James Corner Field Operations, Piet Oudolf and Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s snaking High Line in New York has become the pinnacle of urban landscape design in recent years. Held up as a shining example of effective and aesthetically pleasing urban regeneration, the transformation of a network of old railway lines high above Manhattan’s West Side has inspired a plethora of similar proposals and landscape architecture competitions from the 5.4-acre elevated park above the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco by Pelli Clark Pelli Architecture to the ‘Low Line’ competition for London, won by Fletcher Priest Architects with their ingenious mushroom farm scheme under Oxford Street.
On Thursday 8 November, WAN attended the official unveiling of Camlins’ concept for the Linear Park destined to meander through the new Embassy Gardens residential scheme as part of the wider Nine Elms development in London. The modest landscape architecture firm from Powys in Wales has concocted a luscious strip of parkland for developers Ballymore which will wind through Embassy Gardens from Vauxhall to Battersea Power Station, past a myriad of towering residential units in a masterplan drawn up by legendary London-based architect Sir Terry Farrell.
Due to open to the public in 2014, the Linear Park will become fully stimulated in 2015 when the Embassy Gardens project comes to completion. The entire development has been heavily inspired by elements of New York’s urban realm, with Farrell referencing the city’s meatpacking district as an influential factor in his design process and Director at Camlins Huw Morgan noting the High Line as a reference point. Morgan explains: “The Linear Park is a new London green: a fusion of enclosed garden squares, open green commons and majestic tree-lined streets.”
When asked why he was so inspired by the High Line, Morgan told WAN: "Many have been totally captivated by the iconic nature and design of the High Line. We, as landscape architects, have found the process the most inspiring of stories. The community that has been created transcends design and becomes a culture focused around what was a linear steel structure. At Nine Elms it is a 'groundline' that will be created, one that connects city to park, park to people and people to community. All of this within a contiguous public volume, providing a beautiful green legacy on London's Southbank."
At the unveiling last Thursday, Ballymore and Camlins hosted an eye-opening event at the Embassy Gardens Marketing Suite on the edge of the Thames, celebrating this achievement with a picnic just like the knights of old. From the rooftop reception, one could see across the portion of land soon to be enlivened by Ballymore’s latest scheme. Currently occupied by a number of industrial outlets, depots and the New Covent Garden Market, the area is begging for an effective regeneration project.
The site itself has much potential. Once two proposed underground stations on the Underground’s Northern Line are realised, Embassy Gardens will be less than 15 minutes journey from the West End and the City, and a pedestrian bridge has been conceptualised across the Thames connecting neighbouring Vauxhall with Pimlico in a 5-10 minute stroll. Nine Elms has also been dedicated as Zone 1 by Transport for London.
The Embassy Gardens development will create 2,000 new homes in a series of 19-storey blocks, linked by Camlins’ spirited parkland and adjacent to the Kieran Timberlake-designed US Embassy building which is due to complete in 2017. Described by Morgan as ‘a 24-hour park for a 24-hour city’, the Linear Park will be a winding sliver of green which ties the development together and activates a new public space in central London.
The Nine Elms redevelopment scheme stretches further than the Embassy Gardens community, with wider plans for 16,000 homes along this prime strip of land. Sir Terry Farrell is the masterplanner for Nine Elms: “After the Square Mile to the east and Westminster to the west, the Southbank in Central London’s Third City. At Nine Elms, we have the opportunity to extend the cultural realm of the Southbank still further, creating a new urban quarter for London and unlocking the potential of the complete South Bank. This is undoubtedly the most exciting new chapter in the story of London and quite possibly the last time the capital will see the creation of such a completely new district, built where none existed before.”