Land-hungry London leads roof garden trend

Sky gardens have become an intrinsic part of commercial property developers' designs across the high density capital

The sky garden at Canary Wharf cost millions to create and will lend amenity to local residents - image: Stephen Richards
The sky garden at Canary Wharf cost millions to create and will lend amenity to local residents - image: Stephen Richards

Sky gardens at high-profile locations Fenchurch Street and now Canary Wharf in London are proving to be a trend in the land-hungry capital, with developers - and planners - increasingly recommending roof gardens as part of their designs.

Landscape architects Gillespies partner Stephen Richards was behind the roof garden at Canary Wharf Crossrail station, which opened this month. Foster + Partners, Tony Meadows Associates, Adamson Associates, Arup Engineering and Growth Industry were also involved, while Blakedown Landscapes were contractor and have the maintenance contract.

Plants came from Deepdale, Robin Tacchi, Kelways and Europlants. The scheme is part of the £15bn 118-kilometre railway line under construction in London and its environs. Crossrail's largest station is Canary Wharf. It opens in 2018. Richards says the roof garden was "expensive" but couldn't divulge how expensive. Architects Fosters indicated the garden's roof ran into the millions.

Richards says the Walkie Talkie Fenchuch Street sky garden and the Canary Wharf gardens are "different animals" as Canary Wharf is above a station and shops rather than offices but both are part of a "London-centric" move by developers to provide a "refuge oasis for visitors and workers and locals".

He insists the gardens - Canary Wharf's is 4,160m2 and uses tree ferns, bamboos, magnolias, sweet gums, strawberry trees and maples from Australasia and the North America - are "not just tick box" for planners.

He adds: "More amenity space is beneficial in planning, but we didn't need to say what it would be.

"Planners couldn't have insisted on roof, for instance. The argument we did it just to get planning through is not the case. It's a huge investment and not just ticking boxes."

One of the aims for the Canary Wharf garden is to give an amenity to residents now that the financial centre has launched a residential sector.

Richards says workers and residents alike will enjoy the "fourth dimension rooftop. The principle is established now in London," he adds.

Next for Gillespies, among a dozen London roof garden projects, is the Vauxhall sky garden. Gillespies is seeking a contractor.

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