The Crystal

Siemens and London Borough of Newham
London Borough of Newham
Located in the heart of the London Docklands 'The Crystal' is a visitor centre and landmark building in East London and part of the Green Enterprise District. Townshend Landscape Architects were appointed by Siemens to design a 'sustainable urban landscape' as part of their Sustainable Cities Initiative. The brief called for quality public spaces to be designed and delivered for the use and enjoyment of both visitors to the Crystal building and the local community. The gardens were planned to remain in public ownership.
The aim of the design was to create a distinctive landscape that 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. A public realm strategy was developed to encourage a shift in the broader social ideology, to make 'sustainability' more publicly attractive and understood.
The grounds were also designed to allow people to participate in social activities within the site, including local food growing programmes and community gardens. The Practice worked 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 development now hosts regular events, workshops, gardening days and information on urban beekeeping
Concept Development
The project was the first development in London to achieve both the top ratings in BREEAM 'Outstanding' as well as the international LEED 'Platinum' rating. Within the landscape this included reducing the ecological footprint of the development 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. 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 that 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.
This scheme informs a wider audience on what can be achieved in tomorrow's urban landscape and their own back yard. It balances sustainable technologies with an attractive urban landscape and sets a standard for forthcoming sustainability, showing how our profession has an important role to play in future developments.
Design team:
Architect: Wilkinson Eyre
Structural Engineer: Arup
Civil Engineer: Arup
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