The number of high rise office blocks and buildings in the City of London has significantly increased in recent years and therefore green spaces are limited. Providing roof gardens for the public to access is the City of London's way of trying to remedy this.
On 15th February a new roof top garden opened to the public, it is called 'The Garden at 120' and is on the 15th floor of the recently opened Fen Court office building at 120 Fenchurch Street, the headquarters of Italian insurance company Generali. When you approach the entrance to 120 there is a large square space that has a digital art installation by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier on the ceiling. Visitors who look up will be treated to pictures of garden scenes and London landmarks in real time, when I visited there was a picture of Tower Bridge on the ceiling! Entrance picture below.
The usual airport style security checks are at the entrance and a dedicated lift whizzes visitors up to the garden. Eric Parry (of Eric Parry Architects) designed the building and collaborated with German landscape architects Latz + Partners to create the garden. Mr Parry described the building as "civic as well as commercial" and creating "a new convivial horizon within the emerging taller buildings of the Eastern cluster".
The garden is just under 3000 square feet and its scale and views are magnificent. Other buildings that offer views of London are taller (for example the Shard, Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street and One New Change), but I prefer the lower height of 120 as I felt I was 'nose to nose' with iconic buildings and I could see their detail more clearly. Fen Court sits between the Walkie Talkie and Gherkin buildings and the close up views of them are phenominal!
The Walkie Talkie building above and the Gherkin below.
There are now approximately 61 green roofs in the Square Mile and 120 is currently the largest roof top space in London. Chris Hayward, Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation, said that "half of the 14 upcoming tall-building developments due to be completed by 2026 will have free public viewing galleries and terraces in one district." I presume he was referring to 22 Bishopsgate, 6-8 Bishopsgate, 1 Leadenhall Street, 100 Leadenhall Street, 2-3 Finsbury Avenue, and 1 Undershaft which will also host a Museum of London gallery at the top of the building, alongside interactive learning spaces and London’s highest restaurant. The Draft City Plan 2036 can be viewed here and if you wish to comment you can email the City of London planning department by clicking here. The planning agreement stipulates that the roof garden must be opened daily and can only be closed for private functions for a maxium of 14 days per year.
The garden covers the whole roof and is divided into what I can only describe as 'rooms' by various wooden boxes, metal lattice canopies and a long slim water feature. The lines of the boxes and partitions are very sharp and angular. There are wooden shuttered concrete walls that house the gardening equipment but in time they will be covered in plants. The garden has seating and is decorated with Italian wisteria, trimmed hedges, wildflowers, fruit trees and a water feature. It currently looks very grey and bare but once the plants start to bloom it will become colourful and fragrant.
The 360 degree view of London is breathtaking and there are too many landmarks to mention. I started my exploration in the left hand corner where I was looking directly at the tip of the Gherkin, then walking in a circle to my right I could see Aldgate and Whitechapel, then further right Canary Wharf could be seen in the distance, then moving further along I could see the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the river Thames, County Hall, the gothic looking buildings at Minster Court, then a little more right stands the imposing Walkie Talkie building (you cannot miss it!), then further right the London Eye, then St Pauls Catherderal, then a little shuffle further I was looking at Lloyd's of London and the roof of Leadenhall Market. There are many other landmarks to view, but too many to mention!
The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are to the left in the picture above. The gothic building to the right is in Minster Court near Fenchurch Street.
Docklands can be seen in the distance in the above picture.
Lloyd's of London can be seen to the right of the above picture, St Paul's Cathederal is in the background and the London Eye can be seen on the left edge of this photo.
St Paul's Cathederal above.
Lloyd's of London to the right of this picture with the roof of Leadenhall Market next to it.
Aldgate and Whitechapel are to the left of the picture below in the background and Canary Wharf to the right.
The outside of the building is above and at night the level below the garden is illuminated in bright green stripes. Level 14 is currently empty but it is going to be turned into a rooftop restaurant in the near future. The garden has capacity for 200 people and residents of the building do not get preference, they have to queue with the public if they wish to visit the garden. The opening hours are 10:00hrs - 18:30 hrs Monday - Friday and 10:00hrs - 17.00hrs at weekends. There is no need to book at the moment and you can check how busy it is by clicking here. If you love London views I would highly recommend a visit.