mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

hepworth court rooftop seating

modern roof terrace seating design ideas london

roof terrace blog / city rooftops

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Seated by Chelsea Bridge

Of the nine buildings which comprise Grosvenor Waterside, the position of Hepworth Court provides the most comprehensive views, while the court's central penthouse presents the clearest panoramic vistas of London's prominent landmarks in every vantage point. To maximise the aerial advantages of the apartment's 80-square-metre roof terrace, we designed three distinct seating areas – built-in, with sheltering hedges, focal point trees, lighting and sound. This large-scale project, encompassing two further rooftop terraces, included extensive landscaping which transformed an inadequately designed, traditional rooftop into a state-of-the-art, comfortable and well-integrated space. We revisited the site with eminent photographer Marianne Majerus to document its roof garden in maturity for the Mitchell Beazley publication ’Garden Design: A Book of Ideas’.

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1. clime 2. floras 3. stone 4. lights 5. views 6. layout 7. angles 8. seating 9. planters 10. landmarks

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1 clime

breezy airstreams

The staggering collective of London architect firms involved in the master planning of this 2-acre site wholly revolutionised an obsolete, industrial location into a thriving, liveable quarter – setting a unique benchmark of mixed housing, an energy-efficient framework and site-specific artworks. Yet, the winds which swirl through Hepworth Court's roof terraces yield both cold, drying easterlies and formidable south-westerlies – a constant force of nature to be seriously reckoned with. Foresightedly, the floras selected and the various vessels containing them were scrupulously secured to balustrades and surfaces, in a design & build tactic which ensures durability in this microclimate.

2 floras

the med on top

No flora withstands the microclimatic mightiness of such a site like a Mediterranean one, with its spectacular spectrum of resilient species. Architectural, diverse, evergreen and sculpturally robust, these self-reliant floras accomplish a befitting, cosmopolitan array of skylined silhouettes and arboreal longevity, mitigating susceptibility to heat, pollution and drying winds. Agave, Agapanthus, Libertia, Magnolia, Pinus, Olea and Rosmarinus, alongside multi-stemmed Himalayan silver birch, aromatic herbs and ornamental grasses, represent 5 distinct Mediterranean climate zones – handy in reproducing a congenially carefree, easily maintainable planting scheme.

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3 stone

bespoke masonry

New Yorkstone was quarried at 700 x 500 millimetres, laid in a stack bond to accentuate depth diagonally. This flawless grid highlights a spectrum of natural hues, ranging from warm buffs to cool greys and blues, while contrasting a proportionate expanse of Balau hardwood decking. The tricky project logistics were greatly eased by amenable neighbours and a pragmatic concierge service crew, instrumental in facilitating access. An external furniture hoist was utilised at the far end of the building to haul oversized materials up to the 6th and 7th floors, alongside a conventional platform trolley via the communal lift for sandstone pavers. With the client on holiday, we spent a balmy summer month constructing his roof terrace, where a new surface floats elegantly above adjustable pedestals.

4 lights

light-emitting diodes

The nightscape surrounding Chelsea Bridge metamorphoses into a spectacle of dazzling lights. This self-proclaimed son et lumiere was duly upgraded during the mid-noughties with state-of-the art LED modules, balancing the dominance of the bridge's upper arches by illuminating its lower sections. With a cubic glass pod entrance, and its own remote-controlled lighting sophistication, the rooftop terrace assumes a reimagined twilight persona, achieved via a matrix of LED insets, down spotlights and tree uplighters – interconnecting and reciprocating with Chelsea Bridge's nightly light show.

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5 views

phenomenal breadth

Grosvenor Waterside is thoroughly enveloped by a fascinating myriad of imposing landmarks, where an up-close, edificial presence imparts awe-inspiring, bird's-eye panoramas. These historically deep-rooted, geographical demarcators constitute London's bona fide landscape celebrities, in sight, sound and motion. This tireless urbanscape of bridges, city lights and landing aeroplanes; commanded by soaring chimneys, seduced by a photogenic Ferris wheel and gently gazed by a world-famous clock tower, defines one the most iconic, recognisable and much-adored skylines anywhere. The potency of this well-known skyscape, equalled by locational exclusivity, is doubtlessly softened with comfy rooftop seating and soothing, leafy canopies overhead.

