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Amir Schlezinger > garden designer

I design and build contemporary gardens, landscapes and roof terraces throughout London. Projects include City, Courtyard, Patio and larger Family gardens with a major speciality in Roof garden design and roof terrace design. In town, I have always been asked for low maintenance and this has evolved into an important element of all my gardens. I offer a complete design and build service, with a particular emphasis on project management.

Alongside domestic projects, I also work with corporate clients to develop their outdoor spaces. With all clients, my key role is to translate their wishes into a workable design - creating beautiful yet highly liveable, social spaces.

Amir Schlezinger studied Garden Design at Middlesex University and Capel Manor College in London and graduated with a BA (Hons) in 2000. He has designed and realised over 200 projects since, cultivating a particular interest in roof gardens and terraces.

Amir Schlezinger has contributed to numerous magazines and books on garden design worldwide. Having grown in the Mediterranean region his knowledge and understanding of both European and Tropical flora has contributed to a style of planting which combines sculptural and architectural plants with northern European traditions.

Photo by Marianne Majerus

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Go up on the roof to get a natural high / by Pattie Barron

Evening Standard 06 November 2013 / photo by Clive Nichols

Meet the man with the monopoly on designing London's most beautiful roof gardens: Amir Schlezinger. Over the last decade he has created over 100 high-rise outdoor spaces that not only perch on some of the city's most exciting new developments but also complement its ever-expanding skyline. "First and foremost is to work with the view, framing the landscape," believes Israeli-born Schlezinger, who framed the view of nearby St Paul's Cathedral from a penthouse terrace in the city by craning in a ginkgo biloba tree, laid the boards of a hardwood deck on Grosvenor Waterside's roof garden to follow the line of Chelsea Bridge and, on a series of roof terraces at Tempus Wharf, installed customised 'wave' planters to emulate the River Thames beneath. On the 40th-floor roof terrace of Barbican's Cromwell Tower, concrete blocks hampered the view, so Schlezinger designed a movable platform as podium to facilitate gazing at the Gherkin and other spectacular landmarks. If there isn't a fabulous view, he might create an eye-distracting jungle of plants, or even borrow the neighbouring trees, focusing the lighting on those to create an eye-boggling vista at night. And if he's designing a roof garden on the lower terrace of a duplex, he might plant a tree so that, over time, the leafy canopy will provide a green view at both levels. "Because of new technology, modern terraces can look like real gardens, with raised beds, real grass and trees," says Schlezinger. Proof positive is the four-hole putting green of grass - albeit artificial - and sleek waterfall to distract from city hubbub, on a private penthouse roof garden in Battersea.

Ziggurat roof terrace

The client on the 6th floor of Clerkenwell's imposing Ziggurat building had simpler needs for the small, slim terrace that curved around the living area of his new apartment. A lawyer who is often out of town, he wanted an outdoor space that looked terrific all year round from both indoors and out - yet needed little upkeep. It took Schlezinger and team three weeks this summer, at a cost of £18,000, to create the ideal low-maintenance solution, first replacing the impractical white pavers with hardwood balau laid across the width, to both visually widen the space and easily follow the curve. A small floor area of glamorous black granite crystal defines the suntrap at one end and is divided from the decking by an LED strip that lights up at night. "The granite is very expensive," says Schlezinger, "but as it is for such a small area, it's a no-brainer." As he does in all his projects, Schlezinger designed the containers to suit the space: in varying shades of grey, powder-coated steel planters have hollowed centres that are dramatically illuminated at night. One large, round, white container, designed to echo the white Saarinen Tulip table visible through the windows, is a garden in itself; with built-in irrigation and drainage, a ring of lighting around the base, and conveniently set on castors, it houses a trio of red-barked birch trees, mulched with perfect flat white Japanese pebbles. "Attention to detail, and refined finishes, are paramount in a confined garden space because the eye scans everything close-up," says Schlezinger.

