London can have a Roof Garden City above its two other landscape architectures

London is the European capital with the best claim to being a ‘garden city’. This is because of its extensive parks and the historic norm of every house having a private garden. But London is becoming a city of office and residential blocks and towers. I regret this and urge the adoption of a compensating policy: London should aim to be a Roof Garden City. This is one of the two grand objectives for London’s landscape architects – the other is the reclamation of London’s lost rivers as part of a low impact surface water management policy.

London needs a new High Landscape and a new Low Landscape to complement its old Ground Landscape of streets, parks and gardens.  The High Landscape can be a serene and green new world. It can be sunnier and quieter than the Ground Landscape. There will be space for flowers, fruit, trees, lawns, meadows and wildife. Humans will enjoy High Landscape restaurants, cafes, games and relaxation. The views will be fantastic. In favoured places you will see green acres stretching into the distance, never suspecting the survival of an Old World beneath those green roofs and roof gardens.

Below the ground, London has long been developing a Low Landscape of railway tunnels and sewers. Many home owners are adding private underground space –  ‘underground home extensions’ sometimes called ‘billionaires basements’ . But the most important underground world is the water environment. The soil and rocks on which London stands is its water storage reservoir. London’s Low Landscape is almost as much in need of good landscape planning as its Ground Landscape and its High Landscape.

Tom Turner

Posted in green roofs
2 comments on “London can have a Roof Garden City above its two other landscape architectures
  1. Robert Holden says:

    Oh dear the English (and Scots) can be so insular, yes London has a high proportion of green open space. But one need not over egg the argument by claiming is the greenest city in Europe.

    Figures of open space (private and public) as percentages of total administrative areas are:

    Berlin 72%
    Zurich 71.5%
    Munich 65%
    Vienna 63.5%
    London 38.4%
    Stockholm 30%
    Munich 16%
    Paris 9.4%
    Amsterdam 9.09%
    Rome 3%
    Istanbul 1.5%

    Sources: the data section by city on
    for Berlin
    Eberhard Tröger “Density & Atmosphere: On Factors relating to Building Density in the European City” (2015)… p.168

  2. Tom Turner says:

    The blog post gives London as ”the European capital with the best claim to being a “garden city”’. It is true that ‘garden city’ can mean ‘vegetated city’ but I was using it, rather like Rasmussen, to mean ‘a city with a high percentage of gardens and parks’ (and using ‘parks’ to mean ‘designed for recreation’ as opposed to ‘forest parks’ and ‘nature parks’.

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