- Heritage Category:
- Park and Garden
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Location Description:
- Statutory Address:
- Broadwater Park, North Orbital Road, Denham, Uxbridge, UB9 5HR
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- Statutory Address:
- Broadwater Park, North Orbital Road, Denham, Uxbridge, UB9 5HR
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- Buckinghamshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
Broadwater Park is a commercial landscape designed in 1982-1984 by Preben Jakobsen, developed contemporaneously with the associated office building, by Elsom Pack Roberts (EPR) for the National Water Council.
Reasons for Designation
Broadwater Park designed by Preben Jakobsen, 1982-1984, is registered at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* as a representation of the work of Preben Jakobsen, an accomplished and influential designer, teacher and theoretician, and a leader in the field of commercial landscaping;
* Jakobsen’s work has been subject to a high degree of attrition, and Broadwater Park is both an excellent representation and the best surviving of his commercial landscapes;
* a relatively rare survival of a 1980s commercial landscape design associated with a contemporary office building.
* exemplifying Jakobsen’s design philosophy, the landscape is rationally planned with a focus on geometry in three dimensions, while combining highly formal, ethereal and traditional elements to form a series of distinctive, characterful areas;
* the landscape and its layout is articulated and informed by EPR’s High Tech office slab, designed contemporaneously with input from Jakobsen, and is complementary of its sleek, rigid geometry.
Broadwater Park was developed in 1982-1984 as offices and a distribution warehouse for the National Water Council. The architectural firm was Elsom Pack Roberts, and the landscape design was by Preben (Ben) Jakobsen.
Jakobsen (1934-2012) was born in Denmark, where his parents ran a nursery. He studied horticulture in Denmark from 1949-1953, then at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in 1955-1956, before gaining a Diploma in Landscape Architecture from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. He returned to England in 1961, and worked for Eric Lyons on Span housing, until the firm went bust in 1969. Span’s housing was often relatively high density, especially by the standards of private developments in suburban areas, and thick planting was introduced to increase the flats’ privacy, to screen car parking and create a sense of place. Jakobsen made important features of clipped hedgerows and evergreen shrubs, elements that reappeared in profusion in his subsequent work. He contributed the landscaping on schemes at South Row, Blackheath (1963), Highsett, Cambridge (phases 2 and 3, 1963-1965), The Lane, Blackheath (1964), Templemere, Weybridge (1965), Holme Chase, Weybridge (1966) and at New Ash Green (1969).
In 1969 Jakobsen set up his own landscape practice in partnership with his wife Margaret (Maggi), herself a qualified architect. This combined their exceptional knowledge of plants with bold architectural shapes and an enthusiasm for earth moving. Their early independent work included Greenleys, a Milton Keynes mixed-use housing development (1973-1976); Michael Fields Housing, Forest Row, East Sussex (1970-1977), which received a BALI Award in 1979; and the Chalton Street Open Space, Camden (1971-1973). At the University of Strathclyde a number of projects were undertaken between 1971 and 1976; only the Boulder and Rill garden is extant, and is significant as a precursor to the Hounslow Civic Centre (landscape now destroyed) 1973-1977, regarded as his masterwork.
Jakobsen’s maturity as a designer coincided with the wave of new office building in suburban sites for the commercial and public sectors in the 1980s. Such developments offered professional landscape architects new opportunities in dealing with car parking and creating corporate identities, as well as providing attractive places for office workers to have their lunch – an important consideration in suburban or rural locations where there were no High Street amenities.
Jakobsen worked extensively for Elsom Pack Roberts. The relationship began with William (Bill) Pack, who had worked for Lyons in the 1950s. Pack was on the council of the Garden History Society and already aware of Jakobsen’s growing reputation. Cecil Elsom (1912-2006) had formed his own practice after the Second World War, based largely on commercial work for Max Rayne, the Crown Estate and Church Commissioners. In the 1970s he awarded partnerships to two of his assistants, Bill Pack and Alan Roberts; the practice continues today as EPR.
