City Lit Blog

City Lit stories - Sonia Brown

Story added 2nd Jan 2019

Sonia Brown tending to the 4th floor roof terrace garden she designed in 2012


"My name is Sonia and I work at the reception part of the Custom Engagement Team. I’ve worked at City Lit for many years and as such I’ve seen many changes and witnessed the fantastic growth of this wonderful establishment. From the very start of my working life at City Lit I was inspired by the generosity and warmth of the staff and the wide ranging diversity of our Students who have been an endless source of wonderment.

Six years ago we received an all staff email for a sort of competition to redesign the 4th floor balcony that had become a bit of a wasteland. A few days later I came across the email again and was just about to delete it when I had that eureka moment.’Why don’t you have a go at that Sonia, you’ve designed many gardens in your head - give it a try'. So I thought about it for a week or two and just before the deadline I requested the job specification and application form with trepidation. Of course I doubted my ability, I am not a garden designer or a horticulturist but something inside me just drove me to have a go, and once I got going all my creative juices, pent up creative juices just stared to flow.

I was blown away when my design was chosen and it’s always given me a great sense of pride. I could literally picture the whole thing in my head the minute I stood on the balcony with the job spec and floor plan. The area had to be very green, user friendly to humans and insects and be a tranquil quiet haven to retreat to any time during the day.

The terrace is a well used space and it affords the staff and students at the City Lit a tranquil and quiet haven to retreat to at any during the day. With this in mind I decided to try and create a truly relaxing and beautiful oasis with minimal upkeep and  longevity in the planting. In this space it is important to me that the eye is drawn to the simplistic lines I have designed in an uncluttered and sensual way.

I wanted the senses to pick up the aroma and sweetness of the herbs like lavender ,thyme and rosemary which accompany the many other specially selected plants. Colour is also a very important aspect of any garden so a bit of colour is strategically interspersed with various shades of green. Concrete was incongruous in my design, far too uninviting and cold. The space must appeal and exude warmth throughout the year so I took as much concrete as I could out of the equation and added grass to create a touch of escapism and exuberance.

I also commissioned Robert Cooper our acclaimed ceramicist tutor to design the wall tiles. His designs are very eclectic and add a sense of fun to the surroundings.

It’s been great to give something of myself to the organisation and I continue to enjoy looking after the balcony and hope to do so for a few more years."