Manhattan Loft Gardens lower sky gardens
Oliver Harman
18 March 2016 By: Oliver Harman
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Green Sky Thinking Week

Oliver Harman – Senior Research, Development and Innovation Coordinator, discusses Green Sky Thinking at Bouygues UK. 

‘Often in buildings, air conditioning gets the best view of the city’. Andy Bow’s (Foster and Partners and Battersea Power Station Phase 3 – The Roof Gardens) comment is certainly true of our Head Office at Elizabeth House – one could probably make some good money taking punters up to the 6th floor, standing over a Mitsubishi Electric unit and showing them the London Eye.

It is no secret that we are building higher. A recent New London Architecture report shows that in the past 12 months a total of 119 buildings of 20 storeys or over have been proposed for the capital. A number of factors are contributing to this. Yes, urbanisation and population growth factor but there is also the mantra that in England’s green and pleasant land you touch green belts at your peril. Yet with this city growth, urban dwelling citizens still require some connection with nature. As such we are seeing an interesting response. More architects and developers are bringing nature to the forefront of their projects. Buildings such as Milan’s Stefano Boeri designed Bosco Verticale (that’s Vertical Forest to the rest of us), New York’s BIG designed (and MahaNahkon esq) The Spiral as well as our very own SOM designed Manhattan Loft Gardens are just a smattering of new projects with high rise green spaces.

Manhattan Loft Gardens lower sky gardens
Manhattan Loft Gardens has its own high rise green spaces. Courtesy of Manhattan Loft Corporation

Why are we seeing a surge of popularity of such developments? Manhattan Loft Gardens’ landscape architect Irene Djao-Rakitin thinks ‘people are suffocating, they just need to breathe a bit’.

Open-air roof gardens modelled on Kew Gardens in Paddington or your own private garden in Canary Wharf are some of the current offerings to London’s investors and property purchasers. However do these green spaces give urbanites that much-revered breathable space, or are they merely token green offerings about as beneficial as a living room peace lily? There are advocates on both sides. Some argue developments should follow a Cheesegrater approach, with its public space at the ground level for all to enjoy in passing. For others, those ticketed or otherwise far reaching city views are unparalleled.

How easy are they to build? Rafael Viñoly’s Sky Gardens came under fire for offering a Babylonian hanging gardens in the planning documents and delivering a smattering of ferns. Was this a result of value engineering or construction difficulties of building and maintaining plants in an un-natural environment?

Do such large scale green spaces tie developments together? Harry Handelsman (founder of Manhattan Loft Corporation) argues they ‘give an opportunity for people to come together’ and Battersea Power Station Development Company have their roof gardens for just that reason, to bring a sense of community. The question is, whether high rise green spaces will be limited to high end developments or whether they will be adopted more mainstream in some of the fully-PRS schemes we are expecting to come into development.

All these questions and more will be discussed, debated and disputed in Bouygues UK’s upcoming Green Sky Thinking Week event “Green sky gardens: The increasing popularity and consequences of providing high rise green space’.

Please join us on Thursday 28th April between 8:30 and 10:30 at Manhattan Loft Gallery, 65 Hopton Street, Bankside, London, SE1 9JL. You will listen to the excellent array of speakers below present their thoughts before we all participate in the discussion.

Tim Broyd – President Elect of Institute of Civil Engineers and Chair of Built Environment Foresight at UCL

Kent Jackson – Design Director of SOM and Architect of Manhattan Loft Gardens

Chris White – Development Director of Manhattan Loft Corporation and Manhattan Loft Gardens

Andy Bow – Senior Partner of Foster & Partners and Architect of Battersea Power Station Phase 3

Aiden McLeod – Project Director of Battersea Power Station Phase 3

Sasha Njagulj – Head of Sustainability and Innovation of Bouygues UK


8:30am Registration

8:45am Welcome from Bouygues UK

8:50am Speakers – ‘Green Sky Gardens’

9:30am Panel/Audience Discussion

9:55am Thanks & Networking