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    Inn the Park


    Landscape-led design for a café in the sensitive setting of London’s St James’s Park.

    Location:London, United Kingdom
    Size:575 m²
    Client:The Royal Parks
    Awards:Civic Trust Award;
    BD Magazine: Architect of the Year;
    The Westminster Society Award;
    Time Out Magazine: London Eating & Drinking Awards.

    This prestigious commission presented a tricky brief – designing a cafe building that would be prominent enough to attract a high-end restaurant operator while imposing almost no visual influence on John Nash's 19th century romantic landscape of St James’s Park.

    To retain the crucial primacy of landscape over buildings, the design of the café is generated by the landscape - a departure from the practice’s usually programme-led approach to form.

    The outcome is an asymmetrical design informed by the park’s gently undulating contours and by paths and views through the landscape. Set within a gently rising hillock, the café appears as an elegant, wood-clad shelter. A glazed frontage makes full use of spectacular views over the lake towards Whitehall, with a raised terrace providing covered seating for 120.

    To the rear, the surrounding landscape rolls up onto a roof top terrace to form an earth roof. In doing so, the restaurant assumes the character of a grotto, a supposedly natural feature of the landscape carefully adapted to enhance the pleasure of its users.

    Inside, the café provides space for 100 more formal covers. The interior is lined in subtly curving timber wall panels with fully retractable glazed doors that open up to the terrace. Behind these public layers, the kitchen, storage and service yard are all set into a newly landscaped hill. The café also incorporates a long, external fixed bench, providing public seating for passers-by along the adjacent pathway.

    Austrian larch is used both inside and out. Externally, this is left untreated so that it gradually weathers, while inside, the larch is oiled to retain its warm colour.

    Uncompromisingly modern, the café provides double the capacity of the building it replaced while respecting both Nash’s landscape and the sight lines through the Royal Park.