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Landscape Architecture: Three new projects highlighting recent developments

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The Landscaping of 151 Rosebery Avenue by John McAslan + Partners, Windrush Square by Gross Max and Ebbw Vale Vertical Garden by Lianne Russ and Philip Henshaw are analysed by the experts.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said: ‘The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.’ Landscape designers face different problems as their designs can literally die. Perhaps that’s why many come across as highly practical, not to mention crusty.

Architects take on various roles in hard and soft landscape design. Some, like Edward Cullinan Architects, have expertise in both; BUJ Architects has an in-house team of landscape architects, and many work with landscape consultants appointed by their clients, and some with design and build landscape design specialists.

Architects need to understand the practical aspects of landscape design, especially the principles of managing a landscape budget adequate for the project. Working to cost benchmarks can also be extremely challenging.

As landscaping can be regarded as ‘low-hanging fruit’ in value engineering exercises it often makes sense to build function into landscape proposals. For this and other reasons, landscape designers usually prefer to employ elements that serve practical purposes, and aren’t just ornamental. In both these respects landscape designers’ and architects’ approaches are similar.

Disabled access must be carefully considered, along with safety, maintenance, sustainability, lighting, drainage and vehicle access. On some projects the responsibilities of landscape, lighting and highways consultants must be clearly defined and the architect may have a coordinating role. It’s also important to think about the timescale for the establishment of soft landscaping relative to construction programmes.

Many established references for site planning - for example the writing of American urban planner Kevin Lynch – are still valid. But, as the three case studies here illustrate, landscape design
is evolving, especially in its use of materials, and there is a growing range of products, especially in the case of hard landscaping, that liberate designers to explore new possibilities, especially in minimalist urban landscape design.

At one end of the spectrum, manufacturers such as Woodhouse provide coordinated ranges of products, including light fittings, seating and cycle stands. American manufacturer Landscape Forms also produces exquisitely engineered street furniture, now available in Britain. At the other end, there are new possibilities for bespoke design and collaboration with designers such as Natasha Webb of To Grace, who specialises in laser cut art work. Derek Glashan of landscape architect Robert Myers Associates is an advocate of bespoke design, sometimes combining special bricks with Arborslot block infill tree surrounds, Orsogril steel fencing and grating products, to achieve a contemporary feel.

References and sources

Landscape Institutewww.landscapeinstitute.org
Landscape Design Trustwww.landscape.co.uk
Design For Londonwww.designforlondon.gov.uk/what-we-do
CABE Grey to Green campaignwww.cabe.org.uk/grey-to-green
SPONS External Works and Landscape
Price Book 2011
Constructing Landscape Materials, Techniques, Building Elements
by Astrid Zimmerman, Birkhauser, December 2008
Landscape Architect’s Pocket Book
by Nicola Garmory, Rachel Tennant and Siobhan Vernon, Architectural Press, January 2009
Street furniture Landscape Formswww.landscapeforms.com
Exterior lighting, seating and signage
Design to Gracewww.designtograce.co.uk
Exterior lighting Paviomwww.paviom.com
Paving Coleford Brick and Tilewww.colefordbrick.co.uk
Design and build gardens Greendot Gardens www.greendotgardens.co.uk
Block infill tree surrounds Jones of Oswestry, Arborslot www.jonesofoswestry.com
Steel fencing, grating and louvred grilles Orsogril UK, www.orsogril.co.uk

Case study 1:
151 Rosebery Avenue

This redevelopment of the AJ’s former office site, originally designed by John McAslan + Partners, converts a former car park to a courtyard space. The hard surfaces provide a flexible space for tenants and a sense of continuity with internal ground floor accommodation. Vehicle access for the disabled and cycle parking are provided. Hugh Broughton Architects consulted with del Buono-Gazerwitz for the free standing furniture and planting.

Project architect Grenville Herrald says: ‘A series of angled decking areas at the junction of the steps and the paving, forms a continuous route between the different levels to give unhindered access to all parts of the decking. The angled sections provide a sensible gradient and give the decking an interesting sculptural form. On the other side, the deck folds up to form a long seating bench dividing the car and bike parking areas.’

He adds: ‘The raised area orientates the decking towards the offices, giving it privacy without shutting it off from the rest of the courtyard. The existing wall on the far side of the courtyard is lined with matching timber boarding to unify the whole space and has a continuous secure, stainless steel bar along its length to maximise cycle parking spaces.’

