Jess and Max discover the green spaces defining the future of sustainable design…

Open House London: green design in city spaces – Cross Rail Roof Garden Interior by night.jpgCrossrail Place Roof Garden: A beautifully considered structure offering endless opportunity for reflection within the heart of the city.

The focus on ‘green’ spaces at this years ‘Open House London’ was striking; it’s clear that an increasing awareness of environmental issues are influencing the way new design is being approached. When we think ‘sustainability’ we might think of materials and how buildings provide heating and light. However, the projects we came across at Open House London took a much more holistic approach; not only were they sustainable, they encouraged a connection to nature within city space. Here are our highlights…

Crossrail Place Roof Garden by Foster + Partners

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Designed by Foster + Partners, this is a tropical roof garden that sits above – what will be – a brand new train station. The plants from around the world and the almost boat-like shape of the building pay tribute to the maritime heritage of the area. The huge variety of the plants, many of which originate from the West Indies, create interesting depths and textures. Located in what is now Canary Wharf’s financial hub, it is perfectly placed to be an escape from city life.

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As you look up, the bustling surroundings of the city-skyline almost loom over you, but the clever mix of frosted and transparent glass, coupled with the geometrically shaped roof, shield you from the outside. This plays with the idea of the garden as a city escape. The natural surroundings make you feel connected with nature, but the design of the building allows you to take a step back and appreciate the slick skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.

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As day turned into night, it became clear that it wasn’t just a place to walk through, but offers a place to come together, socialise and experience the sheltered views of the city. There are endless opportunities for reflection created by a beautifully considered structure. 

Horniman Museum & Gardens by Charles Harrison Townsend

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The Horniman Museum is a collection of interesting specimens and artefacts opened in 1898 as part of Frederick John Horniman’s quest to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’. As the founder of a tea company he was better travelled than most and wanted to share his experiences with the people of London. Today, their ethos remains the same, with an added commitment to environmental sustainability.

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Appropriately, one of the newest editions to the grounds is a sustainable eco-library dedicated to education and giving people a greater understanding of the world. Opened in 1996, it is constructed from sustainable materials and has a green living roof. The thoughtfulness of this design is echoed by the collection of books and resources that fill the peaceful space. It has become an archetype for other eco-buildings in the area; a testament to the projects success.

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Just round the corner is the Horniman Conservatory. Originally built at the Horiman family home, it was moved to the museum in the 1980s. A shining example of Victorian design, it has a clever water drainage system and can be taken apart like flat-pack furniture.

Antepavillion Rooftop Initiative by PUP Architects

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Last, but certainly not least, is the Antepavillion Rooftop Initiative, a collection of industrial buildings with a whole host of architectural experiments, designed to challenge the way we inhabit urban space.

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One of the projects, by PUP Architects, sets out to question rules of planning permission and challenge the status-quo of housing construction. The outside of the building is made from recycled Tetra Pak (usually used for drink cartons), an environmentally conscious approach that catches the light beautifully and is mirrored by the other projects.

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The whole area felt creative, interactive and truly industrial. We climbed ladders, came across old studio spaces and discovered micro-dwellings. The Antepavillion Rooftop was an overturning of normal design concepts, presenting new ideas about housing with an undeniably political tone.

Want to see more of our trip to London? Take a look below…

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