Mountbatten House (also known as Gateway House)8888

Basingstoke, England, Hampshire, Basingstoke and Deane

Brief Description

This site has a series of roof gardens and perimeter landscaping for Gateway House (now Mountbatten House) created by Arup Associates’ Group 2 and the landscape gardener James Russell for the paper manufacturer and merchant Wiggins Teape in 1974-76.

History

James Russell was commissioned to design an extensive planting scheme for Gateway House and to oversee the works involved. This included both the roof gardens and the immediate perimeter landscaping for the building. Charles Funke of Flowerhouse Display Ltd, on the recommendation of James Russell, was appointed as landscape contractor.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Summary of Garden

A series of roof gardens and perimeter landscaping for Gateway House (now Mountbatten House) created by Arup Associates' Group 2 and the landscape gardener James Russell for the paper manufacturer and merchant Wiggins Teape in 1974-76.

Details

A series of roof gardens and perimeter landscaping for Gateway House (now Mountbatten House) designed by Arup Associates' Group 2 with an extensive planting scheme by the landscape gardener James Russell for the paper merchant and manufacturer Wiggins Teape in 1974-76.

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Gateway House is located in Basing View, a business park created in the early 1970s south of the railway line between London and Basingstoke, mainly in order to encourage London based companies to move their offices to Basingstoke. The site slopes down in southerly direction, where it is bounded by Churchill Way, a dual carriageway laid out in the early 1970s as part of the redevelopment of Basingstoke. To its east stands Gateway II (now Belvedere House), offices also designed by Arups Associates for Wiggins Teape and built in 1981-82 with matching exterior to complement Gateway House. To its west runs a public footpath leading to a footbridge which crosses Churchill Way and leads into Eastrop Park. From this public park, created in the early 1970s, there are fine views of the roof gardens, now partly obscured by tall trees along the park boundary.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main entrance to Gateway House is situated at its north-west corner, set back under a large canopy, and approached by broad steps surrounded by mature planting. The roof gardens are accessed via the open plan offices on levels two to six.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Gateway House (listed at Grade II), has an almost square-shaped plan covering most of the site. It has been terraced to its south to accommodate the roof gardens created over six levels, and to benefit from the open views of Basingstoke and the countryside beyond. The concrete framed building is clad entirely in bronze-anodised aluminium and glass which is offset by the extensive integrated planting of the terraces to its south. The rainwater tank, with a capacity of c144m3, forming part of the built-in irrigation system for the roof gardens, is situated in the basement of the plant room (out of use in 2014).

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The roof gardens are laid out over six levels, including a small courtyard yard garden on level two. This serves the lower ground-floor offices, but is also to be viewed from the levels above. It is laid out with an irregular shaped pond with stocked with coloured carp, and crossed by stepping stones and pebbles to its edges. Being the only sheltered site, it is planted primarily with mature azaleas, hydrangeas and ferns, to add instant colour and texture. Level three, covering the largest area, is mainly laid to lawn and planted with trees including hornbeam, cherry, birch and mountain ash. The edges were planted with lavender, potentillas, escallonia, cistus, viburnum, willow, heather, blue grasses and eucalyptus, formerly much denser to form a windscreen, but now with some gaps. Level four has two narrow L-shaped shaped terraces: the Wisteria Terrace and the Vine Terrace, with a small platform to the centre. They were planted with climbers which continue to grow over the cladding and drape over the railings. Level five covers a larger area, with surviving planting that followed a golden and brown coloured planting theme, including maple and gold leaved acacia, with golden hops climbing the cladding, and at the other end a silver and grey area, including silver wild pear, buddleia and native willow. The centre was planted with lavender, rosemary, magnolias and climbing roses trained up the bronze cladding. Level six consists of three small gardens. These were planted as a herb garden with apple trees to add height, a winter garden with mahonias, helleborus and viburnums, and a Japanese style garden containing dwarf pines and azaleas. At ground level, the perimeter of the building has been planted with beech, sycamore, maple, lime, willow and poplar, under planted with box, yew, berberis, cotoneaster, vina and yucca.

