How do we sustain lush, robust and thriving floras in London's ambitiously complex network of rooftops? Awkwardly shaped roof terraces, very narrow balconies and tricky L-shaped verandas require innovative planting solutions to facilitate liveability, roominess and sustenance of plants' growth factors, and none more so than in this private roof terrace matrix in the City of London. With a wide-ranging microclimate in four distinct aspects, the custom-designed containers adapt in both shape and volume to provide self-sustained habitats for deciduous trees, evergreen understoreys and linear hedging.
Enveloped by authentic brick walls and stone coping, this period building near St John's Gate was cohesively modernised internally, surrounded by slate roofs and historic monuments in an area notably dotted with medieval artefacts. With a profusion of city developments interlacing through Clerkenwell's ancient backdrop, amid the world's greatest density of international architecture and design companies, we sought to conserve the attributes and ambience of a truly vintage framework, contrasting it inwardly with deep maroon tinting across the walls. This warm intonation sparkles in the roof terraces' south-facing elevations, juxtaposed by the planters' interchanging agate and slate greys which echo a myriad of low-rise achromatic rooflines.
With a broad and highly textured architectural fabric comprising London yellow stock bricks, slaty tones, planter apertures, specimen plants and contemporary artworks, the roof terrace lighting is utilised diversely to amplify the compact outdoor spaces. While maroon walls display the distinct outlines of multi-stemmed tree branches through uplighting, the brickwork's coarseness warms ambiently at twilight via downlights grazing masonry details. Cross spotlights concealed behind the planter voids maintain enigmatic afterglows, subtly underscoring an exceptional progression of intimate, architectural roof gardens.
Four types of tumbled aggregates function as decorative mulches, arranged geometrically within the bespoke planters, neatly bordered by rimmed edges. Japanese flat beige pebbles and Chinese polished black cobbles, along with large tumbled quartz and slate, accentuate the lush East Asian planting architecturally, while providing moisture conservation, compost stability and simplified maintenance in their highly creative detailed finish. The daintiness of Sweet flags, Orange New Zealand sedges, Black-stemmed bamboo, Japanese maple and Cast-iron plants is heightened by the smaller aggregates, progressed into bulkier gauges around the sculptural, multi-branched trunks of Ginkgo, Chestnut leaf holly, Himalayan birch and Magnolia trees.
The minimalist design of these roof terrace planters was conceived through a pleasurable design process, inspired by a contemporary, breathtaking art collection. On a truly like-minded wavelength with our client, we commenced a one-off detail design to consolidate a sumptuously furnished triplex penthouse, culminating in half-dozen signature prototypes. Immersed in natural light and uniquely detailed with handcrafted American black walnut, the interior's understated finesse pervades each and every layer of the residence and its roof terrace gardens, functioning as a lucid canvas for 20th-century art.
Arranged over a series of open-plan living spaces, the apartment is nestled between three multilayered roof terraces, where the outdoors comprises interconnected gardens, linked via external, industrial steel staircases. Although narrow in its passageways, this three-dimensional sequence is richly magnified by a superb shadows and light interplay through unexpected level changes which instil greater sense of depth. Savoured amid floor-to-ceiling, double-height glazed elevations, the intimate rooftop gardens form well-integrated verdant zones.
To complement the range of metals in the roof terrace balustrades, staircases, lighting and bespoke planters, we designed perforated and expanded aluminium screens, powder coated in a RAL metallic finish, to smartly conceal air conditioning units at the back roof terrace, and enhance pivotal seclusion towards neighbouring commercial offices. Developed exclusively with Cadisch Group, these well-fitted, ingenious privacy screens merge cutting-edge technology and customisation with on-site metal engineering to produce architectural subtlety.
With artworks by Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Damien Hirst featuring extensively throughout the residence, we designed indoor planters to correspond with a colourful and striking visual narrative. Apertural troughs planted with succulents underpin the geometry of the models devised for the roof terraces, framing the art discreetly, while a curved vase, placed in an alcove by the entrance, displays a Barrel cactus as a guardian symbolising endurance and autonomy.
nifty furniture lift
Despite a dedicated lift entrance, the miniscule cubicle proved quite insufficient for site works and hauling tree specimens. We utilised a nifty furniture lift, parked in the street directly below the main roof terrace, to transport sizeable shrubs, tall flora and various oversized materials, while very large planters were conveyed via the communal staircase up to the 4th floor. Phased in two stages, the entire design & build process entailed attentive, albeit arduous landscaping, when over one hundred steps throughout the roof terraces and interior, clad in steel and glass, required traversing rather gingerly...
Designed and crafted by the sculptor Elliott Brotherton, the abstract statue in Portland stone which superbly frames the view to St James's Church was specially commissioned for this project. Carved out of a 2-metre reclaimed boulder, the sinuous outdoor sculpture reproduces its own silhouette through the living room's windows and onto a glass coffee table. Exhibited above a bespoke, two-tiered plinth, with a Box hedge and lighting, the sculpture and planter displaying it combine into a glorious interplay of voids and volumes, colours and textures.