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Marco Polo House

The Landscape at Marco Polo House Battersea was designed to complement the modern architecture whilst helping tie the scheme into the surrounding environment. Both the buildings and the landscape have been shaped to embrace and welcome Battersea Park to the west and make a physical and visual connection with Battersea Power station to the east.
The whole comprises a hierarchy of private, semi private and public spaces, providing a range of different areas where residents and visitors can relax and enjoy the external environments. At the heart of the scheme are two private courtyard gardens, planted with mature trees and wildlife friendly planting. The vision for the private gardens was to create a verdant tranquil series of spaces which provide sanctuary from the busy road. The landscape design reflects the leafy qualities of the adjacent Battersea Gardens, visually pulling the park into the scheme. The design specifies groups of semi mature trees which provide instant cover and softness. Each tree has been given a minimum of 12 cubic metres of soil volume, sharing rooting zone, water and oxygen to maximise successful establishment. The plants where all contract grown especially for the Vista project and inspected regularly before being delivered to site. This ensured that the client got a high-class product which arrived to site in a great condition providing instant impact for the new residents. What makes this even more of an achievement is the garden is significantly constrained, being built over a podium slab and is heavily shaded by the surrounding apartments. In response to this the planting was carefully selected to thrive in these challenging environments, whilst also delivering a garden which adds value to the scheme and creates a place that residents want to use and enjoy throughout the year.

A lesson learned – At the start of the design process it was agreed that the basement car park would only be located under half of the development. This meant that for the other half, gardens could be built over existing ground and not a concrete podium slab. By doing this it created a better environment to plant trees and landscaping, due to enhanced soil volume and rooting area. Unfortunately, quite late in the design process geotechnical studies revealed that the garden without a concrete slab would allow the River Thames to flood in. This resulted in a radical re-design to ensure that the semi mature trees already tagged and ready to plant had enough room to grow and thrive. Working closely with the landscape contractors the design was adjusted to maximise soil volume, sharing trenches, increasing structural soil under hard surfacing and raising levels where possible. The result has meant that soil volume remains the same for each tree and ensures they will thrive and not struggle to establish. Working with artists during the design process was an important factor in creating an exciting and memorable environment which reflected the sites heritage and context. An example of this was working closely with Matthew Derbyshire who designed a series of children’s play features for one of the courtyard gardens. These features where not typical items of play, but more sculptural features with playable value. Taking reference from a sculpture exhibition held within Battersea Park during the 1940’s, Matthews pieces reflect the modern movement of more abstract art at the time whilst carefully fusing elements of play into each piece. The result now, as it was back in the 1940’s, is to bring art and culture to the masses, whilst at the same time making them playable and interactive.

Entrant office name: Barton Willmore Landscape, Reading
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Design
Website: http://bartonwillmore.co.uk/Services/Landscape-Design
Other design firms involved in the design of the garden (if any):
Fountains Direct – Water Feature Consultants
Mark Gubb – Artist
Matthew Darbyshire – Artist
Project location (State or Country): UK, London, Battersea
Design year: 2013
Year Built: 2017

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