Queen’s Park: A Garden Design Project in Progress – Phase 1
This is the first stage of our current project in London, NW6. It is quite a complicated garden design, comprising of three areas of Ipe hardwood decking, separated by two areas of Travertine paving. The travertine will also be used to create a feature wall, with a water blade and raised planter to the front of the collection pool. More Ipe boards will be used to create two fences, which will cover the existing wall at the back of the garden and close a narrow side return, which runs back to the house along one side of the lounge extension. Two areas of sunken planting will create a verdant oasis around three sides of the main area to the rear of the lounge. Finally, a remote wireless lighting system will control low voltage lamps over three zones, as well as, the stainless steel water blade.
The garden is actually very large, totalling some 140m2, but much of this area is along the side of the house and so has become wasted space. An extension, which contains the main lounge, has been added onto the back of the house, further extending the side return, which at 20m x 3.5m is a lot of unused space. Beside the need for a design that will utilise the area to its full potential, part of the challenge is to overcome the sloping ground, which runs down hill from the front to the back of the property, dropping by approximately 900mm (3ft). The south facing lounge extension has two pairs of French windows, providing immediate access to the garden via broad steps from its rear and westerly elevations, but they are treacherously steep and clunky.
From my first visit, it quickly became apparent that the natural height changes could be used to our advantage to make a really interesting garden. Instead of one steep continuously sloping garden, by breaking it up into different levels, which descend around the building to the main area at the back of the lounge, we can create different points of interest to entice the clients outside, with a variety of spaces that can be used at different times.
I have used a T-shaped, asymmetric raised pavement immediately outside of the lounge extension, to both define and separate the different areas of the garden, and to set a new level to which all of the other areas can work their way towards or be built from. By raising the base level around the lounge, we can also replace the dangerous and consequently unused existing access steps. Therefore, following a new Featheredge fence along the left hand boundary, the raised pavement is the first main feature that needs to be constructed.
To create the raised pavement, we built a single course of 9-inch blocks to define the footprint, which was then in-filled with concrete and compacted hardcore. This provided a stable surface we could then pave with large 900mm x 600mm Travertine paving slabs. A concrete foundation had to be laid first, so the usual excavations were required. However, sometimes you get lucky and this was the case here. A deep shingle pathway occupied almost the exact area where the pavement was to be positioned, so we simply removed the stones and poured concrete into the recess: job done. Luck, mind you, is a fickle creature and underneath the shingle we found a hidden manhole cover. This could not be concreted over, so we had to extend the collar up to the finished pavement height and buy a recessed manhole cover, so that the travertine could be laid all the way through.
I opted to use a honed and filled travertine paving slab, with crisp sawn edges, to provide a really sleek, modern feel. The shades of ivory and pale caramels that swirl through the surface will both contrast and complement the hardwood decking boards and provide extra light to this south facing garden. When using sawn paving for vertical as well as horizontal surfaces, it is absolutely vital that all of your structures are perfectly square and your lines are perfectly straight, so before a single block or paving slab was laid, we had to carefully create x and y axes with string lines, off which the entire geometry of the garden could be constructed. This is always time consuming as invariably buildings and gardens are always out of square, but it is essential if you don’t want to come seriously unstuck at some point during the construction.
The large rectangular travertine pieces have been laid to a grid pattern. This not only gives a thoroughly contemporary look, but will also emphasise the rectangular nature of the construction materials, as well as, the individual spaces created in the garden. It is this surreptitious reinforcement of the geometry that will really emphasise the clean, modern nature of the garden in a very subtle and almost subliminal way. As you see here and will see in the coming stages of this project, this theme is a pervasive feature of the design. The paving has been laid with 5mm pointing gaps; this will precisely mirror the expansion gaps between the decking boards and the spacing of the decking from the paving itself.
As the pictures below show, the pavement and its vertical faces are now in place and so we are ready to begin phase two. This will be to install the feature wall and raised planter with the water blade and the construction of the decking areas and fences. At the moment, the space still looks fairly undefined, but once these next features have been added, you will start to see the geometry of the garden come to life, so follow our next post for the results of phase two.