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Secret Courtyard, London 

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A secret student courtyard garden and public realm project on East Road

Project Type:

Public realm / Landscape

Project Status:



Rocket Investments

We started working on this development at the inception of the project. This began while working for General Public Agency who had been instructed to develop a public realm strategy Rocket Developments alongside the architectural team from Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. The proposed development of a student residential block and a hotel put into place two main public spaces: a break out / leisure space for the student accommodation, and an extension to Corsham street to link through to East Road. This increased permeability to the site leading to an enlivening of the spaces beyond.

Following on from this we were then asked to carry out the landscape design on the project for these public / semi public spaces, each of which has a very different character.


Proposed masterplan

Materials details

The Corsham Street extension needed to be of high quality simple design which allowed legible reading of the street scape in an uncluttered way. Due to the level of anticipated wind and light the space was not suitable for seating or planting and as such we utilised paving to break down the streetscape and highlight the entrances for each site, while including ground level lighting and ground signage to increase visual interest. Each building was given a perimeter paving material which lead out into the street design and we used Silver Birch trees to provide shelter and a sense  of human scale on the East Road.

The courtyard was a very different space. To encourage multiple occupation by the students as well as visual interest from above, the design needed to be playful and engaging and include as much planting as possible , all the while allowing for different activities to coexist. Drawing inspiration from traditional university college buildings the space was intended as a planted respite from the city beyond.

The length of the space leant itself to a long green wall, punctuated with light boxes was installed with a linear core ten bench along the base to soften the urban feel. The ground finish was granite sets to enhance the courtyard feel and provide a high quality base for the space.

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Amidst the courtyard the design encourages more playful occupation. Raised beds of grass are created to lie on, timber and Cor-ten benches  of different heights and sizes are designed to sit or perch on, or lean on and allow for social interaction as well as individual use of the courtyard space allowing for people to use it at different times or simultaneously for a variety of uses.

To encourage people to use the courtyard at as well as provide visual interest lighting was really important. The colonnade is up lit using ground lighting, and lights are embedded into the sides of the benches as well as the large light boxes in the green wall.

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Landscape strategy sketch ideas

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