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Azure Magazine November December 2022 Cover: The Residential Interiors Issue

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Before its recent redesign, the park above the train tracks at Liverpool Street station — one of London’s busiest rail hubs, which serves the city’s financial district — suffered from drab, cluttered hardscaping with too many level changes and poor connections to the SOM-designed office building that overlooked it. On top of that, the park’s few trees seemed cursed, in constant need of replacement. “When we started the project, we realized that the maintenance team was so obsessed with cleaning stains off the paving that they would pressure-wash everything with bleach,” explains Tom Greenall, who led design firm DSDHA’s overhaul of London’s Exchange Square in collaboration with landscape architecture studio FFLO.

View of the public social zones at London's Exchange Square, designed by DSDHA.

By contrast, the revitalized London Exchange Square is now lush and thoughtfully cared for by a team of expert gardeners who adapt the plantings throughout each season. Another big mission of both the designers and their client, developer British Land, was to make the one-hectare park more accessible, removing some steps in favour of sloped ramps and promoting an experience of gentle scents, sounds and textures designed with the neurodivergent community in mind.

The revitalized London Exchange Square, designed by DSDHA.

There are now four times as many plants as there were in the park’s previous incarnation, including fragrant fruit trees, tall grasses and weeping birches arranged to form both a large social amphitheatre and quieter reading nooks. Thresholds between levels are marked by clear material shifts — going from limestone paving to timber boardwalk, for instance — to provide visual, acoustic and tactile markers.

A view of the crowd in the social amphitheatre at the centre of London's Exchange Square.

1The park’s new landscaping, inspired by the salt marshes of England’s East Anglia region, has proven so successful that cuttings from the estate are now being used on other projects.

2Suspended on a pre-existing concrete slab about 10 metres above the railway tracks below, the park is laid out with social zones concentrated in areas of high load capacity.

3Sweeping terrazzo seating flows into a series of shallow cascading pools.

Between 8 and 9 a.m. each day, a weathered steel ribbon running throughout the park releases a soft spray of water. “It rolls over the topography of the square much like a morning mist,” says Greenall, noting that the feature is also a reference to the steam trains that once ran below. During the recent heat wave, this misting became more frequent. “People were lying with their heads over the edge to be sprayed,” Greenall says.

London Exchange Square by DSDHA.
Palissade benches and chairs from Hay provide a place for nearby office workers to enjoy their lunch.
A woman sitting on the timber boardwark overlooking the social zones at the centre of London's Exchange Square.

Families also started turning up with swimsuits and beach towels to soak in the park’s cascading pools. This was an unexpected development for a park in the heart of London’s fintech quarter, but the client embraced it. “It’s been the thing that has done the most to increase the diversity of who uses the square,” says Greenall.

London Exchange Square by DSDHA.
London’s Exchange Square is a Delight for the Senses

A once-underwhelming London park has been reimagined to bolster biodiversity and inclusion.

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