The Paradise Garden, Kensington

About This Project

An exciting commission to transform an exposed, unloved roof terrace in West London. The site benefits from wonderful views across Kensington, but is open to the elements, in poor repair and has a large lightwell void and roof hatch taking up much of the available space.

The brief was to create a flexible space for daytime enjoyment and evening entertainment. There needed to be areas of full shade and opportunity to lie in the sun.

Planning requirements meant that there would be fixed height restrictions, so some innovative thinking was required. As this wasn’t a primary residence, the roof terrace needed to be ‘lock up and leave’. There would also be various services coming up through the roof, which needed to be subtly incorporated (and hidden!) in the design.

Given the exposure, the heat and pollution in London (in particular in summer months when the roof terrace would be used), the famous Paradise Gardens of Persia and Spain came immediately to mind. These were gardens for pleasure and respite from the heat and dust of the day. Key features included trees, water, a symmetrical layout, scented plants and intricate detailing. The boundaries of these spaces were also well defined, typically surrounded by high walls.

In design terms, when designing a constricted space, it is important not to downscale elements. And on a site like this with exposure on all sides, we were keen to make things more generous in scale than usual in a garden. Upscaling like this works especially well when elements are arranged in a symmetrical pattern. For someone entering the roof terrace, the effect is of a space that is larger than it is.

We began by placing a water feature over the lightwell void. The base of the water feature would be glass, allowing light to fall down through the building. Four inlaid bronze strips run from the bronze surround across the roof terrace, framing the large dining table and inset seating. They help define the space, as a rug would do in a sitting room. Bronze planters wrap around the roof terrace, mostly planted with scented perennials and climbers, but with some areas where services can be hidden. A large L-shaped sofa is placed in the SE corner. Shade is provided by telescoping legs in both the sofa and dining table that can be raised and allow a canopies to be clipped on. The roof is accessed by a new glazed hatch, which is operated electronically.

The design is enhanced by subtle lighting, devised by Nulty Design Consultants  who have been responsible for the Ned Hotel amongst many other projects. Lead (night-time) visual shown here reproduced with Nulty’s permission.

As a further consideration, the use of splashing water and evergreen planting is designed to help remove poisonous particulates from the air. This is an area that we have specialist knowledge of – see an article for the Sunday Times here.

The roof terrace is scheduled to be built in autumn 2018, subject to planning restrictions.