Reasons for Designation

The designed landscape associated with Mountbatten House (formerly Gateway House), Basing View, Basingstoke, designed by Arup Associates' Group 2 and the landscape designer and horticulturist James Russell for the paper manufacturer and merchant Wiggins Teape in 1974-76, is included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Age & rarity: it is a particularly interesting and innovative late-1970s example of a commercial office landscape comprising of a series of roof gardens with perimeter landscaping, with a particularly important planting scheme by James Russell;

* Influence: it has a strong reputation both in the field of landscape design, horticulture and architecture, it attracts many students and professionals who wish to study and learn from its design, technical achievement and elaborate planting scheme, and it has influenced and inspired a number of later examples;

* Designer(s): Arup Associates' Group 2 and James Russell are within their respective fields of expertise perceived to be amongst the most important C20 designers in England and this is a particularly interesting example of their collaboration;

* Documentation: its design, planting scheme and development is particularly well documented;

* Intactness and authenticity: as a relatively rare and vulnerable landscape type its design, layout and particularly high quality planting scheme has survived remarkably intact;

* Group value: it forms an integral part of Mountbatten House (recommended for listing at Grade II).

Selected Sources

Books and journals

'Roof gardens: Gateway House' in Architects' Journal, , Vol. 171, (), 631-637

Winter, J, 'Gateway House - Appraissal' in Architects' Journal , , Vol. 166, (23 October 1968), 341-354

'Gateway House' in Arup Journal, , Vol. 14, (), 2-13

'Gateway House' in Landscape Design, , Vol. 122, (), 23-24

'Great British Garden Makers: James Russell 1920-1996' in Country Life, (), http://www.countrylife.co.uk/life-in-the-country/great-british-garden-makers-james-russell-1920-1996

Websites

Victoria County History Explore - Mountbatten House - The Hanging Gardens of Basingstoke, accessed 15 October 2014 from http://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/items/mountbatten-house-hanging-gardens-basingstoke-0

Other

James Russell Archive - Client File: Arup Associates: Wiggins Teape Ltd, Gateway House, JR/1/17 1973-1981, held by York University, Borthwick Institute containing correspondence, plant lists, building and planting plans for roof gardens, courtyard and grounds

Features

Plant Environment

  • Roof Garden
  • Environment
  • Commercial Office (featured building)
  • Description: Gateway House (listed at Grade II), has an almost square-shaped plan covering most of the site. It has been terraced to its south to accommodate the roof gardens created over six levels.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
History

Detailed History

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

History

The idea for the roof gardens at Gateway House in Basingstoke, formed part of Arup Associates' design for the building from the outset, and John Winter (AJ 1977) suggested that the project was influenced by Roche and Dinkeloo's Oakland Museum in California (1961-68) and the Weyerhaeuser Headquarters, near Tacoma, Washington by SOM (1968-71), two buildings with extensive integrated roof gardens and planting.

Following Arup Associates' appointment in 1973 by the paper merchant and manufacturer Wiggins Teape to build their new Headquarters in Basingstoke, Nicholas Hare of Group 2 (before he started working on the CEGB building), arranged a meeting with the landscape gardener James Russell. They met at the BIBA roof garden in Kensington (1936-38 by Ralph Hancock, registered at Grade II in 1998). That same year, Russell was commissioned to design an extensive planting scheme for Gateway House and to oversee the works involved. This included both the roof gardens and the immediate perimeter landscaping for the building. Charles Funke of Flowerhouse Display Ltd, on the recommendation of James Russell, was appointed as landscape contractor.

