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Nine Elms Point Gardens – Bringing Nature to the City
Danny Crump
29th October 2017

One of the key challenges facing cities is how they can maintain and improve their liveability.

Networks and pockets of green spaces are a critical component of liveability, providing many benefits related to well-being, nature and environmental quality.

As London’s south bank continues to densify the need for good external spaces grows. For city landscape architects a key aim is to squeeze as much quality place-making out of highly built urban blocks that have high expectations to deliver both excellent investor returns and also be great places to live.

Broadway Malyan’s team of landscape architects and place-makers have been working in London’s buoyant residential market for over 20 years, designing and delivering new public parks and “hidden” gardens for the City’s residents and citizens.

The team's work in Nine Elms is a great example of what can be achieved. Nine Elms Point sits at the starting point of a large-scale regeneration project currently underway. The wider context consists of a number of areas that have significant planned regeneration or are currently under construction, namely Battersea Power Station and the new American Embassy.

When Barratt London commissioned Broadway Malyan to design the Landscape and Public Realm, for the project, the site had consented planning permission for a new supermarket, below 645 residential apartments consisting of three landmark residential towers at the corners of the triangular site.

Around one fifth of the site was designated for a new London Underground Station associated with the proposed Northern Line Extension.

The public and private realm design needed to act as a seamless glue between these components whilst framing the buildings and providing pockets of landscape character and delight.

Working closely with the client, Broadway Malyan carefully tested and refined designs for both the Public Realm Streetscape and Roof Garden that provides the route to access all the residential buildings.

“Given the strong evidence that urban green space can greatly improve people’s health and mental wellbeing the proposals looked to enhance the ecology value of the site and maximise the interaction of residents with nature.”
Danny Crump, Director of Urbanism, Broadway Malyan

With the podium measuring more than an acre there was a great opportunity to develop a design that provided an oasis of green in the city providing residents a taste of nature on their doorstop.

From the design outset Broadway Malyan wanted to create a natural feel to this key outdoor space. Given the strong evidence that urban green space can greatly improve people’s health and mental wellbeing the proposals looked to enhance the ecology value of the site and maximise the interaction of residents with nature. Combined with this was an aspiration to create a range of spatial typologies from tranquil quiet areas to busy social spaces where this new community could meet and interact.

At the heart of the scheme a series of gardens were designed with intimate seating niches, which provide views across the Wandsworth skyline.

Material selection was carefully considered to reinforce and enhance proposed typologies with natural stone selected for the primary connecting paths which provide continuity when walking through the development. In areas with more informal movement bound gravel surfaces provide a softer feel that compliments the use and feel of these more natural character areas.

Water provides a key feature with a shallow triangular pool located at the arrival point. Water rills flow from here reinforcing the formal paths that provide access to the residential blocks. The water from the rills trickle into the pool, creating movement and importantly counteracting the noise of the city and reinforcing the feeling of a retreat from the bustle of urban living.

Glimpsed views into the wider garden provide a tantalising taste of the beauty beyond.

At the centre of the garden is the secret glade an area densely planted with three different species of Birch. The white stems of Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’ contrasting against the verdant planting, while the pink and brown peeling bark of the Betula nigra adding striking texture and interest. Planting character here is very naturalistic with, a mix of woodland and shade tolerant species used. These include Helleborus niger, Dryopteris dilatata Deschampsia cespitosa, Anemone x hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ and Sarcococca confuse.

At the edges of the glade, close to the path, Geraniums, Grasses and Euphorbias have been used to provide a burst of colour and texture. Planting species were selected to reflect the changing seasons, an opportunity to stay in touch with the cycles of nature, less apparent in densely urban environments.

Within the glade informal routes lead into a clearing designed for incidental play providing opportunities for families and children within the development. Inward facing seating has been provided so that parents can watch their children exploring the glade.

A secondary garden space provides informal sloping lawns for people to sit and relax, with enclosure provided through carefully located planted edges. New semi mature trees have been planted within this garden to provide human scale and shelter, a place to rest and to watch the world pass. All 120 trees for the project were selected and tagged by Broadway Malyan and the Landscape contractor who visited the nursery in the Netherlands. The trees arrived on site by articulated lorry and were craned up to the podium.

Over 100 species of trees, shrubs, perennial, grasses and bulbs were specified for the project, almost 15,000 plants and trees in total. These plants were sourced from UK growers, mainly supplied by Crowders nursery in Lincolnshire, a seventh generation family owned business with over 200 years’ experience of growing plants for the Landscape trade. Water for irrigation is collected from the roofs of the buildings and is stored in an attenuation tank in the basement.

This key capital homes development has proved a challenging but exciting project. The resulting public realm has created a new London garden, reconnected residents and citizens with the seasons and successfully delivered an irresistible community in the densest of urban environments.

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