The Water Gardens Designed Landscape

Overview

Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1466630
Date first listed:
18-Aug-2020
Statutory Address:
Burwood Place, Edgware Road, London, W2 2DA

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Burwood Place, Edgware Road, London, W2 2DA

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Greater London Authority
District:
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ2726381395

Summary

Water gardens, designed by Philip Hicks in 1961 and constructed in 1961-1966 as part of a development of luxury housing by Chris Whittaker of Trehearne and Norman, Preston and Partners. Refurbished in 2018 by Refolo Landscape Architects (R-LA)

Reasons for Designation

The Water Gardens designed landscape, Burwood Place, designed in 1961 by Philip Hicks and constructed in 1961-1966, is registered at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Design interest:

* it is an innovative and ambitious Modernist urban water garden that utilises the roof slab of a basement car park as the base of the pools; * it is the work of Philip Hicks, a distinctive London landscape architect who went on to build a second career in North America; * the design uses clean lines and geometric forms to successful effect, incorporating pools, paved areas, deck terraces, flying staircases, raised walkways and intermediate platforms to act as key features within the landscape; * the Brutalist treatment of shuttered concrete is enhanced by contrasting soft planting in raised planters and the fluid movement of the water in the pools and fountains; * the landscape is closely integrated with the surrounding unlisted buildings and was designed to be viewed both from the ground and the balconies of the flats above; * the clever use of design tricks, such as limiting views into and out of the gardens and incorporating fountains to counteract traffic noise, maximises the space of a relatively small site, creating a feeling of openness and expansiveness despite the landscape being fully enclosed, and creating a hidden oasis behind busy Edgware Road.

Historic interest:

* it is a rare example of a mid-C20 landscape associated with private luxury housing rather than public sector development that was more prevalent at the time, and is reflective of the growing recognition of the importance of providing good landscaping in an urban setting.

Survival:

* despite some later alteration the overall form and character of The Water Gardens survives well.

History

The area north of Hyde Park, west of Edgware Road and south of Praed Street is known as Tyburnia, and was the first part of Paddington to be developed after the Building Act of 1795. The land formed part of the Bishop of London's Paddington Estate and his surveyor, Samuel Pepys Cockerell devised a masterplan for the area, including grand squares and terraces. Building work commenced in the 1820s but the plan was never fully implemented and changes were made by others including Cockerell's successor, George Gutch. Piecemeal rebuilding took place in the area from the 1920s as the first leases began to fall in and flats and shops replaced houses. This continued until the Second World War and the area's uniformity envisaged by Cockerell and Gutch was lost.

By the 1950s it was clear that there was a market for small luxury houses and apartments in London’s West End. At the same time the Church Commissioners for England was seeking to restore the area’s prestige and in 1954 it consolidated its 90-acre holdings south of Sussex Gardens, renaming it the Hyde Park Estate. Anthony Minoprio produced a masterplan in 1957 for a high-density but expensive scheme of 930 flats on 68 acres to replace the existing early-C19 terraces, which was approved by London County Council.

The Church Commissioners for England reserved a corner of the Hyde Park Estate between Sussex Gardens and Norfolk Crescent and formed the Burwood Place Development Company. They proposed their own development that included 12-storey blocks of flats along Edgware Road, but the height of the towers was subsequently raised to 17-storeys at the suggestion of London County Council. Demolition started in 1961 and the luxury mixed-use development now known as The Water Gardens was completed in 1966. Covering three acres it consisted of 250 flats, six penthouses, 15 houses, and shops and offices set over basement garaging, and designed by Trehearne and Norman, Preston and Partners. The partner in charge was George Gneditch and the job architect was Chris Whittaker.

The landscape architect Philip Hicks had trained with Whittaker at the Architectural Association and the two men bumped into one another on a London street in 1961. The result of this accidental meeting was an invitation to Hicks to produce a design to screen the basement car park at the Burwood Place development. Hicks designed a water garden suspended on a podium deck that integrated open areas to ventilate the garage below, created walkways and stairs onto the roofs of the garage, service road and shops, and concealed service areas from view of the luxury flats above. His landscape design also gave the development its name: The Water Gardens.

