Building a community using nature

James Fox, FFLO Landscapes
Building a community using nature

At FFLO Landscapes, we know that plants can have a powerful impact on people’s wellbeing. There’s even a term for people’s innate affection for nature: ‘biophilia’. Our goal at 6 Orsman Road in Haggerston was to create a space that inspires biophilia in people. 

The average office worker spends 90 percent of their time indoors, while 35 percent spend less than 15 minutes outdoors on a typical workday, according to a study by Ambius. We want to change that. 

At 6 Orsman Road, we’ve aimed to design a terrace landscape that encourages office workers to leave their desks and interact with nature. The space is packed with features to promote productivity and employee wellbeing, and to bring people together in a safe environment outdoors.  We worked to create a space that gives employees an accessible, natural oasis which not only offers a quiet escape from the working world but uses biophilia to encourage them to spend a little more time outdoors.

Here are some of the things we considered in the process:

Engaging with nature 

Our task was to cultivate the rooftop terrace taking inspiration from its expansive views of the city. But most importantly, we wanted to create a landscape that encourages people to interact with the space. Apart from just giving them the right furniture and appropriate shading, we wanted office workers to benefit from the simple pleasure of being in a garden, and I believe growing and picking fruit is one of the best things you can do.

We set up the terrace with planters that office workers can claim and use to grow their own plants and herbs – raspberry and mint work particularly well in unsheltered or windy environments like a rooftop. It was important to create an environment that wasn’t static and took into consideration how people move around the space, so, in addition to growing edibles, we designed the terrace to include hammocks, furniture and football tables. 

Creating an oasis 

We’ve pushed planting and foliage to the limit by using the maximum amount of greenery we could on the terrace. We chose plants which are naturally tough and can thrive in tougher conditions such as Euphorbias, Phlomis and Stachys byzantine. These hardy plants are equally at home on a windswept Mediterranean hillside as they are on a London rooftop – and they look beautiful too. 

We were also keen to reference the timber of the building’s unique structure, and both the plants and the furniture were chosen to complement the building’s extensive wood use. We even used cross laminated timber, the same wood materials that make up 6 Orsman Road’s structure, but in a rougher format which we felt was more fitting for the natural terrace space. The combined impression of the plantings and the furniture is one of a Mediterranean hillside – with the added benefit of an outstanding view of the London skyline. 

Boosting biodiversity 

Simply put, the larger the number of varied plants, the greater the biodiversity, regardless of whether they are wild or planted. This is particularly important in cities, where nature is often a secondary consideration at best. The plants not only contribute to biodiversity themselves, but they also support a range of wildlife such as urban birds and bees kept in the city’s various rooftop beehives.  

Storey’s new building at 6 Orsman Road is designed with countless considerations and features to improve the working days of the people who use it as an office. We are proud to have created a rooftop which has aesthetical as well as practical purpose and can’t wait for people to start using it.

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