A breeze block wall was constructed around the perimeter of the Church about 3 decades ago, reducing the Church’s imposing presence and connection to the Waterfront. A new fence was proposed with a base in local stone and the upper part in wrought iron. The wrought iron is formed into overlapping arches using the language of the Church’s arches and bell pavilion. A fishbone pattern, like in the pebbles on the walkway, forms a rhythm and reinforces the fence.