In 2018 the landscaping was refurbished by Refolo Landscape Architects (R-LA) who re-waterproofed the lower deck, introduced some new paving, water jets and lighting, two new ramps, a shared vehicular surface and custom-designed concrete benches, and replaced planting.

Philip Arthur Hicks (1921-2017) studied architecture at the Architectural Association and landscape architecture at King’s College, Newcastle (then part of Durham University). He worked as a landscape architect from the 1950s, designing the landscaping for the Bird’s Eye HQ at Walton-on-Thames (1962, now demolished) and Sanderson House (1957-1960, now the Sanderson Hotel, listed at Grade II*). Hicks emigrated to Newfoundland, Canada in 1974 and worked in North America for the rest of his career as both a landscape architect and art writer and critic.

Details

Water gardens, designed by Philip Hicks in 1961 and constructed in 1961-1966 as part of a development of luxury housing by Chris Whittaker of Trehearne and Norman, Preston and Partners. Refurbished in 2018 by Refolo Landscape Architects (R-LA)

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING The Water Gardens designed landscape is situated in Tyburnia, an area of Paddington located north of Hyde Park and west of Edgware Road. The landscape, which is roughly rectangular in plan with a cutaway concave southern corner, is approximately 2.6 acres/10,500 sq m in area and is set within a mixed-use, but mainly residential, development of the same name bounded by Edgware Road to the north-east, Burwood Place to the south-east, Norfolk Crescent to the south and south-west, and Sussex Gardens to the north-west. The site comprises the landscaped grounds to a mixed-use development and is set on two levels with a lower deck set above a basement car parking garage, which incorporates a series of large rectilinear pools, paved areas, and raised planters, with intermediate platforms, walkways and flying staircases that lead up to two smaller upper decks set above commercial shops and offices fronting Edgware Road. Residential houses and blocks of flats enclose the landscape on all sides.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The main entrance to both the designed landscape and the residential flats is from Burwood Place, as the developers wanted a more exclusive address than Edgware Road. Access to the basement car park is from an adjoining entrance to the right underneath shops fronting Edgware Road, which is now used by a self-storage company, with a further car park entrance in the western corner of the site off Norfolk Crescent. The site's service road starts at the Burwood Place entrance and runs for approximately 114m down the entire north-eastern side of the water gardens underneath three residential towers and the upper decks, which are carried on pilotti, before turning south-west for approximately 56m towards the Norfolk Crescent entrance, the last 12m (approximately) of which travels underneath a block of flats known as the south-west block. A further pedestrian gateway exists to the north corner of the site off Sussex Gardens. Originally there was public access into the water gardens, but metal entrance gates were installed at all the entrances in 2012 to prevent antisocial behaviour.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS The buildings at the Water Gardens development consist of three 17-storey residential towers (North Tower, Central Tower, and South Tower) on the north-eastern side of the site that rise from, and are linked by, a low-rise terrace of shops, offices and flats facing Edgware Road and set over basement garaging. The flats are entered via ground-floor lobbies at the rear (south-west side) of each block overlooking the designed landscape and accessed from Burwood Place. The form of the rectangular towers, with larger flats having a three-into-two statement of floor levels to give greater height to the large living rooms at each end, was inspired by Denys Lasdun’s luxury block of flats at 26 St James’s Place (listed at Grade II*), which itself took inspiration from Wells Coates’ 10 Palace Gate (listed at Grade II*) and ultimately from Moisei Ginsburg’s Narkomfin flats in Moscow of 1928-1932. The central floor of three is curtailed, allowing it to either be incorporated into one of the other floors with an internal stair flight to make a duplex, or separated as a smaller one-bedroom flat. The balconies at either end and in the centre of the towers give an indication of this complex plan, whilst the use of contrasting black and white tile finishes (also inspired by Lasdun) defines the central sections where the ceiling heights are lower. The engineers Durley, Hill and Partners supplied structural ingenuity in cantilevering the flats over the service road, to reduce the distance from the tower entrances to the central lift foyers. The foyers to the blocks are double-height, with splayed ceilings and fully-glazed ends facing the gardens.

