Battersea Power Station's riverside park aims for welcoming feel

A mix of open and private space will be key to making the public feel welcome at Battersea Power Station's new riverside park, according to LDA Design.

Riverside park: bleacher seating will provide views of the Thames. Image: LDA Design
Riverside park: bleacher seating will provide views of the Thames. Image: LDA Design

The 2.4ha park will connect the power station with the Thames via a riverfront promenade. It is set to open in phases from the end of 2016. As lead landscape architect, LDA has taken special care to make the public feel welcome, explained associate Benjamin Walker.

A 2m fall between the power station and the riverfront allowed for the creation of a large flat space followed by terraced gardens incorporating hundreds of metres of bleacher seating. This allows people to either gather or sit alone, with planting offering private "enclaves" that afford views of the river. The park's tree-lined wings provide a buffer between public space and apartments.

The space will host events from busking to movie nights and concerts. But even when no events are happening, client Battersea Power Station Development Company wants visitors to feel welcome because people are what makes a place exciting, said Walker.

The Olympic Park's 2012 gardens, with their microcosms of plant species from around the world, have been a key inspiration, he added. "People loved those intimate spaces, being in a narrow path surrounded by really rich colourful planting. That's what we're trying to do here. I always come back to the idea that as an everyday bloke wandering round, what do I look for in a space? Where would I want to eat my sandwich at lunchtime?"

Detailed planting schemes ensure that each season has explosions of colour and interest. Bulbs will provide dense patches of colour in spring before herbaceous plants come into their own. In winter, herbaceous plants and seed heads will provide architectural structure.

Trees are chosen with texture and colour in mind, from the peeling bark of Acer griseum and colourful Gleditsia to autumnal oranges and reds that interplay with the power station's brick facade.

The park has a sheltered microclimate but some spots are sunny and others shaded, so plants are placed according to water and light requirements. It will be built atop a huge basement, but a generous soil depth of at least 19cu m per tree will allow big specimens to thrive.

Big trees - Making an impact from day one

LDA wants big,"powerful" tree specimens that make an impact from day one, but that has meant a lot of planning ahead, said associate Benjamin Walker.

The disease-defying Almus resista 'New Horizon' will be planted in a ring around the station, referencing nearby Nine Elms. LDA has been in discussion with nurseries for more than three years to make sure their specifications are deliverable.

"It's an interesting problem to have but other developments in London and across the country have taken a lot of stock from nurseries. So there's a big push to see what we can get, what size and when we can have it."

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