James Phillip Cuming Russell (1920-1996) was a landscape designer, plants-man and collector. He was educated at Eton, where he developed an interest in plants and made many friends who later commissioned him to design their gardens. He wanted to study botany at Cambridge but, due to having to serve in the Armed Forces during the Second World War, his plans were halted: in 1942 he was discharged due to injuries. After the War, Russell became manager of the well-known Sunningdale Nurseries, founded in 1846, which his father had recently acquired. In 1950 he designed a landscape at Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, for Lord Hastings, and subsequently designed many more gardens (a large number of which form part of sites included on the Register of Parks and Gardens). In 1962 he became involved with the Shell Gardens Scheme and drew up the list of gardens for the ‘Shell Guide for English Gardens' (1977). Russell also designed gardens for the Ideal Homes Exhibitions of 1963, 1974 and 1975. In 1968 Russell resigned from Sunningdale Nurseries and became resident horticultural consultant at Castle Howard for the next twenty years, and designed the Rose Garden and Ray Wood (1975) and later the Arboretum (started in 1979). He continued to work as a free-lance landscape consultant, mostly involved with private gardens, but increasingly also with commercial projects, with Arup Associates as one of his main clients. He received the Royal Horticultural Society's Veitch Memorial Award and its prestigious Victoria Medal of Honour. In 1994 Russell was given an honorary degree of Doctor of the University of York in recognition of his contributions to botany and conservation.

For Gateway House, Russell pencil drew his planting scheme directly onto Arup Associates' architectural drawings, with accompanying notes and extensive handwritten plant lists. He attended several meetings with Group 2 at their offices in London, and was asked for slides of some of the trees and plants he proposed. Group 2 wanted the planting to be 'romantic rather than formal', with an abundance of trailing plants and climbers. Gateway House was terraced in a southwards direction to benefit from the open views and to block out views of the busy Churchill Way below. The planting scheme was aimed to provide a foreground to the distant views to the south, and to give a sense of scale. The gardens also had to offer all those who worked in the building a place to go outside, banishing 'any feeling of being cooped up' (AJ, 24 August 1977). Each roof garden, laid out over six levels, was accessible via the open plan offices overlooking them. Level two included a courtyard garden with a pond, overlooked by the largest garden at level three. Level four consisted of two narrow L-shaped terraces, level five included two colour-theme gardens, and level six consisted of three small gardens, including a winter garden, herb garden and Japanese garden. Overall, landscape maintenance was estimated at £10,000 per annum.

The concrete slabs to the roofs were covered by a 50mm layer of cellular glass insulation, overlaid with three layers of mastic asphalt, protected by a cement and sand screed, to ensure water was carried to the drainage points. The glass fibre layer prevented soil from flowing into the drainage system. The roof was flooded for two weeks to test for leaks. Rich, silt clay topsoil was brought in from the Heathrow Airport area, and spread out over the roof with a minimum depth of 225mmm rising to 900mm where trees would be planted. The planting layer further ensured the isolation of the roof membrane over the offices from fluctuations in the outside temperature. Plants were grouped more closely than usual, so they could function as a windscreen. Rainwater was stored via an irrigation system in a large galvanised steel tank in the basement of the plant-room, which was then pumped via an electric pump to hidden timer-controlled sprinklers in the roof gardens. To allow for possible delays in the construction of the building, Russell decided to have all the selected plants and trees potted up a year prior to requirement. Planting started in June and July 1976, but the drought of that year and builders still being on site, created difficulties and caused Russell great frustration. However, the problems were eventually overcome, and by the time the building was formally opened later that year, the gardens were finished. James Russell continued to inspect the gardens annually, advising Wiggins Teape on maintenance issues until 1981. He also regularly took students and interested parties around.

On completion, Gateway House was awarded the RIBA Award Southern Region (1979), the Business & Industry Award (1978) and a Civic Trust Award Commendation (1978).

Gateway House was sold to IBM in 1982, and is now owned by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council who let the building out as offices, with the roof gardens used by staff to relax or have their lunch. The roof gardens now fully rely on rainwater as the sprinkling system is no longer used.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Mountbatten House

Contact

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