mylandscapes contemporary garden design london

urban roof gardens clerkenwell rooftop

urban roof garden design clerkenwell

roof terrace blog / sunny roofs

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

An Urban Oasis

This 60-square-metre urban roof garden is nestled discreetly on top of a typical underground car park in Clerkenwell's St John Street EC1. Sheltered and sunny, we sought to transform the space from a blank canvas into a rooftop oasis of lush architectural foliage and varied sculptural forms, amid rejuvenated spatial definition. Capacious buff sandstone squares and lightweight Cedar decking narrate a dynamic surface design, and enhance an emerald spectrum of artificial grass, glaucous Agave succulents and tactile French Lavender which aptly redefines this inner-city urban setting with statuesque verdancy.

explore topics

– skip to –

1. view 2. deck 3. pots 4. stone 5. table 6. birch 7. yucca 8. sedges 9. lighting 10. faux grass

chic roof garden tall architectural pots
roof garden modern cedar deck design
urban roof garden stunning birds eye view

1 view

verdant vista

The view from the upper bedrooms presents an entire vista of the roof garden's layout, outlined with a Bamboo veil which conceals the car park vent structure and provides privacy along the seating area. The random widths of Cedar deck boards produce dynamic rhythm, leading to an artificial grass central section, where buff sandstone squares contrast the textured surface in their smoothness. A myriad of emerald hues invigorates this treeless urbanscape within an effortless framework, forming a verdant landscape design.

2 deck

cedar velocity

Although the Western red cedar deck boards appear randomly set, we designed a repeating pattern of 6” and 4” widths, forming a sequence of threes and fours. This innovative method enabled a section of the decking design to provide a removable cover, where access to the roof drainage was retained. The Cedar softwood's subtle glow merges with muted tones of rendered raised beds and Lavender foliage, mellowing in bright sunlight to convey an uplifting rhythmic composition.

3 pots

balance & scale

To reduce weight, we included two series of rotomoulded pots. The tall tapered trio features Agave americana, the architectural Century plant, while lower egg pots contain the Bamboos which screen the side alley to Exmouth Market. This minimalist scaled perspective, where planters' height decreases towards the background, equally enhances foreground depth. Similarly, in the reverse aspect, Agave pots lead the eye to a vista of a tall multi stem Silver birch tree.

4 stone

size matters

The seating is defined with a uniform, silky grid of nine 1-metre smooth sandstones; imported by Farrar Natural Stone, the bespoke pavers were pre-ordered three months beforehand. The immense flagstones weren't easy to lay, yet in a small patio garden, their expansiveness increases sense of depth, glistening when rain falls and glowing in sunbeams. The trim between the oversized stones is detailed in narrow bands of veined brown sandstone, augmenting overall contrast. The textural definition formed by sympathetic hard landscaping keys into the surrounding urban roofscape of London yellow stock bricks, chimney pots and iron railings.

spectacular large buff sandstone paving rooftop project
contemporary rooftop garden design with striking silver birch trunks and lighting
modern roof garden sleek outdoor furniture

5 table

tonal warmth

The white furniture set enhances the roof garden with further tonal warmth, reflecting sunlight in its spotless surface. The dining table fits perfectly within the gridded paving, straddling two sandstone squares. Juxtaposed sensitively, the character, colour and form of these functional elements produce a rooftop landscape design portrayed with clarity – refined by a minimalist detail design.

6 birch

nature's architecture

A multi-stemmed Himalayan Silver birch is an icon of nature's architecture; resilient to pretty much anything above and below ground, it emerges its white stems resolutely and exquisitely. As a small, high-altitude deciduous tree, the Birch withstands wind and cold weather effortlessly, optimal in an urban roof garden, where its dainty foliage permeates sunlight beautifully, and when selected as a multi stem, its sculptural candelabrum outline is all the more wind-resistant. In winter, the bare white trunks transform garden ambience amid low-key uplighting. We usually position a tall specimen at the back of an urban garden, yet here, where there's plenty of scale from nearby buildings, we planted the Birch in a raised bed by the house. This spatial approach created a focal point for a dining area at the back, and produced a much deeper roof garden space when viewed from the living room through the tree's delicate canopy.

7 yucca

striking silhouettes

At times, a last-minute tweak or an unplanned addition during a design & build project work a treat. In the corner of the seating area, a soft-leaved Yucca adds impact, producing striking silhouettes onto the sandstone paving. Just before completing the project, we felt this particular zone required further focus, and headed south of the river for some rooftop inspiration, where New Covent Garden Market is an unfailingly handy resource. This Yucca was an elegant find, and had a matching terrazzo pot to boot; mulched in smooth white cobbles, this sculptural xerophyte shimmers in this corner, steadily increasing its striped trunk in a conversation piece clustered among the Agaves.

8 sedges

tufted elegance

The low, evergreen, grass-like Carex sedge is essential in producing permanent, carpet-like undergrowth below deciduous trees and along herbaceous perennials. There are numerous Sedge cultivars which we frequently integrate into diverse roof garden planting to continually sustain easygoing textures in urban locations. Here, variegated Carex mounds bounce off daylight, and complement their taller companions elegantly. The dense Carex tufts reduce weed growth, and keep the ground cooler, while generating contrast among blue cobbles.

architectural yucca low maintenance modern city rooftop
stylish roof garden rendered concrete raised bed with modern planting
urban roof garden modern lighting scheme design

9 lighting

theatrical facet

With an architectural urban space abundant in living sculpture, the roof garden lighting gracefully enhances the design's outlines. While multi-branched Silver birch tree trunks mellow into twilight through subdued uplighting, Agaves unveil their most theatrical facet under dimmed downlighting. At sundown, a myriad of sculptural silhouettes is projected onto hardscape surfaces below, highlighting serrated glaucous foliage in dreamlike fashion.

10 faux grass

matrix tapestry

The roof garden's outline forms an unusual L-shape around a subterranean vent. To create transition within this elongated layout, we crafted a series of raised beds, where elevated borders generate three-dimensional essence and shadows, accentuating a low upkeep planting scheme. While the patio outside the living room is surfaced with a Cedar deck, the second seating area features large sandstone squares. The central passage is carpeted in artificial grass, infusing a lush green tapestry woven into a matrix of buff squared stones. This linking element defines a cohesive roof garden design, producing much-needed texture in its vibrant colour, while reducing upkeep.

roof garden artificial grass design
faux grass
landscape architect urban roof garden terrace design
clerkenwell urban roof garden design project ec1

– coda –

Urban Acumen

The plants love this roof garden – within three months of planting, the place turned into an instant soft landscape jungle, as in plenty of sunshine and copious automatic irrigation, newly planted flora always thrives. Sensitive integration of the local material palette, augmented with a cosmopolitan acumen from the outset, produced a diverse and interconnected urban roof garden. When clients love where they live, trust their garden designers, and appreciate inner-city architecture, the sky's the limit – a Clerkenwell roof garden city limit!