The Park is the centrepiece of Elephant Park, the £2.5bn revitalisation of Elephant & Castle by Lendlease and Southwark Council, which is setting a new benchmark in city living. At 2-acres it’s an inclusive and sustainable community space featuring expansive lawns, colourful rain gardens, the landmark water playscape, Elephant Springs, and walkways nestled within naturalistic planting.
The Park is a celebration of nature and a tribute to Elephant and Castle’s diverse population and existing ecology. It offers everyone living or visiting the area unforgettable social and recreational experiences, and an opportunity to slow down and connect with nature.
Lendlease’s overarching objective was to create an inclusive green space where everyone, no matter their background or abilities, feels happy, comfortable and has an opportunity to play, socialise and connect with nature. Furthermore, the Park should be a sustainable exemplar; designed to help mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity and improve people’s quality of life.
The design was truly community-driven, shaped through extensive consultation, including the formation of a Park Advisory Group, made up of representatives from the Client, Local Authority, and designated members of the community, to ensure the park fully met the needs of the diverse community and instilled a sense of ownership and pride. The primary feedback was the desire to retain the existing mature trees and create a series of passive and active spaces where all members of the community could safely and congenially come together.
As such, the design and programming of the park has been shaped around the retention of 27 existing mature trees. A further 19 new trees have been planted in the Park to give an overall increase in canopy coverage and boost local biodiversity through new habitats. Local biodiversity has been enhanced further by a wider planting strategy, comprising a mix of native and non-native species to maximise diversity and deliver ecological value.
The incorporation of rain gardens along the Park’s perimeter provides pockets of ever-changing colour, height and texture, igniting all the senses. The deployment of rain gardens helps to manage the rainwater falling on the site, infiltrating surface water runoff from hard paved areas into the underground aquifer rather than overburdening London’s combined sewer system.
At the heart of the Park sits a unique water playscape, Elephant Springs – a rocky, water-world of fountains, waterfalls and sandy beaches. Created from 300 tons of Italian porphyry stone, chosen for its hard wearing and slip-resistant properties when wet, Elephant Springs is a fully accessible and tactile space designed to delight, challenge and excite children and adults alike. Vintage water pumps, cascading water channels and motion activated water jets provide active fun and educational experiences for both children and adults. The playscape has been designed to encourage safe but adventurous play with dappled light projections transforming the space from day to night.
Why this project deserves to win an award
The Park has provided a much-needed destination for play and essential human interaction within the city. Good quality design, efficient management and high-level investment in hard and soft landscaping has created an attractive, robust, accessible, sustainable and identifiable open green space that has quickly become a haven for both wildlife and people.
From a physical sense, the creation of the park has brought a green, open environment to the area for people to exercise and play in. Many local groups make use of the space for activities such as yoga, tai chi and boot camp.
The Park is also a leading example of climate adaption innovation, incorporating beautiful, multi-sensory engineered rain gardens to infiltrate surface water and limit urban flooding. The rain gardens are designed to consider future extreme climate change affected rainfall intensities and the 100-year storm period, making the design robust for future generations.
Since the park opened at the start of June 2021, the feedback from the community has been fantastic – below is a selection of some of the posts on social media:
@selondonparents ‘We spent the morning at the fantastic @elephantparklondon in Elephant and Castle! ? A really fun area for kids of all ages to explore, lots of fountains to run through, streams to splash in and rocks to climb up!’
@jenny.and.bax ‘I’m pretty sure I can confidently say WE LOVE ELEPHANT SPRINGS ? This place is just awesome, proper rocks to clamber up and down, fountains and jets and little bridges and waterfalls everywhere.’
Economically, the park has had a huge impact on local businesses, providing much appreciated ‘spill out space’ for restaurants, cafes and bars during the pandemic. Furthermore, the construction of the park, and its continued maintenance and upkeep has provided 26 permanent job opportunities for the community.
Project location: Elephant and Castle, London, UK
Park Phase One: Sept 2014 to Dec 2016
Park Phase Two: August 2018 to April 2021
Park Phase One: January 2017 to July 2017
Park Phase Two: April 2021 to June 2021