The Park within Elephant Park

People Friendly Place
© John Sturrock
© John Sturrock
© AureIien Langlais

The Park at the centre of Elephant Park is a spectacular green oasis at the heart of the ground-breaking revitalisation of Elephant and Castle

 

CONTEXT

Once dubbed 'the Piccadilly of south London', Elephant and Castle is a unique destination with a diverse history, identity and people. After suffering bomb damage during the Second World War, the area underwent considerable regeneration with high density, slab-block estates and busy gyratory road systems replacing terraced streets and bombsites. Unfortunately, many of the post-war buildings were poorly built and quickly deteriorated, giving the area a run-down appearance.

Today the area continues to be characterised by dense diversity and multi-ethnicity. It's forecast that around 10 million people will live in London by 2030. The city needs more homes, employment space, improved public spaces, and amenities to accommodate this growing economy and population. Lendlease and Southwark Council's landmark Elephant Park revitalisation project is breathing new life into this historic area by creating thousands of multi-tenured homes, new businesses, community facilities, and thoughtfully designed streets, public spaces and a brand new park.

At 2-acres, the Park within Elephant Park is an inclusive and valuable urban recreational space that is free, fully accessible and open to all. The Park comprises large lawn areas for exercise, play clusters, and quieter, lushly planted seating areas where people can escape and relax. Furthermore, a new triangular pavilion by architects Bell Phillips, due for completion in 2021, will provide toilets, a food and beverage kiosk, a new community space and a viewing terrace.

The quality of the design, diversity of users, and proximity to transport links is already attracting visitors from far and wide, increasing investment in the area and adding to its already rich culture. Surrounded by a unique mix of local and independent restaurants, cafes and shops, the Park truly caters for the broad diversity and demographic of Elephant & Castle.

The construction of the Park has also created local employment, training and community initiatives.

 

MAINTAINABILITY

The success of Elephant Park is the coming together of a private developer and a local authority to regenerate a large area in a densely populated borough. Masterplanning at this scale allows the creation of significant green open spaces that would otherwise not see the light of day.

From the outset, the team undertook a design-led and participative approach to the Park's design. Creating a Park Advisory Group, with representatives from Lendlease (developer), Southwark Council (local authority) and designated members of the community, who reviewed the design throughout, has ensured that the Park is flexibly designed and built to last. Furthermore, extensive public consultation informed the Park's brief, helping to instil a sense of ownership from the existing communities and secure the Park's future as a well-used and well-loved space.

Good quality design, efficient management and high-level investment in hard and soft landscaping has created an attractive, robust, accessible and identifiable open green space that has become a haven for both wildlife and people. With its mature trees, expansive lawns and lush planting, the Park offers everyone living, working or visiting the area unique and unforgettable social and recreational experiences.

The parks central position, overlooked by housing, cafes and restaurants, ensures a good level of daily street activity, with the added benefit of passive surveillance which reduces the risk of anti-social behaviour.

In designing Elephant Park, attention has been paid to the practicalities of installation and maintaining the landscape. Gillespies selected robust, sustainable and attractive materials to ensure long life with minimum maintenance. Furthermore, the team worked with an estate management team to put in place a long-term maintenance plan. The estate management ensures the Park is clean, well-maintained and secure. This long-term maintenance and security programme guarantees that everyone visiting the Park leaves with a positive experience.

 

IMPACT

It’s long been recognised that proximity to green space and nature can significantly improve mental and physical well-being, and this is just one of the reasons that Lendlease has made Elephant Park such a green and leafy environment. The development aims to be the first climate-positive development by 2025.

The planting and landscaping within the Park has been chosen for its enhancement of biodiversity. The design maximises planting and reduces hard paving to the minimum requirement for circulation and functions. The main pathway network is paved in self-binding gravel, a softer material with a lower carbon footprint, while natural stone paving is used in areas of heavy footfall. Throughout the Park, there is plethora of planting tailored to specific edaphic and light conditions. All species selected are visually appealing, robust, and capable of withstanding challenging climatic conditions. These plant communities are composed of native and non-native species to increase biodiversity significantly. Another important aspect is the retention of 27 existing trees and the planting of 19 new trees, recognising their enormous role in carbon fixing and storage.

The incorporation of rain gardens ensures the urban site can mimic the natural water cycle and reduce its reliance on the surrounding networks. The rain gardens are designed to consider future extreme climate change affected rainfall intensities and 100-year frequency storm events.

The Park offers places for people of all ages and abilities to meet, play and exercise. It is well-connected by pedestrian and cycle routes, encouraging people to be more active and connect with nature.

Across the whole of Elephant Park, there have been 1,527 job creations for local residents, with 128 roles for apprentices. Many of these were involved in the park's construction, and its continued maintenance and upkeep has provided 26 permanent job opportunities for the community.

 

WORTH NOTING

A meanwhile space
Due to the scale and complexity of the Elephant Park regeneration project, Lendlease wanted to provide a public space that would break down barriers, foster community cohesion, and quickly bring life and activity to the area before the permanent development had even started. This was achieved through the delivery of a ‘meanwhile’ park.

The first 0.4 hectares of the park was delivered in 2017, providing plenty of play opportunities and open green space for relaxation, socialising and free community events, such as exercise classes. In addition, Lendlease
adopted a communication and events strategy to build trust with the community and local businesses, offering a range of year-round events and activities for everyone to enjoy.

Leading the way in low-carbon design
As the UK’s first Climate Positive Development, Elephant Park sets new standards for sustainable city living. The Park has brought together cutting-edge research in green and blue infrastructure, providing an opportunity to trial sustainable and innovative solutions. The Phase 1 Park acted as a testbed for planting typologies, lighting, materials and SuDs strategies. Observations and findings gathered from the Phase 1 Park have influenced the final planting mix, shaping how the park and wider Elephant Park development has been designed to prepare for extreme weather events.

The significant deployment of rain gardens (SuDs) across the park relieves pressure from the overburdened water networks and increases biodiversity across the site.

Nature-led design
The park has acted as a green catalyst for the wider Elephant Park development, providing a high-quality and leafy environment. A range of open green spaces, new and existing mature trees, pocket gardens and play clusters offers everyone visiting the park access to nature. The park will play a key role in encouraging healthy lifestyles, breaking down cultural barriers, and educating people about climate change.

Project Team

Lendlease and Southwark Council (Client)
Bell Phillips Architects
Buro Happold
Careys
Mel Chantrey at The Fountain Workshop
Speirs Major
Treework Environmental Practice
Willerbys

Key Facts

Area: 0.8 hectares
​Timescale: 2014 - 2021
Cost: Confidential
Employment: 1,527 jobs, 128 apprentice roles
Sustainability: Aim net zero by 2025

Key Features
  • Richly planted raingardens that absorb runoff from park and surrounding streets
  • Interactive natural play space for children and adults of all abilities
  • Habitat features including bat and bird boxes, log piles, invertebrate hotels and a beetle stumpery
  • Species rich lawns and natural play trails
  • Drinking fountains and recycling bins to reduce waste
  • Cycle stands with internal lighting for increased security
  • Pavilion building with viewing deck, café, and community space (opening Dec 2021)