Max Honigsfield and David Goldhill designed two smaller blocks (West Block and South-West Block) in the western corner of the site that form a linked L-shape facing onto Sussex Gardens and Norfolk Crescent, and rise to six and nine-storeys respectively. The blocks use similar cladding materials and windows to the Edgware Road-facing towers.

To the southern corner of the site and fronting onto Norfolk Crescent is a curved terrace of four-storey houses with their own small private rear gardens that back onto the designed landscape of The Water Gardens.

LANDSCAPING The landscaping consists of a suspended deck garden set over the basement garage with a series of rectilinear pools arranged with rocks, fountains and aquatic plants, that is linked to two upper decks above the service road and Edgware Road shops by two platforms, flying staircases and intermediate walkways. A key brief of the landscape was that it be of interest when viewed from the flats above as well as from the ground level. The views down from the flats to the gardens are thus an integral feature of the landscape design, as well as the lack of views in and out from the level of the garden, which helps to keep out traffic noise and create the sense of an oasis in one of the busiest parts of London.

When Philip Hicks was offered the site in 1961 he found it covered in concrete due to the basement area being excavated, and with an unspecified number of large holes to vent the garage, although their exact size was not yet finalised. The roof slab of the basement garage lent itself to being formed into a series of pools, as all that was required were 2ft high sides to enclose them. The use of water was also intended to create an oasis of calm away from the busy Edgware Road. The engineers’ basement grid produced ventilation voids on both lower and upper decks approximately 25ft square between the columns, and Hicks built up a design incorporating this pattern of voids, along with paved areas, tree boxes/planters and large water areas, eighteen inches deep.

The garage ventilation voids originally had a view straight down to the parking area below. However, five of the ventilation voids on the lower deck were covered over in 2018 with a steel structure and a 'green/living roof' for safety reasons and to increase storm-water infiltration on the site and provide wildlife habitats. The remaining voids on the lower and upper decks retain their original enclosing black-steel balustrades.

For waterproofing Hicks originally relied on the quality of the concrete slab rather than introducing asphalt as a lining to the pools, since it caused problems when it cracked. However, as part of the 2018 refurbishment works the entire lower deck, including pools, was re-waterproofed by Makers Construction Ltd due to water leaks into the garage below; works that won the 2019 National Liquid Roofing Award and the 2019 Liquid Roofing Waterproofing Association (LRWA) Liquid Waterproofing Project of the Year.

LOWER DECK AND POOLS The upper deck and towers are carried over the service road on pilotti, which form a pointed-arched open arcade onto the lower deck and have exposed aggregate (composed of small river pebbles) on the garden-facing side. The lower deck is raised up steps about 2ft 6in above the roadway and new ramps have been added to enable disabled access and kerbs altered to accommodate the ramps. The deck consists of a 12in thick, two-way reinforced concrete slab that comprises the garage roof. Upstands of the same concrete form the sides of the pond and are 2ft high. The pools, which contain carp and goldfish, form a roughly three-legged shape, with a central promontory of paving and a larger one to the north-west linked together by a central bridge that is now flanked by parallel water jets either side that were installed in 2018. An additional bridge crosses the pools to the west. The pools appear interconnected, but the bridges rise from the base of the pools, thus separating them off below water level and containing the fish. The water is 18in deep, and incorporated into the pools are a series of fountain spouts that were renewed in 2018. A number of boulders originally placed around the pools at random intervals and around some of the spouts have been moved to new locations within the pools. Dye has also been added to the water following the refurbishment works to prevent algae bloom and is a temporary measure.

