External spaces can add significant value to ‘lifestyle’ for both private residences and commercial landscapes.

Patricia Fox founder of award winning Landscape Architects Aralia, explains some of the key trends within the industry, and how to maximise your external spaces.

Clients have become more demanding, the world we live in is ever changing, and the world is in fact changing at a more rapid pace than we have ever experienced before.  Technological changes are at the forefront, and are truly driving these changes, but interestingly it is how it is affecting people’s reactions to their lifestyle that is changing the most.   In Landscape terms, this means that in the commercial world clients are now looking to provide an ever improving experience for their clients, and with private clients, expectations are not just for gardens or terraces that look great, the space has to really deliver on an experiential level.  Let me explain further.

As a specialist Landscape Design Practice we have been involved in the design of many Roof Terrace gardens and we have definitely seen a major uplift in the activity on roof terraces over the last 3 years, both here in London and abroad.  Outdoor space is of a real premium in city centres and urban settings, and the addition of a beautifully designed roof terrace will have significant impact on the return on investment.  St George (Berkley Homes Group) commissioned us in the summer of 2012 to design a series of Penthouse roof terraces for their prestigious mixed-use development at Chelsea Creek, London.  At the time London was in the depths of a recession and property was generally pretty hard to shift.  Aralia were given an open brief to design and deliver some truly amazing, original, roof terrace designs which included features such as outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, automated pergola structures, water features, bespoke art (original paintings on glass & bespoke sculptures), green walls and lush abundant planting.  Roof Terraces generally up until this time comprised mainly of paving/decking and some planters.  The twist in the trend, was to offer a much fuller experience to the end user, not just a swanky looking roof terrace, but a useable space which was cleverly arranged to also work well on multiple levels; as an external space for entertaining larger groups; somewhere to relax in with a few friends; intimate spaces for solo reflection; somewhere to cook; and finally a private space to enjoy the hot tub!  Clients were then purchasing a lifestyle, not just a penthouse apartment.  This is the essence of what great landscape design is currently about.

This translates equally well into larger landscape schemes, whether it be within the hospitality sector or for a private estate.  The end user is now expecting a broader, more in depth experience. As an example a recent project we have been working on ‘Westlands’, was for a new private residence incorporating an ultra-modern home; cutting edge glass and stone, with floating linear blocks hovering above the spaces below. Aralia designed a rustic contemporary woodland of Silver Birch and angular oversized granite boulders for the owners to drive through as a journey for them to take every day on entering their property.  We could have just designed a more direct drive leading directly to their entrance (which was the brief we were originally given) but chose to maximise the experience for the clients.  On the south side of the property, glass extends full width across the home, the clients asked us to omit the obligatory terrace, so as to retain the open aspect with no interruption.  We understood our clients concerns, but felt that they needed the option of a useable terrace close to the house, in reality they weren’t going to walk extensively to the far terrace for a quick morning cuppa!  We didn’t want them to lose out on that opportunity for an experience in the garden.  Our response was to design a sunken terrace, immediately adjacent the glass expanse.  This was hugely practical due to its proximity to the house, whilst still retaining the open views – and, more importantly providing a beautiful secluded space, with an incredibly intimate feeling, that will provide the client with somewhere very unique to sit.  Unexpected, but now hugely anticipated by the client (landscape is still in the build stage) this terrace we believe will become a real favourite external space for the clients.

It’s not just about adding features, yes these are important, but full consideration and focus must be given to how the space is blended as a whole.  How does the space work for the user?  Is it easy to use? Is there a natural journey that enriches their experience?  A holistic approach to blending not only the external spaces, but also the interior with the exterior, and also the exterior with the wider landscape – or skyscape.  An external space that considers and responds to all these issues, and provides multiple experiences, will be a space that clients enjoy and want to spend time in, and return to, time after time.

And for the future? Interior gardens are the next major worldwide trend.  Why?  Well without doubt they will provide the opportunity to deliver amazing new experiences for interior space.  There is endless scope to what and how these interiors can be developed and we are very much looking forward to making this trend happen.  Watch this space.

For further information or to contact Aralia to discuss potential projects:


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