mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

project recap royal docks rooftop

large roof terrace design thames river london

roof terrace blog / city rooftops

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Large Thames Terrace

Nestled right above Thames Barrier, this 3,000-square-foot penthouse apartment is interwoven with 3 roof terraces across the 16th and 17th floors of Wards Wharf Approach by Royal Docks. Via their inspiringly commanding perspective of London's skyline, the arresting panoramic vistas encapsulate historic landmarks and brand-new ones in every vantage point. From City Airport to ExCel, O2, Emirates Air Line and Canary Wharf, the views culminate in the verdant, modernist outline of Thames Barrier Park – a captivating urban landscape designed by Allain Provost. We returned to the site with renowned photographer Marianne Majerus to recapture the large rooftop garden we created here, where a vast Thames backdrop envelops a unique project.

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1. wind 2. flora 3. grass 4. lights 5. views 6. layout 7. angles 8. seating 9. planters 10. surfaces

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1 wind

blusterous riverfront

With 1,000 square feet of outdoor space, spread across 3 rooftop terraces, our clients enjoy a unique variety of garden settings. Yet, the whirling Thames winds, eddying around the apex of Wards Wharf Approach, often defer the alfresco experience until stiller skies settle. The apartment's huge glass panes which frame this aerial landscape display surreal vignettes from every standpoint, where a modern-day coastal garden is viewed in the silence of muffled acoustics, as an eerie swoosh hovers the roof terraces at 200 feet above ground.

2 flora

coastal leafiness

Piercing skywardly, the silvery leaves of Mediterranean flora huddle in broad clusters to soak up every bit of Royal Docks sunshine, where their new-found riverine lifestyle seems rather agreeable, albeit with scaled-down temperatures... Euphorbia, Cotton lavender, Californian lilac, Mexican lilies, Salt cedar and Tree daisy form energetic swathes in an entirely evergreen elevation, underplanted with culinary herbs. Augmenting this array of coastal gems, through height, crimson bark and a multi-stemmed outline, two Tibetan Cherry specimens provide pivotal focal points in large, curved planters. Native to mountainous Western China, these noble Prunus species are accustomed to fierce winds and hot, sunny conditions, while interestingly, it seems, are readily resistant to incessant urban pollution too!

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3 grass

verdant fibres

Fastidiously fastened to its substrate, to minimise levitation in a windy rooftop microclimate, the artificial grass surface infuses low-maintenance verdancy in a composition of two colours, textures and heights. Analogously replicating the lawns of nearby Thames Barrier Park, the smoothness of this lifelike, fibrous material invigorates the roof terrace with vividness as a tactile rug. Laid over a soft underlay pad, and continued similarly in the upper rooftop, the synthetic lawn forms an asymmetrical layout which complements and balances the building's unusually angular outline, while simplifying upkeep.

4 lights

gleaming waterfront

While Thames Barrier spans London's widest stretch of river, at over 500 metres, the expanse of reflecting water which surrounds this roof terrace glimmers opulently at night. With voluminous floor-to-ceiling windows capturing this shimmering urban landscape, the low-voltage rooftop lighting provides a layer of low-key elegance, configured into switchable zones. Sited in subdued loftiness, within a truly staggering breadth of colossal, architectonic forms, under an aerial matrix abuzz with transportation networks, the roof terrace lights imbue a sense of much-needed intimacy amongst soothing, silhouetted tree canopies.

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5 views

architectural spectacle

Three decades of Docklands regeneration have elevated one of UK's most polluted sites into a vigorous tapestry of commerce, housing, parks and transportation. A process not without social disparity, the ensuing legacy of its emergent landscape unveils a steadily clustered skyline in every conceivable coordinate. This residential pilgrimage to loftier dwellings is firmly retracing the footsteps of its antecedent, commercial paradigm. While mostly indiscernible at street level, or within the confines of inner-city roads, the views atop Wards Wharf Approach unveil an astounding urban fabric sprawled eastwards in unparalleled multilayeredness. This criss-cross network of tensile cables, glazed apices and non-stop incandescence, juxtaposed with green parks and maritime essence, redefines the capital's anatomy, experienced firsthand in the privileged panoramas of countless roof terrace gardens hovering Royal Docks peninsula and into Wapping.

6 layout

multilayered blueprint

The roof terrace layout comprises five distinct zones, arranged for seating, dining, cooking, viewing and planting. To maximise sunset vistas in the city backdrop, both lounges are facing west, augmented by a granite promenade along the balustrade. The linear stone flanks a glass dining table, enabling further barbecue space, and leads to a densely planted elevation which basks in south-westerly sun, adding privacy. While a secondary rooftop overlooks the main roof terrace, kitted up with loungers beside the master bedroom, this multilayered setup is amply outfitted for a highly social roof terrace lifestyle.

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7 angles

composed aslant

With seven elevations at various angles enclosing the roof terrace, its design unifies an irregular heptagon into a cohesive outline. A static grid of concrete slabs was replaced by artificial grass, granite pavers and a hardwood deck, in an asymmetrical composition which creates movement and a sense of multidimensional space via fluidly angled juxtapositions. Followed likewise in the second rooftop garden, the entire perimeter is animated through spatial angularities, further refined by an interplay of architectural detail design.

8 seating

dining aloft

This duplex penthouse's vast, open-plan living space and its sizeable furniture, monumental windows and scenically epic views required an equally bold architectural reciprocation in the roof terraces' outdoor seating. With abundant acreage distributed between two rooftops, the trio of seating hubs encompasses casual lounging, formal dining and seasonal sunbathing, providing our rock musician client with a truly spacious platform for large get-togethers of around thirty guests.

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9 planters

crest of a wave

Echoing the hydrodynamic characteristics of maritime vessels, the bespoke planters feature curves in both forms and powder-coating methods, culminating in the tree planters' large-scale contours which reproduce Thames Barrier's arched piers. Developed through modelled prototypes, the minimalist gamut of eight planters in three designs is distributed pivotally along the terraces' grassy verges. Wave-shaped troughs, created by articulating a two-tone finish, instil a sense of place, while low and curvilinear, 2.2-metre-long vases reiterate and reciprocate in a converse outline to O2's dome-shaped roofline.

10 surfaces

parkland inspiration

The genius loci of the surrounding landscape is encapsulated in every square foot of Thames Barrier Park's 14-hectare footprint, masterly designed by French landscape architect Allain Provost and inaugurated in 2000. We sought to introduce select elements from this contemporary parkland into the roof terrace to forge an integral, visual connection, and elevate a lacklustre concrete framework with essential greenness, architectural dynamism and historical references. Expressed through flamed grey granite, smooth hardwood decking and two artificial grasses, the hard landscaping cites the eloquence of its inspiring precursor by utilising a triad of materials prevalent within this riverside enclave, while sustaining a minimal upkeep mindset.

– coda –

Landscaped in Royal Docks

Diverse, up-to-date and remarkably integrative, Royal Docks' urban template highlights an impressively multilayered river milieu, and continues to develop at an unprecedented velocity. For our clients, Londoners with a hankering for heights, effortless transport links and sought-after, personal breathing space, this lofty terrain sustains city life as swimmingly as possible. While gardening and spare time imply perennially elusive prospects all round, the roof terraces which enfold this grand penthouse apartment form architectural gardens to relish and rely upon when tranquillity is the need of the hour!