Prior to the construction of Broadwater Park, the site was part of the Denham Film Studios, built for Alexander Korda by Gropius and Fry in the 1930s. Only the principal studio building survives to the north of Broadwater Park, and the southern part of the site was redeveloped by Elsom Pack Roberts. Jakobsen was appointed to the project at its outset in 1980, enabling him to write his own landscape brief and design the earthworks as well as the actual planting. He was also involved in the decontamination of the site and works to the existing trees by the river (sensitive because of the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) opposite), for which he produced a conservation management plan. He also had a hand in simplifying the outline of the office building before he produced proposals in August 1981 that formed the basis of the scheme.
Jakobsen used the spoil from the previous buildings on the site to produce an extensive terrace for the great lawn, with an embankment shielding the secondary car park to the south and a gentle slope towards the river to the east. The design comprises car parking to the front (west) and behind the entrance drive to the south. The main landscape is due east of the offices, where a great terrace is laid to grass, edged by a circular hedge that directs views through a gap across the river. This feature was there in his first design, although the other sections reached their simple symmetry only later. The river bank is more naturally treated and includes some earlier trees. On the south side of the lawn is the secondary car park, on the north side a concealed ‘secret garden’ and gravel walk. Jakobsen incorporated drainage and service ducts into his design and planted 2,000 trees of 33 different species, both native and exotic, and 40,000 shurbs and perennials. The contractors were Frosts, with whom Jakobsen had worked at Hounslow and at The Rookery at Westmill in Hertfordshire.
Jakobsen became an acclaimed specialist in commercial landscape design. His office schemes include the Olivetti training centre (buildings Grade II and II*) at Branksome, Haslemere, Surrey (1970-1971, with Edward Cullinan Architects), offices for the British Telecom Angel Centre, Islington, (1982-1985, with Elsom Pack and Partners, destroyed), West Gate One, Ealing (1982); BDF Tesa, Blakelands, Milton Keynes (1982-1983, with MK Development Corporation, extant); Sun Life of Canada, Basingstoke (1984-1986); and Canary Wharf (1996). He worked extensively for the prison service, producing landscapes for HMP Parkhurst in 1969, and also on hospitals, including Horsham Hospital in 1974 and Redhill General Hospital in 1976-1980. A connection with Colin Stansfield Smith, chief architect to Hampshire County Council, began in 1983 when he landscaped the rebuilt Farnborough College of Technology (1983-1988), followed by work at Alton Tertiary College in 1987-1994 and West Totton First School and local centre in 1987-1990. Jakobsen’s career was cut short by Alzheimer’s disease in 1997, though not before he had become the fourth landscape architect to win the Landscape Institute’s venerated LI Medal. The award was followed in 1996 by an exhibition at the Building Design Centre ‘Preben Jakobsen: A New Expression in Landscape Architecture and Garden Design’.
LOCATION, SETTING, LANDFORM, BOUNDARIES, AND AREA
Denham is a large village about four miles (6.4km) north of Uxbridge close to junction 1 of the M40 motorway, just outside the London conurbation on the River Colne, which forms the boundary between the London Borough of Hillingdon and Buckinghamshire.
Broadwater Park stands on a piece of land formerly occupied by the Denham film Studios. The laboratories survive, but the rest of the site was redeveloped by Bill Pack of Elsom Pack Roberts (EPR) in 1980-1984. The office site occupies about eight acres (3.24 ha). The associated warehousing (not part of this assessment) is a further four acres.
The roughly rectangular site is bounded to the east by the River Colne, on the other side of which is the Colne Valley Regional Park, a mix of woodland and lakes, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. To the west is the North Orbital Road (A412). To the south is a distribution centre for Bosch, also built by EPR and landscaped by Jakobsen, but now mainly warehousing and a large car park. To the north, the film studio warehousing was replaced by housing in 2017-2018, which is screened by trees from Broadwater Park.
The soil is a mixture of loam and clay, level on either side of the office building, falling away sharply towards to the river. The Great Circle is formed on built-up rubble from the buildings previously on the site.
There are views across the little River Colne to woodland, part of an SSSI. The sites to north and south are screened by trees and hedges, with a thick hedge screening the road to the west.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Access is from the A412 at the south-west of the site. The drive, initially shared with Bosch’s warehouses, sweeps northwards to the front of the office building, skirting the car park to the west. A recent feature is a large signboard recording the history of the film studios.
To the south of the entrance, on the edge of the road and separated by a drive from Bosch is a small landscaped area, with a raised bank and Jakobsen’s distinctive palisade fencing of irregular metal cylinders.
