6 notable London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces


Working in Butlers Wharf for the first time, the experience of landscaping a roof terrace outside Tower Bridge left a lasting impression. There is something quite enthralling about having a large historical landmark as part of the experience of a roof terrace and the way it affects the feel of the space. Since then I was fortunate to design next to many London landmarks. The city’s skyline had evolved dramatically over the last decade and some of the centrally located roof gardens gain from truly cinematic vistas. Working with landmarks in the view is a privilege and what one can do with those urban sights can become art altogether.

1. Battersea Power Station 2. The Gherkin 3. The Shard 4. Big Ben 5. St Pancras 6. St Paul’s Cathedral

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As a native of the Mediterranean, the image of Battersea Power Station harks back to my teenage years seeing it for the first time on the 1977 Pink Floyd album cover ‘Animals’. In my first year working as garden designer I created a roof garden off Queenstown Road SW8, which although low had a see through slither through the rooftops of the Station. Being a south facing sun trap the garden featured a Mediterranean scheme with deep blue colours, slates, hardwood, Olives, Oleanders, Fig, palms and Loquat.

In this photograph, the Station is in full view on this roof garden in Grosvenor Waterside. I had spent a long summer here working on a few terraces and this one has a full front on view. A bench on the right provides a good vantage point – with Chelsea Bridge in the view simultaneously. The warmth of the hardwood reiterates the red brick of the building and the light sandstone picks on the chimneys colour. 2 Olive trees with clear trunks flank the entrance doors, mimicking the shape of the chimneys.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces Battersea Power Station

Grosvenor Waterside roof garden


2001 saw the foundations for a new Sir Foster building set in the heart of the City. Since the spring of 2004 the London skyline had been officially augmented with a truly magnificent pure steel and glass structure – 180 meters of it… London is still largely a village with suburbs – only a minute portion of its makeup is made of skyscrapers, historical monuments and commercial buildings. As such, one is able to enjoy long uninterrupted views of central buildings from most of London and particularly from the higher grounds in the North such as Highgate and the South such as Forrest Hill. These hilly views with a hazy city view in the distance are perhaps more akin to Los Angeles rather than say New York. This land diversity of London means that creating gardens and roof terraces across the capital forms an extensive language of landscape and garden design. 30 St Mary Axe EC3 feels closer than it is in this roof terrace by the Design Museum on the south side of the River Thames. The pair of planters along the brick wall serves 4 purposes: a focal point from the entrance to the apartment, reflect the Gherkin’s shape in their outline, create planting that will not obscure the view and show and illuminate the London brick. The planters’ colour ties in with the River’s hue, contrasting the yellow variegated New Zealand Flax.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces The Gherkin

Tempus Wharf roof terrace


Renzo Piano’s 308 metres Shard was inaugurated on 5 July 2012 – 5 weeks after this photograph was taken. Now dominating the capital’s skyline as a shard of glass over London Bridge it forms a reference point from most London locations. In this intimate small roof terrace at the heart of the bustling Bermondsey, both the shape of the building and the Shard are reiterated in the design. The custom made powder coated tree planter is angled to reference the shape of the brick wall. 2 tall red vases flanking the living room doors were named the Shard pots, as their edges are pointed similarly to the building’s apex.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces The Shard

Bermondsey roof terrace

  4. BIG BEN.

Tim Soar took this photograph from Hamilton House overlooking Bridge House at St George Wharf in Vauxhall Bridge. Big Ben is snug here between Millbank Tower, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Since the turn of the millennium the London Eye, at 135 metres and in shimmering white, had become a pivotal reference point throughout the city. While on easterly roof terraces one can observe Big Ben behind the centre of the Eye, from westerly direction, at Chelsea Bridge, it is precisely in front and at its centre. Here in St George Wharf Big Ben appears diagonal to Terry Farrell’s MI6 Building. With government building all around one cannot help but feel part of a Bond film…

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces Big Ben  

St George Wharf roof gardens


Albert Dock is nestled along the canal in a converted building between King’s Place Concert Hall and the Caledonian Road. The urban landscape here in King’s Cross has been transformed over the last few years with the Channel Tunnel Link project ad the refurbishment of St Pancras. With the Shard prominent in the middle distance to the left, the proximity of the BT Tower to the right and St Pancras in the centre gives a wide panorama of city skies. With the terrace exposed to wind a glass balustrade was added to deflect some of its effect. The view was conserved using low planting along the wall with taller accents of Silver birch in the corners.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces St Pancras

King's Cross roof terrace


St Paul’s Cathedral remains Britain’s most loved monument. Frequently working in Clerkenwell I have had a taste of its presence. Here, the Cathedral is visible from both the upper terrace outside the living room and the lower one outside the master bedroom. With the view left uninterrupted with a small seating area the planters face the living room to frame the BT Tower in a discrete way. The lower terrace features a large multi-stem Ginkgo tree which provides a seasonal change over the front of the Cathedral.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's roof terrace

To live in London and work on roof terraces means one gets to connect and understand the landscape of this metropolis. At times I would not notice a detail in the distance on a murky day, yet when zooming in the photo I would discover some fantastic associations. In the photograph below, at Cromwell Tower in the Barbican, Battersea Power Station, Big Ben and the London Eye are all aligned on this latitude. Working in Covent Garden’s Long Acre, one can observe Nelson’s Column through the chimneys of Battersea. Designing near City Airport the emerging views blend in into a myriad of new city architecture with the O2 centre, the Emirates Ail Line, Olympic Stadium and canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier all in one panorama…

It is always important for me to preserve these views allowing enough approach to the boundary to study and enjoy the landmarks. I try and reproduce shapes and textures where appropriate in order to create continuity. Sometimes all it takes is a sole planter with the right plant to give the vista depth and respect the landmark, when at other times, a line of green to frame the landmark can transform the experience. At times, when working in close proximity to neighbours who enjoy part of the view it is important to respect their share of it. When trees have grown into higher terraces, bushes have masked angular views and hedges have gotten too high folks would approach us to do something about it. As the saying goes – the view is everything!

amir   Written, photographed (unless indicated) and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

London landmarks viewed from our contemporary roof terraces

Cromwell Tower roof terrace

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