CGI of a busy street at IQL

The role of landscaping in the placemaking process

Lendlease Head of Infrastructure Clare Hebbes explains the vital role landscaping and infrastructure design plays in the placemaking process. Highlighting two of Lendlease's London based developments International Quarter London and Elephant Park, 'What landscaping means to us' published in Pro Landscaper poignantly outlines why it’s so important to carefully create environments that allow people to live healthy, productive lives.

Landscaping and infrastructure are what turn a collection of buildings into a cohesive city – and part of a bigger picture. And whilst one or two thousand people might work or live in a building, tens of thousands of people are likely to pass by it. It will be from the ground level that people judge the character of a place, not the 10th-floor set-backs or the window detailing.

For Lendlease’s urban regeneration schemes, the landscaping plays a number of vital roles. During the design stage, the landscape architect adds a healthy tension, balancing the sometimes conflicting design aspirations of the building architects against the creation of a ground plane that encourages people to move through, or dwell in, a space. The landscape will touch every building in a development and the landscaping maintains the continuity of vision, setting the layers of character that will contribute to the overall success of a place.

In the early years of a project, it is the landscaping that allows many of the critical placemaking events to happen. It may be in a temporary form, but encouraging visitors and introducing activities in a new area is vital in establishing the early sense of place. This can only be facilitated by landscape design that affords flexibility – a space that is quiet one day, and able to host a market or outside cinema the next. This is something we are exploring in our £2 billion regeneration of Elephant & Castle, where we have just submitted an application for the first phase of our two-acre park, and at International Quarter London in Stratford, where we are delivering an arrival space to accommodate thousands of people for events at the Olympic Park.

The most successful places are those that are comfortable for the people who live or work there but also provide space and facilities for visitors. Once established, it is the landscape that provides many of these key requirements. If a cyclist can’t lock their bike up close to a café, will they bother coming back? If the walk through an area is cold and windswept, pedestrians will find a different route. We need to work hard to provide public realm that will offer a range of different types, from small and intimate spaces to open and spacious events areas, while providing those vital functional requirements that make it easy to spend time there.

Similarly, a sympathetic approach to landscaping can preserve the character of a place in the same way that heritage buildings can. One of the key masterplan considerations at Elephant Park was the retention of as many of the existing mature trees as possible –123 trees have been retained and protected through the construction process. We are also planting hundreds of extra trees in the surrounding streets to reinforce green links and help to reduce the effects of pollution.

And of course, the landscaping is a key part of our work on environmental sustainability. These projects range from the planting of a retaining wall to both improve the appearance and create a long stretch of habitat through to the creation of what will be one of London’s largest sustainable urban drainage schemes using rain gardens to manage the surface water from the surrounding roads.

Landscaping goes well beyond the simple aesthetics of public realm; studies increasingly show it has a tangible impact on the health and wellbeing of inhabitants, workers and passer-by’s. This is why it’s so important to carefully create environments people need to live healthy, productive lives.

Ultimately, landscaping and public realm needs to be considered throughout and during the urban planning and development process to ensure value is delivered for not only those living and working in a particular building or place, but also those passing through and visiting.