Once an asphalt car park for almost two thousand cars, Union Park South is the first part of one of the largest new parks in northwest London in the last 100-plus years.
Designed by LDA Design, it is a key element of developer Quintain’s vision for the 85-acre transformation of Wembley Park. Union Park South benefits the new ‘Eastern Lands’ community of more than 1,800 homes.
Water is an important design feature, and makes the site feel playful and special. There is a splash pad and play area, seating terraces and lounging lawns, an outdoor gym and a pinetum. A small stage is powered to support community events; facilities including a café and crèche are close by.
Tom McCreesh, LDA Design project lead for Union Park South, explains that the Union Park South design is inspired by Humphry Repton, one of the great landscape designers of the 18th century who laid out Wembley Park over 200 years ago. “Repton brought nature into the heart of the city. His designs feel expansive and generously planted, with stands of trees defining vistas and creating focal points. We wanted Union Park to reflect Repton’s influences, the blue and green connections he made and his doorstep approach to nature.”
The site includes a 10-metre change in levels addressed through a series of stepped ponds, which carry water captured from rooftops down to a feature pond that attenuates rainwater in extreme weather and is aerated by a 12-metre-high fountain. A lake that was filled in a century ago is also subtly referenced in the design. The strong form of this pond is inspired by Lubetkin’s iconic Penguin Pool at London Zoo and makes for a striking juxtaposition against the Wembley Stadium arch.
Tom believes that Brent, one of London’s largest and most diverse boroughs, needs more places like Union Park. “We need distinctive, invested-in green spaces where people can easily socialise, relax, or exercise and crucially be within nature. This design has taken an expanse of car parking with no ecological value and turned it into a beautiful, biodiverse place that people can make their own in a variety of ways.”
Engineer’s Way, the road dividing the site, is now partly hidden by a raised infinity pool and water wall, with year-round flowering plants and perennials creating a ha-ha (a hidden wall common in 18th century gardens and parks) alongside the footpath, reducing the impact of traffic.
The Anglo-Saxon name ‘Wemba Lea’ means ‘clearing in the wood’. The 1,000 new trees planted across Wembley Park honour this original meaning.
LDA Design has delivered a variety of additional public spaces across Wembley Park, including during the pandemic. From rain gardens, seating steps and terraces defining Olympic Way, with removal of the Pedway in 2020, to Silver Meantime, which has transformed a car park and space left by the demolished Pedway. HVM safety measures have been carefully integrated across the site using seating, planters and artwork rather than bollards.
LDA has also created the new public realm for the striking Figures of Change Art Trail featuring the Samovar Space, shaped by young people in Brent.
Photos by Chris Winter courtesy of Quintain.
Flanagan Lawrence were masterplan architects for the site.