A Place for Plants: Terraced London Roof is a Smart Solution



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Rooftops can be prime real estate for all sorts of purposes, yet they’re wasted in the vast majority of cases, especially in cities where space is at a premium. These surfaces have potential to be used as outdoor terraces, gardens and skylights for the interiors below, among other uses, and one project in London manages to combine all three of these. ‘Garden House’ by Hayhurst & Co maximizes the available space on a residential roof with an angular addition covered in a terraced arrangement of planters made from marine-grade stainless steel and ribbed geotextile fleece for thermal protection and drainage.

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The scheme provides a pyramid-shaped surface suitable for growing hundreds of plants with low water needs, making it easy for the residents to care for them. These V-shaped trays are arranged horizontally on the 30- and 45-degree pitched roofs. The plot has properties owned by other people on all of sides, so having large skylights on the roof helps bring daylight in while maintaining privacy. The sloping profile of the addition is designed to fit in with neighboring buildings, and the clients’ living quarters are tucked into the ground floor. This imaginative design got ‘Garden House’ a place among the 20 houses vying for this year’s RIBA House of the Year award.

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From the architect:

“Garden House is a new home, studio and gallery under a ‘hanging-basket’ roof for Whitaker Malem: the artist and costume-maker duo behind works by Allen Jones, fashion designers Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen and numerous film costumes including Harry Potter, Batman and Wonderwoman.”

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“On the site of a single-story workshop they built in the mid 1990s, the clients wished to create a new home an studio which maximized the space and natural light available within their tight, north-facing site behind Victorian terraced housing in Hackney’s de Beauvoir Conservation area, in London’s East End. Devised as three different roof pitches, the design creates a ‘form of best fit’ – a negotiation between maximizing internal accommodation and protecting adjacent residential amenity. Garden House sets a model of how to maximize residential accommodation in sensitive inner city areas whilst meeting national and local planning policies.”

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“On the ground floor, a sequence of open-plan spaces form dedicated living, dining, cooking and sleeping zones. The upper floor is lined with oak panelling to provide a rich environment for the studio, which is also used as a fitting room for clients and as a gallery space for private exhibitions of the owners’ work. The roof is a bespoke hanging garden formed from stepped, stainless-steel profiles planted with a habitat of over 800 sedums and heathers – a unique and biodiverse intervention that remains active and can be farmedI The result is a new prototype for inner-city, back-lot development creating dense and adaptable urban living.”

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