Roots In the Sky, a 1.4 acre rooftop forest of over 100 established trees and 10,000 plants which was granted planning by London Borough of Southwark in Q4 2020, involves the radical reimagining of the former Blackfrairs Crown Court as a next-gen workspace, with just under 385,000 sqft of contemporary and sustainable office, commercial and community space.
Roots in The Sky will be London’s first office building to deliver an urban forest rooftop with extensive access for the local community and the public, with community gardens and collaborative neighbourhood uses, a rooftop restaurant, bar and swimming pool, and private terraces and for the office space below. Set to be one of the largest urban roof gardens in Europe, the building will make a significant contribution to London’s ambitious targets for greening, biodiversity and sustainability.
The existing 1960s building – a former stationery office and later a Crown Court – provided the starting point to develop an office building with generous volumes and adaptable floor plates of up to 40,000 sq ft. Using the existing footings and retaining the first two storeys, the proposed scheme introduces a lightweight hybrid steel and CLT frame, with the ability to support the urban forest – and its 1300 tonnes of soil and 1.5m deep tree pits – at the heart of the brief.
Roots in The Sky sets out to demonstrate the value of placemaking in a commercial office building, and that bringing inspiring new community spaces alongside commercial development is of benefit to the neighbourhood and tenants alike. Recognising that office space is in demand in the borough but that space and services for community use are lacking, we decided to dedicate many of the prime areas of the new building for local use, also setting up a not-for-profit management structure to run the spaces.
The rooftop and building landscaping, designed by landscape design practice Harris Bugg, exceeds the urban forest criteria set out by the United Nations, providing canopy cover of 23%, uses a passive water capture and irrigation system and reintroduces wildlife to the city. It brings together the community, public and private areas with spectacular views across London.
The building will have best in class environmental and wellbeing accreditations including BREEAM outstanding and WELL Platinum and 25,000 sqft is dedicated to affordable workspace.
The development is set to begin on site in January 2021, and complete in Q3 2024.
“An exemplary scheme that demonstrates what is possible when urban greening is truly considered as a fundamental aspect of site and building design. The project team should be commended for the approach they have taken to urban greening”
The Greater London Authority