Project: New Ludgate

The landscape architecture for New Ludgate by Gustafson Porter + Bowman aims to create a place to ‘pause within’

Words by Emily Martin

Walking through the City of London, its towering office buildings are likely to direct your gaze skywards, but landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman has been questioning the quality of interfaces between the streetscape and many of these commercial sites by casting an eye or two downwards. By examining the visual language between the familiar standard Yorkstone slabs meeting (often abruptly) the modern paving used on commercial schemes, when appointed to design the landscape elements for New Ludgate (its masterplan by Fletcher Priest), Gustafson Porter + Bowman sought to create a space for the public to enjoy, and to soften the edge between public realm and private property.

As part of a larger project, with buildings One New Ludgate, designed by Fletcher Priest, and Two New Ludgate designed  by Sauerbruch Hutton (with Fletcher Priest as executive architect), the landscape architecture for the sheme incorporated a number of design roles including art, streetscape design, seating and an intense planting strategy in order to provide an outdoor solution meeting the demands of the public and office workers.

Creating a place to ‘pause within’, says Gustafson Porter + Bowman, New Ludgate's landscape architecture responds to the City of London’s ambitions to reintroduce routes lost during the second half of the 20th century when large developments cut across pre-existing ancient routes. Many original alleyways from the 19th century were decorated with patterned tiles and it was research revealing this that led the design of a bold geometric paving pattern at street level. Gustafson Porter + Bowman developed a set of nine mosaic pieces to enliven the pedestrian link that spills out on to a small piazza, situated on Old Bailey, allowing for a breakout space within a ‘frenetic’ environment.

A snaking seat in Corian edges the planting on the roof terraceA snaking seat in Corian edges the planting on the roof terrace. Image Credit: Tim Soar

Here a subtle mark of transition, from the traditional city pavement of Yorkstone to the scheme’s dark granite paving can be seen, leading pedestrians to a focal point at the centre of the piazza, a mature tulip tree encircled by solid granite seating. This seating is a subtle extension of the paving pattern.

But for any of the workers heading into the building, an urban oasis awaits on the fifth floor in the form of a roof terrace. Here, a planting bed is mounted to frame spectacular views to St Paul’s and the City of London beyond while hiding the immediate context of building services. The planting varies in height and colour to create a changing character across the terrace, while a sculptural white Corian bench sinuously wraps around the edges of the terrace.

‘The curved Corian bench was designed to contrast with the ordered rectilinear facade of the New Ludgate building,’ explains Donncha O Shea, partner, Gustasfson Porter + Bowman. ‘It creates a place for workers to sit and provides enough soil depth for a display of verdant perennials that sway in the wind and give the terrace a relaxed, natural feel.’

The bench wraps around two distinct spaces to form intimate seating arrangements for lunches, meetings and events, with spectacular views. The large south-facing roof terrace benefits from day-long sunlight. The design creates a permeable boundary between the natural oasis of the roof terrace and its immediate urban context without creating the feeling of a ‘fishbowl’, overlooked by adjacent buildings.

A mature tulip tree surrounded by granite seating is the focal point at ground levelA mature tulip tree surrounded by granite seating is the focal point at ground level. Image Credit: Tim Soar

A planting scheme ensures 12 months of colourful bands of perennial plants, ornamental grasses and glistening seed heads in early morning frosts. A spectacular scheme smartly framed and encased by the crispness of the white Corian; a material we’ve come quite accustomed to seeing in kitchens rather than in outdoor spaces.

‘It is ideal for external use and it’s surprising it isn’t used more often,’ remarks O Shea. ‘It is suitable for all weathers, warm to touch, and is pliable to curvilinear structural forms. As an external surface it requires no more maintenance than, say, stone or timber. It will need no more attention than traditional outdoor furniture. Corian manufacturer DuPont provides advice and guidelines on deep staining or damage that can be repaired in situ.’

O Shea continues: ‘Both spaces seek to normalise the hectic energy of central London, and embody a belief that a small-scale space with high-quality materials and refined detailing can enhance the public realm, thus creating an intimate space within the heart of the city that everybody can use’.

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