The foliage in the planters is evergreen and weatherproof, maximising on contrasts of shape and texture, so that bushy, fragrant thymes are interspersed with the rounded leaves of bergenia and spikey bronze carex grasses as well as hart's tongue ferns. At the suntrap end of the terrace, a line-up of fragrant lavender Twickel Purple will soon form a low hedge; at the other end, a trough of boldly striped Phormium cookianum Cream Delight and elephant-eared Bergenia Dumbo makes a striking full stop. However it is at night, when the four lighting zones flick on automatically, that the terrace looks its most dynamic, a fitting match for the vibrant, ever-changing city landscape it overlooks.

Portrait of the (landscape) artist by Eve Oxberry

new design magazine

The decision to sideline a musical career in favour of garden design may seem a fairly dramatic one.In the mind on Amir Schlezinger, however, it was a natural progression. “The art of landscape is highly related to music because of the creativity, the art and more specifically the rhythm and texture,” he suggests. “There are a lot of landscape architects fromtextile and art backgrounds as well. I’m just using a different medium to express an emotion. ”The major challenge of inner-city gardens is, unsurprisingly, their size – or rather lack of it. While the majority of urbanites still rely on the local park for those rare sunbathing and al fresco dining opportunities, the smarter postcodes do offer a few feet of personal grass. What you do with that privilege is, it seems fast becoming as important in the middle of London as in its more traditionally garden-proud suburbs.

The restrictions on design in the smaller garden, says Schlezinger, can be divided into two camps – the “tediously logistical” and the “general artistic”. The former includes considerations such as the limited access available on small sites, as well as the small budgets and timescales afforded by the average city client. The general artistic side of restrictions, on the other hand, is all about trickery – the main trick being to make a small garden fee larger “There are lots of design techniques for that,” explains Schlezinger. “I use big plants, large-scale paving, strong geometrical shapes and also light-reflective surfaces, so water and glossy leafed plants. Picking the right colours, shapes and positioning is also vital.” With such prolific limitations and the respondent array of stock tricks, however, the concurrent challenge is how to make each design unique.

garden designer article on new design magazine

The key to this – and too good garden design as a whole – argues Schlezinger, is to know a handful of materials and plants but to know them inside out and thus recognise many uses for each. “Silver birch is a good example,” he continues. “It’s great for small gardens: it’s inexpensive, casts little shade, looks fantastic in winter and is very conducive to lighting; I’ve found at least five major ways of using it that work well within different small spaces.” Having picked up an abundance of personal techniques along the way, Schlezinger tends not to follow trends in his work, preferring to stick to shapes and styles that he knows will retain their contemporary feel for years to come. “I don’t do painfully minimalist gardens, and I don’t believe in gadgetry or iconoclasm,” he asserts. “I try to create something that will last, so my gardens are based on natural materials, simple lines, strong focal points and good planting design"

One trend Schlezinger has observed, however, is a recent explosion of rooftop gardens across the capital. This he puts down to the proliferation of new developments, primarily riverside, for the more moneyed London dwellers. The escalating demand for outdoor space in these built-up areas has indeed led to increased numbers of roof terraces. “Because of new technology and the strength of the newer buildings, modern terraces can look a lot more like real gardens,” he explains. “They have raised beds, real grass: some can even support trees. Doing real roof gardens is a very new art

”Having travelled extensively, both in his musical career and for pleasure, Schlezinger cites his influences as “anything I’ve absorbed along the way.” Working mainly in the cultural melting pot that is London also means Schlezinger’s clients are from a broad range of geographical and cultural backgrounds and often have their own influences to bring to design “I’ve used African sculpture, Asian, American and Mediterranean influences in the plants, the sculpture, and the way I use water, but it’s all under the umbrella of ‘contemporary’, he says. Schlezinger remains involved throughout the building process, making design alterations as and when necessary. “Often small changes I’ve made during projects have been some of the nicest elements of the finished products,” he suggests. “Changing an angle, colour or plant can change the whole look and ambience of a garden. It’s just like product design – you can see something looking great in CAD, but the later, incidental changes are always vital.

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