Day two dawned too early. I was up and out, present and correct at 9am on a Sunday morning after an hour’s journey at the Babylon Gardens in Kensington. Those who know me well will need to be revived at this point.
The experience was well worth getting up for. The gardens are fabulous. They were originally designed by Ralph Hancock for the roof of Derry & Toms department store in 1936-8. Hancock also designed the Rockefeller Center roof gardens. The Kensington gardens are a very clever use of space, with walks that create vistas and outdoor ‘rooms’ designed along themes such as the Tudor garden and the Spanish garden. This gives the illusion that is is bigger than it really is. The views across London were wonderful too.
Oddly, I both like this decor and at the same time really dislike it. I like the colour and hate the style.
I headed on over to the Ismaili Centre in Cromwell Gardens (near the Victoria & Albert Museum) next. This is such a wonderful building with a roof garden on the top story. It is in complete contrast to the Derry & Tom’s garden which is busy and packs as much in as possible (much like the decor). The Ismaili Centre’s garden cocoons the visitor in peacefulness, calmness and simplicity. Our guide was superb, she knew the intimate details of design and construction of all the architectural features. Apparently the architect had studied the central tenants of Islam and materialised these in the architectural forms and had converted to Islam during the process. I especially liked the stair rails. They were tubular brushed steel with brass shepherd’s crooks and graceful kinks at the top. As was explained, this was not just stylish design but the kinks are placed to let blind people know how many stairs to go to the top. Now, that is good design. After the tour we were guided to refreshments in one of the large meeting rooms. Totally unexpected, but surprisingly welcome after the busy morning.
There are no photos as they weren’t allowed, although there is an official gallery here. The photos don’t really do it justice, it was wonderful.
After that, I headed to some eco-houses with green roofs, but that’s another blog-post….