PAVED AREAS The paving on the lower deck was replaced in 2018 and consists of white and grey concrete paving arranged in increasingly regular wave patterns from the south-east to north-west, which is intended to represent progression from chaos to order as the viewer moves through the space, and the kinetic energy of water. Seating in the form of concrete and timber benches was also installed in 2018, but concrete bins are original, along with concrete lighting boxes. Additional night-time lighting was installed in 2018 in the form of wall-mounted lights along the service road, hidden LED strip lighting in the side walls of the planters and voids, and lights in the bridge water jets. A steel spiral stair that originally provided access from the lower deck's central paved area down to the basement garage remains in situ, but is no longer used and is closed off at its base. The stair is surrounded by a swirled paving pattern.

PLANTERS Set around the edge of the pools, and also rising from the north-west area of paving, are five large, original concrete boxes/planters approximately 20ft square, the centres of which are positioned over columns in the basement garage below. The planters' are formed of in-situ reinforced concrete and the sides are 6ft high (though partly sunken so only the top two-thirds are visible above ground level), and shuttered with raised lining detailing. The bottom of each planter is open to the lake to enable a self-sufficient irrigation and drainage system and the original trees, which had root systems that were compromising the structural integrity of the deck, were replaced in 2018. The planters now contain a mixture of semi-mature trees, including willow, birch, beech, flowering cherry, gingko, blue cedar, topiary pines and yews, and low-lying plants, including ferns and grasses. An original raised concrete bed on the south-west side of the Burwood Place entrance contains conifers and grasses, whilst original concrete bowl planters on the paved areas contains date palms and low-level plants. At the north-western end of the garden alongside the service road are small, square movable planters installed in 2018 that contain olive trees, with further similarly styled planters on the platforms. Brick raised beds with flat concrete copings have also been introduced in front of the west block.

PLATFORMS AND UPPER DECKS The lower and upper decks are linked by two large raised platforms over 26ft wide and 53ft long that are supported by mushroom columns that rise from the lower deck and the pools and are set close to the platforms' centres so that the platforms cantilever out over the pools. The platforms are formed of exposed in-situ concrete and have visible shuttering and raised lining detailing to the undersides in the same style as that to the planters. They are linked to one another, and also to the upper decks across the service road, by imperial and flying stairs, and walkways with simple black-steel and thick laminated-timber handrails. The staircases (a stair down from the south-east upper deck to the basement garage is also similarly styled) lead to two upper decks on the roofs of the linking blocks between the towers that were originally communal sun terraces, but are now more ornamental and were refurbished in the late C20. The decks are paved and have low square planters surrounded by a narrow trough filled with pebbles; the planters themselves are filled with a mixture of low plants, yucca, olive trees, lawn, and rocks set within a spiral mound pattern on the north-west deck, and a Japanese-style influence on the south-east deck with bonsai trees, upright stones, grasses, pebbles and gravels. A small number of private flats (two of which were originally porter's flats) above the Edgware Road shops have direct access out onto both upper decks.

Sources

Books and journals
Holden, R, Liversedge, J, Landscape Architecture: An Introduction, (2014), 91-92
'Current Work: 1 The Water Gardens London, W.2' in Journal of the Institute of Landscape Architects, , Vol. 82, (May 1968), 16-19
Whittaker, C, 'The Water Gardens, 'An Underrated Corner of the Capital'' in Twentieth Century Architecture 9. Housing the Twentieth Century Nation, , Vol. 9, (2008), 122-130
Websites
Exposed Aesthetics at the Water Gardens, Edgware Road, London. Refurbishment works by Hardscape, accessed 19 November 2019 from https://www.hardscape.co.uk/water-gardens-edgeware-road/
'Paddington: Tyburnia', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington, ed. C R Elrington (London, 1989), pp. 190-198. British History Online , accessed 19 November 2019 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp190-198
The Water Gardens. Refurbishment works by Refolo Landscape Architects, accessed 19 November 2019 from https://www.r-la.com/the-water-gardens

Legal

This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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