The design of EPR’s principal office building was led by Bill Pack. It is a steel-framed structure with mirror glass curtain walling and High Tech spot fixings. It has a narrow rectangular plan, and stands north-south across almost the depth of the site, leaving only a narrow drive to the south, and with a projecting entrance central on the west elevation. The uniform, rhythmic exterior is unaltered.
Around the building is a bank shielded by a laurel hedge, and on the west, planters with clipped yew hedging.
The main landscape comprises five parts: car parking to the front (west) of the office; the main terrace, with the Great Circle, to the east; the Secret Garden to the north of the terrace, the riverbank to the east, and a second car park to the south.
West Car Park Large banks planted with hedgerows screen the A412. The oval car park takes the form of a race track or ‘hippodrome’, with three landscaped islands with shrubs, and surrounded by banks with hedging, shrubs and trees.
The Great Circle The main component of the landscape east of the office building is a circular dished lawn on a raised terrace bounded by a hedge some 70m in diameter. It is formed from a Dutch clone of the field maple, Acer campestre ‘Elsrijk’, then not commonly in use, which Jakobsen selected over beech for its narrower leaves and its changing colours through the seasons, from greens in spring and summer to gold in autumn and a cork brown in winter. It was originally 2.4m tall, and 1.22m thick, i.e. twice as high as it is thick, but it is now perhaps a metre taller. It defines the site and the graded slopes beyond, while controlling the views towards the river. Jakobsen found a primeval symbolism in the use of a circle – as found in the earliest settlements and monuments. Sutherland Lyall describes a tradition of Danish formalism, which Jakobsen combined with informal planting in the Secret Garden. The bowl-like contouring of the Great Circle was determined once Jakobsen realised the amount of spoil available from the demolition of the buildings formerly on the site.
The Secret Garden To the north of the circle, screened by the semi-circular hedge, Jakobsen created the Secret Garden or staff garden. The framework of hedges survives, together with a round seat of Iroko wood (one of two) on a concrete base with backrests provided by more of Jakobsen’s distinctive metal palisading. Circular concrete setts or stepping stones form pathways, and marine gravel and occasional boulders suggest a dried river bed, originally planted informally, and retaining some bamboo. Behind a line of trees is a walk running between a further screen of larger trees along the boundary fence, with gravel path suggesting a dry stream. The planting of the Secret Garden originally used colours of silver-grey, blue and yellow, shading to russet and cream in autumn; few flowering plants survive. Jakobsen sought a sensuality in this garden to contrast with the formality of the rest of the landscape.
South Car Park A raised bank separates a second, smaller, oval-shaped car park, screened by hedges and a line of London plane trees. The remains of an earlier drive leads to the footings of a 1930s bridge over the river, which formerly led to a small island (not part of the present site).
The River Area Jakobsen was responsible for tree surgery to the old trees, yews and laurel bushes by the river and the planting of many new ones, including Tetracentron sinense, creating a glade towards the northern boundary. A fence separating the Great Circle from the river has been removed.
Books and journals
Landscape Institute: A visitor's guide to 20th century British landscape design, (1994), 10
Lyall, Sutherland, Designing the New Landscape, (1991), 198-199
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, (2000), 275
Woudstra, Jan, 'Landscape First and Last' in Simms, Barbara, Eric Lyons and Span, (1996), 35-51
Hal Moggridge, ‘Obituary: Preben Jakobsen (1934 -2012)’, 14 March 2012, Landscape Institute, accessed 07/05/2020 from https://www.landscapeinstitute.org/news/obituary-preben-jakobsen-19342012/
Karen Fitzsimon, 'Drawing on Denmark – the mid-to-late twentieth-century landscape practice of Preben Jakobsen in Britain', 20 March 2017, Landscape Institute, accessed 07/05/2020 from https://www.landscapeinstitute.org/blog/preben-jakobsen-britain/
List of Jakobsen’s files held by Reading University’s special collections (MERL), accessed 23/10/2019 from https://merl.reading.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2017/04/AR-JAK_project-files-only.pdf
Karen Fitzsimon, ‘Order in the Landscape: Rediscovering Preben Jakobsen’, MA (Garden History), University of Buckingham, 2015
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