There is an oasis in the heart of London’s financial district where the citizenry can relax in the calmest of rooftop gardens. Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a new concept in landscape architecture and the city is all the better for it. The unique geometric windows provide great views over Canary Wharf while shrubs, trees, and flowers from all over the world offer a green space respite for all who choose to enter. The garden is hidden beneath a latticed, timber roof and is an exceptional example of how innovative design can successfully create a fusion between urban and rural environments.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is situated directly above London’s new Canary Wharf train station, a seven-story structure providing an east-west rail link in the heart of the city. The ambitious project was pioneered by renowned architects Foster and Partners and includes four stories of retail spaces, several eateries, and an abundance of leisure facilities. The plan comfortably unifies the train station below with these visitor-friendly elements.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is interestingly located geographically on the Prime Meridian line just north of Greenwich. This aspect divides the site into eastern and western hemispheres and serves as an influence in the garden design. The garden emphasizes the historical maritime culture of the area while at the same time providing an accessible modern venue of mixed use for London’s ordinary folks.
The enclosed garden was designed by the London-based landscape architects, Gillespies and is an incredible masterpiece of creative innovation and imagination. Plantings are arranged by native origin into two geographic zones where the east side layout may feature Japanese maple trees and Chinese bamboo while the opposite west side may highlight American gumtrees or Australian ferns. It’s like taking a slow walk around the world.
The structure is built with a semi-permeable canopy which provides a localized microclimate environment perfect for more exotic plant species to thrive. Unexpected paths branch off from the main walkway delighting visitors with a show of different and sometimes rare plant species. Benches are randomly placed along the pathways inviting passers-by to dawdle in the beauty of the natural surrounds.
The project was a challenging undertaking often requiring out-of-the-box thinking and innovative construction to support the many unusual plant species and mature trees envisioned for its completion. Soil conditions, light, drainage, and enough space for root growth all had to be taken into consideration. Most materials were craned in through openings in the roof. The result is a satisfying and surprising tropical paradise where you would least expect to find it.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a prime example of how a city’s revitalization efforts can provide an infrastructure plan designed to serve as a community hub without sacrificing aesthetic qualities. The lush sheltered plant environment leads way to an in-house 80 seat amphitheater at each end hosting a variety of local performers and musicians. It is all free and meant to encourage the imagination of young and old alike. The roof garden has become a community treasure since its opening in 2015.
The stunning contrast between the dramatic architecture and the exotic greenery of the space couldn’t be more pleasing to those wanting to escape the busy streets below. The project illustrates why redevelopment goals can and should integrate green areas within city landscapes. Access to natural environments is beneficial to productivity and creativity and the incorporation of green spaces into a business setting is nothing but a win/win. All it takes is the inspiration of new concepts and ideas, meticulous planning, and the motivation to meet and beat the challenges along the way.