Greenwich Square, developed by Hadley Mace and built by Mace Construction, created an entirely new community for the East Greenwich area of London. This £250 million project, upon a 3-hectare brownfield site, delivered 686 new mixed-tenure homes and a new community hub including a leisure centre, library, restaurants and shops.
Outerspace designed and technically delivered the entire landscape masterplan, including a public art sculpture within the central piazza. The various phases within the scheme include:
• The Square: This space acts as the central focus for both new residents and the wider community to enjoy. It is flanked by The Greenwich Centre together with bars and restaurants at ground level and flats above.
• Phase One Affordable Housing Block: A podium communal garden above a car park, providing play and amenity for parents and toddlers.
• ‘The Courtyard’: A predominantly private sale block around an extensive podium communal garden offering a stunning oasis for the residents.
• The Streetscapes: A crescent street whereby the roadway, parking and pavements are softened with avenue tree planting and a green wall along two facades.
The problem we addressed
Over the last decade Outerspace has audited many high-density residential schemes. Results indicated that inner city public spaces and communal gardens are seldom used by the community they are there to serve. Whilst they satisfy planning policy calculations and looked attractive in plan, on the ground the human experience equated to a lack of comfort and connectivity. People felt overlooked and overwhelmed by floors above, making them undesirable places to be. It becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon, less people leads to less people, until these precious outdoor spaces are completely failing their communities.
The design process
Outerspace developed a masterplan that created consistency across the development whilst celebrating the unique quality of each space. For each space we set out a clear set of design principles and identified a range of options which we presented to the client for approval. For our sculpture ‘Different Outlooks’ we engaged a local history group to identify the facts regarding the famous figures selected.
This project epitomised Outerspace’s ‘human-nature’ design philosophy; to create both comfort and connectivity for people and biodiversity in the heart of the city. The approach can be seen in the design and delivery of both the public spaces and communal gardens:
(i) Shared residents and public space: The Square
Creating comfort and reducing anxiety
The extensive number of trees throughout the piazza together with medium sized shrubs around the seating areas creates the perfect microclimate, offering shelter from both the elements and eyes above.
A number of features create ‘bumping places’ to maximise social connections of all age groups: bespoke furniture has proved engaging and interactive, in particular with the youth; a toddlers play space, together with seating for parents, is within the heart of the space; an open flexible space in the central area can be curated for a range of community events; and finally a sculpture designed by Outerspace promotes the residents connectivity to the areas past.
(ii) Communal gardens:
Creating comfort and reducing anxiety
The design of the communal garden is based on an old English Country Garden with a series of sub gardens accessed by an axial route, creating a tranquil green oasis in the heart of London. Lush planting around the perimeter gives privacy and comfort to those living in garden level apartments and those using the communal space alike.
The creation of ‘bumping places’ to maximise the connectivity of all age groups was achieved through a combination of toddlers play space, table tennis tables, a central flexible lawn, and two substantial communal seating areas with moveable furniture either end of the garden to offer socialisation throughout the day and early evening, as well as an opportunity for ‘working from home’ in the garden.
The connectivity of ‘humans and nature’ lies at the heart of this lush garden, with densely planted trees and shrubs offering residents a close interaction with foliage, birds and insects, from their balconies and the heart of the gardens.
21st century high density residential environments have proved to be challenging for both people and biodiversity, often failing to create gardens that are well used.
Greenwich Square embraced these issues and successfully demonstrated the contribution Landscape Architects can make in the long-term legacy of a high-density development. Even before the pandemic Outerspace were pioneering an approach that supported ‘human-nature’.
We believe this project should receive an award as it balances high quality design with an approach that goes beyond pattern making and policy calculations, successfully supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of the residents.
Project location Greenwich, London SE10 9GA
Design year: 2019/2020
Year Built (completed): 2020