Start on site October 2007 (whole project including strip-out)
Completion August 2008
Area of courtyard 326m²
Form of contract JCT Intermediate
Total cost Unconfirmed
Client Derwent London
Architect Hugh Broughton Architects
Structural engineer Price and Myers
M&E consultant Peter Deer and Associates
Quantity surveyor Jackson Coles
Project manager Jackson Coles
Landscape consultant del Buono-Gazerwitz
Main contractor Contrakt
Building inspector London Borough of Islington Building Control
Bollards Woodhouse Geo G-BO 51 13 0 Standard 140mm-diameter Lift Out with locking hasp
Lanterns Woodhouse Geo Parklight Symmetric G-LA 42 20 0 with 150 with HCI-T lamps
Hoop cycle stands Woodhouse Geo G-HB 32 11 0, 900mm
Slot drainage Marshall
Paving Charcon Flag Appalachian, charcoal, ground, 400 x 400mm
Electric vehicle charging point Elektromotive Elektrobay
Timber decking, fencing and benches Balau wood


Case study 2
Windrush Square, Brixton, London by Gross Max

This project focuses on social and historical concerns. Brixton Central Square - comprising three separate public spaces, Tate Gardens, Windrush Square and St Matthews Peace Garden - is loosely defined by assorted civic buildings: the town hall, St Matthews Church, Raleigh Hall and the Tate Library. These spaces were disconnected from each other and from the civic buildings by a series of roads, two carrying heavy traffic.

Partner Nigel Sampey explains that landscape architecture practice Gross Max aimed to create a much-needed high quality public space, reflecting on civic space’s role as a vibrant stage for society. ‘Traditional pillars of society, church, local government and learning – all represented within Brixton Square - are no longer the main priority in such a space. The site was lost in space and time, needing a new agenda for its programme and events, and a setting that provided spatial coherence. Garden and square are reconciled in a new urban typology, accommodating solitude and gathering, enclosure and opening, introversion and extroversion and an integrated park and square for biological and cultural diversity. We removed walls and railings to allow
pedestrian flow and opened up the space - with a focus on the plane tree at the limestone square’s centre - with playfully configured steps and ramps.’

Cost £4.4 million
Start on site June 2009
Contract duration 9 months
Gross area 5,000m²
Client TFL and London Borough of Lambeth
Landscape architect Gross Max
Engineers Atkins
Windrush light columns engineer Jane Wernick Associates
Lighting Dpa Lighting
Water feature Pump chamber: Fountains Direct
Individual seats Britannia Architectural Metalwork
Stainless steel bins Kent Stainless Steel
Bike racks Benkerrt
Brick Hardscape
Limestone Anglo-European Stone
Cast iron paving Hargreaves Foundary
Sculptural bench BBS Granite Concepts
Light columns Scott Associates Sculpture


Case study 3
Ebbw Vale Vertical Garden: Green Chimneys & Elevated Allotments, by Lianne Russ and Philip Henshaw

Like Windrush Square, this project responds to the history of the site and its imagery. A monument to the site’s industrial past, it forms part of The Works Masterplan, aimed at creating a sustainable community at the head of the Ebbw Valley, Wales. It uses an ex-steelworks basement with columns and an untreated standing, providing a focus for the new community, and will
be showcased at the 2010 National Eisteddfod cultural festival.

Philip Henshaw says: ‘The community garden encourages participation on low-tech sustainable principles, questioning conventional park and garden design by encouraging nature to grow vertically out of the basement, using green chimneys and vertical allotments.’

The tapered green walls can be adapted to promote local events and a wide ramp descends to the concrete floor, providing inclusive access. To allow drainage, allotments sit on retained basement gravel surfaces and green chimneys have locally sourced rough-sawn timber piers. The chimneys, made from reclaimed metal, give a framework to the vertical garden and integrate lighting and sheltered seating areas. Large Cor-ten sheets represent the former steelworks plant layout.

Local schools own the chimneys, allotments and seed nurseries.

Start on site
November 2009
Gross area 1,100m²
Form of contract JCT Intermediate, 2005
Total cost £100,000
Client Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC), Welsh Assembly Government, Welsh National Eisteddfod Committee
Design consultantLianne Russ and Philip Henshaw
Project manager BGCBC
Landscape architect Donna Vinnels & Sheila Holmes, BGCBC
Contractor GEE Construction
Vertical allotments BRC of Newport, steel reinforcement sheets
Living wall Permacrib gravity retaining wall interlocking cell system
Decking Gripsure Anti-slip timber decking
Cor-ten artworksTreadstone Designed Fabrications, 3mm gauge sheet
Stair and concrete GGBS concrete supplied by Tarmac from local batching plant at Trefil. Blast-furnace slag from Llanwern steelworks





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