mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

penthouse terraces butlers wharf

roof terrace design butlers wharf se1

A Shad Thames View

The penthouse suites atop Butlers Wharf, along Shad Thames' riverfront, contain four roof terraces, arranged across a unique, two-tiered setting. With up-close views of Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf on their north elevation, while secluded and sunny beside the quaint, Shad Thames' cobbled pedestrian zone, the roof terraces' landscaping gamut is captivatingly broad. We designed and built a trio of back-to-back penthouse rooftop terrace projects in Butlers Wharf, where lush subtropical foliage, scented Mediterranean nuances and a minimalist spectrum of architectural details narrate multidimensional, highly functional, intimate roof terrace backdrops.

Design & Words: Amir Schlezinger

project images

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shad thames roof terrace 75m²

Minimalist Framework

When our clients relocated from Amsterdam to Shad Thames' Butlers wharf, the first item on their wish list was a new landscape design for the apartment's four rooftop terraces. While the outdoor spaces were originally furnished with Teak decking and spacious, built-in raised beds, we focused on furthering an already robust layout with a lush roof garden design to invigorate this renovated wharf's minimalist, concrete and steel framework. Since Shad Thames' pedestrian zone presents restricted works access, we devised a workable timetable to enable a smooth design & build process, and while the neighbours in two adjoining penthouse suites approached us to transform their roof terraces too, the project's scope had expanded considerably.

Waterfront Terraces

Butlers Wharf's north elevation, at the Tower Bridge end, presents commanding river views at eye level, and right at its apex, the mid-rise panoramas capture London's skyline, past and present. While an upper balcony presents balmy sunrises and sunsets, planted up with Illyrian irises and evergreen Sweet flags, a lower roof terrace benefits from complete seclusion, amid a warm courtyard garden ambience generated by lofty parapet walls, designed as a luscious, subtropical atrium. Situated adjacent to the master bedroom, this 30-square-metre roof terrace displays a multilayered, soft landscape of diverse foliage and architectural scale, alongside an expansive, leafy backdrop formed by an evergreen Clematis armandii living wall. The climbers ascend vigorously over a custom-built Jakob stainless steel system, and cascade over the front wall into their river setting – producing a matrix of glossy leaves and scented, dainty white flowers. Enfolded by Bamboo, Hosta, Ligularia and soaring Tasmanian Tree ferns, this robust Clematis sustains a verdant and thriving terrace landscape.

Interconnected Rooftops

The south-facing roof terraces are equally sized, interlinked within a unique layout. Square in outline, these outdoor spaces are located at the apartment's entrance, with an enclosed, lower rooftop adjoining a guests' bedroom, below a sunny, kitchen terrace. While the shaded rooftop features North American and Asian flora nuances, displaying Silver birch trees, evergreen Sword ferns and Fountain grasses, the upper terrace sustains Mediterranean species with Olive trees, Irises and culinary herbs. Shad Thames' industrial riverside characteristics are distilled into a roof terrace design which juxtaposes galvanised steel alongside terracotta urns, concrete and hardwood, where the entrance terrace defines an entire landscape sequence, followed by an aerial vista outside the family kitchen. The Silver birch canopies emerge above internal walls to create a scale and texture interplay – connecting these two roof terrace zones seamlessly.

Definitive Riverscape

Designing and building roof terrace gardens in Shad Thames forms a continual experience for us, and while immersed in such a culturally diverse, inspiring design centre at the very heart of River Thames, we relish its challenges in creating progressive landscaping schemes – articulated through integral artworks, distinctive geometry, abundant foliage and dynamic, architectural focal points. Having known Butlers Wharf's renovation architect, we gained valuable, technical insights into the building's structural capacities, and since inheriting a handy framework at the outset, our terrace designs focused on greening up a vast concrete and steel fabric to humanise and soften its scale.

Terrace Microclimate

A bespoke, curved Welsh oak bench is viewed from an upper balcony, nestled at the lower roof terrace, while enveloping a circular, Blanc de Bierges concrete table – accentuating a small, African opal stone sculpture. A series of unusual, slanting terracotta planters defines the kitchen roof terrace, forming two symmetrical elevations, planted with Blue fescue and Pencil grasses. These contrastive material and detail design expressions not only maximise our clients' varied roof terrace microclimates, but also sympathetically key into Shad Thames' eclectic, unfailingly absorbing, definitive London riverscape.