Design Offices Planning

Rooftop forest to crown former court building

Planning granted to convert Blackfriars Crown Court into BREEAM Outstanding ‘next gen offices’ with a rooftop garden of over 100 established trees
Images courtesy of Fabrix

Planning granted to convert Blackfriars Crown Court into BREEAM Outstanding ‘next gen offices’ with a rooftop garden of over 100 established trees.

Dubbed ‘Roots In The Sky’ by developer Fabrix, the existing 1960s building, located at Bankside in Southwark, will include a 1.1 acre rooftop garden of over 100 established trees and 10,000 plants. The former Blackfriars Crown Court will be turned into 385,000 sqft of contemporary and sustainable office, commercial and community space.

The development, which will be London’s first office with an ‘urban forest’ rooftop, will consist of just under 385,000 sqft of contemporary and sustainable office, commercial and community space.

Roots In The Sky aims to become one of the largest urban roof gardens in Europe, which will make a significant contribution to London’s ambitious targets for greening, biodiversity and sustainability. Public gardens, a rooftop restaurant, bar and restaurant, plus collaborative spaces, will also be accessible to the local community.

According to Clive Nichol, CEO of Fabrix, the vision is to create a workplace that becomes a benefit for the local area. “It’s a commercial building that aims to be a ‘good citizen’, offering a genuine place for community uses, contributing to the on-going regeneration of Bankside and to London’s wider greening targets,” he said.

The existing footings will be used and first two brick-built storeys retained, with a lightweight hybrid steel and CLT frame introduced to support the 1300 tonnes of soil and 1.5m deep tree pits for the urban forest. Architect Studio RHE has designed the new six storeys with a contrasting mix of cladding and materials, with large opening windows.

Placing the services in the basement provides apace on the roof to introduce trees  and create space for a new ‘barn’ meeting space, roof gardens, potting shed and seed bank in the wider roofscape, which has been designed by landscape design practice Harris Bugg.

The rooftop, which 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. Meanwhile, the glass floored infinity edge swimming pool is heated by the building’s waste heat.

At street level, amenities include an accessible green atrium, auditorium and community space, a café and retail kiosks.

Spaced around a spectacular light well atrium, the timber-clad office spaces have generous floor to ceiling heights of between 3.2 and 6m, plus good natural light and ventilation provided by opening sash windows and filtered displacement air conditioning. Removable timber floors also provide flexibility of space.

“This building anticipates the shift in the way people are thinking about their working life post-COVID,” said Nichol. “It’s designed with generous spaces and natural ventilation, access to nature and a mix of uses that reflects new ways of working and living.”

Construction of Roots In The Sky, which is aiming for BREEAM Outstanding and WELL Gold, begins January 2021 for completion in Q3 2024.

Project Team

  • Client: Fabrix
  • Architect: Studio RHE
  • Landscape Design: Harris Bugg Studio
  • Planning Consultant: Gerald Eve
  • Structural Engineer: Symmetrys MEP,
  • Fire & Sustainability Consultant: Atelier Ten
  • Project Management: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Cost Consultant: Quantem
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