Located in the heart of the London Docklands ‘The Crystal’, a new visitor destination, has been hailed by the Mayor of London as a new landmark building in East London to kick-start the Green Enterprise District. Townshend Landscape Architects were appointed by Siemens to design a ‘sustainable urban landscape’ as part of their Cities Initiative. The brief was to ensure that high quality public spaces were designed and delivered for the use and enjoyment of both visitors and the local community, ensuring the public space remains in public ownership.

The aim from the outset was to create distinctive urban landscape, one that would provide an alternative perspective to the stereotypical ‘ecology centre’. The idea was that this could be used as a precedent for how sustainable design can be integrated into city squares and urban spaces where there would initially seem little opportunity for doing so.

The public realm strategy was designed to encourage a shift in the broader social ideology, making ‘sustainability’ more attractive and allowing people to participate in social activities within the site, which includes local food programmes and community gardens to help foster this principle. Townshend Landscape Architects have been working closely with the London Borough of Newham, Design for London and the GLA to create a framework for establishing a ‘Community Strategy’ for the Centre. This involves hosting regular events, workshops, gardening days and information on urban beekeeping.

The project is aiming for BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ as well as the international LEED ‘Platinum’ rating. The landscape design aims to reduce the ecological footprint of this project by specifying materials with a much lower embodied energy than a standard scheme. The hard landscape materials used are also rated ‘grade A’ or greater with the BRE Green Guide to Specification. The plants specified are climate sensitive to reduce water consumption, in turn reducing the maintenance requirement of the development. Where irrigation is required for lawns, water is harvested through a pioneering ‘blackwater’ recycling system which utilises the waste water from the building. In addition to providing visually attractive amenity spaces an increase in wildlife and plants with a high biodiversity value were required as part of BREEAM. The design for the landscape seeks to strike a balance between these two competing factors by specifying a carefully selected a range of plants which not only look good, but provide a wildlife value with a high nectar source for bees and other insects. Native wildflower meadows and traditional flower gardens demonstrate this potential and it is hoped people will be inspired to think about their own back gardens, balconies or window boxes.

Project name: The Crystal – A Sustainable Cities Initiative by Siemens
Landscape Architecture: Townshend Landscape Architects
Completed: 2012
Location: 1 Siemens Brothers Way, Royal Victoria Dock, London Borough of Newham
Area: 1.8ha

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