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:: Master planning
:: Rural planning
:: Environmental impact studies
:: Interior landscaping
:: Exterior landscaping
:: Roof gardens
:: Irrigation
:: Landscape lighting
:: Landscape maintenance


Jacob's Island

Location: London

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The name of the site goes back before the time of Charles Dickens and was the setting for Oliver Twist. Originally it was an inlet from the River Thames which was used for mooring. The site was purchased by Berkley Homes for the construction of apartments. The bulk of the flats are contained within three blocks that are located in a U shape. An underground car park runs under the three blocks and the space between them. The decision was taken to cover this central area with a garden. The engineering solution resulted in a roof with a loading of some 15kN of which 5kN was required for crowd loading. A single concrete upstand wall ran around the centre of the space to segregate the water from the landscape. To disguise the sever line of the upstand wall areas of aquatic planting and beaches were allowed to run over it.

The area was originally intended to be used as a fire route but eventually it became the main entrance to the site. The pedestrian routes were largely infilled with a low fines lightweight lytag concrete. This rather unusual formulation was chosen because it is porous to water but well able to take heavy loads. Steel moulds were placed on top of the concrete bunds and filled with a carefully formulated concrete mix that had a striking appearance when its surface was exposed. The voids between the slabs was filled with gravel which blended into the cobbles of the beaches.

The soil that was used in the roof garden was a field dug sandy loam topsoil that was specially imported from Essex. This expensive material was mixed with a young Baltic sphagnum peat. To restore the openness of the soil after it was trafficked on site the whole area was double dug. A sprinkler irrigation system was installed and turned on automatically every two days. As a result growth rates were outstanding. Some shrubs grew 2m in the first summer.

The main specimen trees consisted of Silver Birch with a single Alder. Instant impact was added by the introduction of large Rhododendrons and Scrub Pines. In the centre of the site blocks of Lavender and Thyme were used for their aromatic properties.

The presence of aquatic plants meant that it was not possible to treat the water in the feature. As a result the only possible method for sterilising the system was sunlight and oxygen. A recirculation system was placed in a small room in the car park. Water was drawn off in one corner and fed back via a ring main which ran around the outside of the landscaped area. Every few meters a spur was taken off and extended to the edge of the aquatic planting. On the end of each spur was attached an air entraining nozzle. The nozzles not only kept the water fresh but also prevented debris from accumulating in the many corners.

Probably the most important feature of the site was that those flats which only had a view of the landscape achieved the same price as those which had a view over the river.

Next case study: The Saatchi and Saatchi Building 

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