6 layout

four-dimensional space

While the apartments showcase trendified interiors, their landscaped rooftops exhibit a significant interlayer of gardens hovering between a vast parkland backdrop and mid-rise edifices. Aerially foliaged with native Hornbeam hedges, the landscape heralds ecological awareness in its long-term, environmental philosophy. Yet, the outmoded setup of railway sleepers and parched lawns forms a letdown to otherwise spectacular, cutting-edge penthouse rooftop lifestyle.

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We designed a spacious layout, evocative of the site's orientation, tilting its axis towards Chelsea Bridge and Bramah House to expand inherent sight lines, demarcated by contemporary materials, outlines and embedded strip lighting. This spatial reinvention, coalescing with its surrounding architecture, and expanded through glazed elevations, magnifies the roof terrace spaciously, animated by mellowing trees which instil an all-important, captivating fourth dimension.

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7 angles

useful obliquity

The roof terraces atop crescent-shaped Hepworth Court form annular sectors. Oriented at forty degrees to navigate this contoured outline, the design utilises triangular, stepped and several angled planters, customised and superimposed over obliquely laid surfaces, within a continuum of natural stone and wood. This balanced segmentation of space, while concealing various rooftop mechanisms and technical apparatus, is refined by slim LED light inserts which reiterate Caro Point's slender limestone profiles, Battersea Power Station's 100-metre-high chimneys and Chelsea Bridge's suspension cables.

8 seating

sittin' on the dock

We were appointed by a private client to design and build this roof terrace following an in-depth, on-site consultation. A dynamic, client-designer detailing process ensued, outlining a trio of seating areas to realise the terrace's utmost potential, amid a multilayered backdrop in this newly transfigured urban district. With a staggering gamut of historic landmarks all around, culminating in architects Sheppard Robson's Caro Point and Ken Shuttleworth's Bramah House to the northeast, these custom-built rooftop leisure hubs enhance the panoramas through diverse layouts, alfresco dining and sound.

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9 planters

reservoir pots

The capacity to transfigure a roof terrace into a comfy breathing space is intrinsically enabled by lush planting, and the sun-kissed specimens on the pinnacle of Hepworth Court contribute immensely to the outdoor experience, settled in their powder-coated, geometric planters. These one-off receptacles not only containerise the plants, functioning as stable reservoirs of nutrients and moisture, but also form sculptural focal points which reproduce the apartment's interior features and the roof's angularity in a highly architectural garden.

10 landmarks

iconic prominence

Situated along the Pimlico / Chelsea border, Grosvenor Waterside encapsulates one of London's most picturesque riverside settings, predominated by Battersea Power Station's epochal chimneys. The leafiness of Ranelagh Gardens, home of RHS Chelsea Flower Show, merging with Chelsea Embankment and traversing Grosvenor Canal, surrounds the site with monumental London Plane trees, forming a green, aerial expanse as far as the Palace of Westminster. While the neighbouring site of Chelsea Barracks follows suit in transforming its grounds into a luxurious residential development, this entire urban quarter expresses an unprecedented milestone of waterside living – distinctive in its lavish modernity enveloped by historic landmarks, abundant verdancy and rooftop terrace gardens galore.

– coda –

On the Waterside

The success of this project led to three further roof terrace schemes in Heptworth Court and Caro Point; its plants' vitality and lighting's exuberance unmistakably evident in Marianne Majerus' picturesque roof terrace photography. While countless London watercourses are rapidly colonised by prestigious, turnkey developments, to varying degrees of excellence, this Grosvenor Waterside enclave, on the waterfront, is certainly a contender for vigorous longevity!