Bernward Engelke of landscape architectural practice LDA design, talks to us about his passion for designing outdoor spaces, and his inspiration behind the terraces and courtyard at One Crown Place.
As an urban designer, Bernward Engelke’s passion lies not in the buildings themselves but in the space between them. “I focus on the social aspect of the built environment – designing these spaces and watching them develop,” says Engelke of the landscape architectural practice LDA Design. Each project throws up unique challenges, and at One Crown Place Engelke’s mission was to create beautiful, communal outdoor spaces in a development that melds old and new, combines tall towers with low-rise townhouses, and which straddles the modern City of London and historic Shoreditch. “The fascinating thing here is how to design space that binds these very different scales and styles,” he comments.
It is a resolutely urban central London setting, just three minutes walk from Liverpool Street station, and surrounded by the gleaming skyscrapers that pepper the City of London along with the street life, pop-up restaurants and cutting edge boutiques that have made this area of the City fringe such a desirable place to live. Interspersed among the totems of contemporary London are signs of its past, from the Victorian pubs and Georgian terrace that sit alongside One Crown Place to the warehouses that thrived in 19th century London, when the area was at the heart of the furniture and publishing trades.
Yet Engelke found his inspiration for the residents’ private amenities terrace, which sits on the top of the six-storey podium that separates One Crown Place’s 27 and 32 storey towers, from quite another source altogether: an Alpine mountainscape. “I took the idea of the tower and created a landscape based around the idea of a mountainscape. The residents’ terrace is like the plateau of the mountain and I wanted to make use of its openness. There are no tall buildings around the development, so there are wonderful views across the London skyline, and beautiful sunsets as you look west,” says Engelke. “You are at a great height, but still connected to the city, slightly above the rooftops but at the same time removed from the hustle and bustle.”
The building’s seventh storey is the amenity level, home to the resident’s gym, screening room, workhub and a private dining room – “the communal hotspot of the tower,” says Engelke – and the terrace is an extension of this. It is also an extension of residents’ apartments – a place for “pure escapism”, he says, and to reflect alone or socialise with neighbours. In his design, Engelke has created a space that appeals to all the senses. First there are the colours, shapes and landscaping that provides a feast for the eyes – a dramatic break with the glass and steel of the City as Engelke explores the mountain theme “in a robust planting palette that you would find in most Alpine conditions, including dwarf pines and heather,” he says. On one side of the terrace is a folly with three raised planters and a box hedge framed by a steel trellis carpeted in jasmine.
“There is a practical function as it serves as a windbreak, but it is also a playful feature inspired by the follies and mazes of the traditional English landscape garden,” says Engelke. Continuing through this sensory garden, the desire for cathartic, soothing sound is catered to with a water feature that is Japanese in concept if not style, says Engelke, “a wall of water that is almost hidden and waiting to be discovered as one walks through the garden”. The sound of trickling water provides an instant sense of escape and tranquillity, and the water feature also has a tactile quality, “as residents can sit alongside it and cool down their hands and feet”.
The sense of smell is fed by the olfactory delights of jasmine, heather and further aromatic planting around the terrace. These private niches provide serene places to sit and soak up the views, but they are also places for children to explore and play among the network of paths. And the sense of taste is satiated in the residents’ private dining room that opens up to the terrace. “If it’s booked, you can extend the private dining experience to part of the terrace,” says Engelke, who describes the trellis planted with hops, a nod to the neighbouring area’s love of craft breweries. “It captures a part of the spirit of Hackney and the area’s history of small-scale manufacturing,” he says. “The timber we have used is reminiscent of the furniture-making that happened locally as this is an area famous for its quality of workmanship.”
It’s not just on the “plateau” of the seventh floor that his mountain analogy comes into play. Engelke has also designed the courtyard for residents’ and public use, which is entered at street level through the gap between the Georgian terrace and the modern residential tower. “You approach through a narrow, shaded space which I saw as the ravine, so I’ve sought to emulate the kind of topography you would expect to find there, including ferns, stone and densely-planted green walls,” he says. At the centre of the courtyard is a lone pin oak, “a majestic tree that turns a bright fiery red in Autumn” says Engelke. Surrounding it is paving whose spiral design echoes the lines of the building’s architecture and that draws you into the courtyard.
Wellness has become a key concept in high-quality new residential development, with proven links between the proximity to greenery and its benefits on our emotional and physical health. For urban designers such as Bernward Engelke, promoting environmental wellness by bringing colourful planting, water and wildlife into the cityscape is crucial. “Property developers know that it’s an asset to have a well-functioning green infrastructure, but it’s also a responsibility. We need to focus on the benefit of green space in the public realm, particularly as the city becomes ever more dense and many new high rise uildings are emerging,” he says. “By promoting landscape-led master-planning, we are focusing on place-making that puts people first.”
For more information on LDA Design, click here.