Designed with all five senses in mind


Wembley Park is changing perceptions of ‘home’ with new rental models and pioneering sense-based design.

We're in South East London, the diagonally opposite end of London to where Julian usually plies his trade at Wembley Park. And the tour he’s leading isn’t a typical exploration of local heritage, rather, it is centred on how we can design better places if we engage all five of our senses.

What does it mean to go beyond seeing – to feel and touch, for example, or even smell the buildings and places we design and make? These were among the questions Julian, participating in Open City’s Citymaking Sessions (p.36-7) asked as he wound his way through the main roads and side streets of Del Boy’s stomping ground.

It is this intense line of enquiry, this dedication to the value of great design and how it can be opened up as an idea for everyone to enjoy, that is driving Julian’s approach in shaping Wembley Park. Designing for the five senses is just one way Julian’s team is shaping the future of London’s neighbourhoods. A great example of this approach can be found on Olympic Way, the main pedestrian promenade between Wembley Stadium and Wembley Park’s railway station. A clutch of new trees, a variety of species selected from the temperate zones around the world and planted earlier this year, now line the avenue, their textures, colours and smells transforming the feel of the emerging townscape.  Julian’s goal is to develop a culture of sociality at Wembley Park, that sense of being involved in a place alongside others: all 20,000 of them. Because what marks out Wembley Park most significantly, is its status as the largest single- site purpose-built PRS development anywhere in the UK.

And renting necessitates a different approach to urban living. “We want people to really use the buildings here – the homes they rent with their built-in facilities, from rooftop gardens (with cinema screens) to gyms, shared lounges, landscaped gardens and private dining rooms,” says Julian.

Did you know Initial records of a place called Wembley dates from 825AD. Saxon people from northern Germany had occupied this part of England (known as Middlesex – land of the Middle Saxons). One family had settled here, and their home was known as “Wemba lea” – Wemba’s clearing in the forest. Over hundreds of years, more woodland was cleared, and by 1500 most of the Wembley area was made up of hedged fields.

There are four completed rental developments so far: Alto, with its sky terrace, pet-friendly Landsby; Alameda, with its rooftop cinema; and Montana and Dakota, the first two blocks to complete, overlooking manicured gardens and expansive ponds.

Nestled among them, residents are served by a blend of small independent shops, London’s largest Boxpark, a new theatre, London Designer Outlet and access to the tube. Technology and comms play a key role too in helping to shape a local culture, explains Julian, for everyone who lives there. Tipi, the lifestyle-focused rental brand managing the residents’ rental experience, for example, uses social media to build comm- unities around shared interests and group events (a weekly quiz night, for example, but also supperclubs with Masterchef finalists!).

Much of the ethos Julian and his team have fostered in Wembley Park comes together in The Yellow – a visually striking and spatially generous community building for everyone who lives, works and studies in Wembley Park. As Julian explains Yellow’s offer he says ultimately, it all comes back to the five senses and how we engage with them.

“The Yellow is crucial in this respect. You can get fit there or learn new skills. It encourages residents to socialise in creative ways: like the Saturday morning cookery class run by a City of London worker – where smell, taste, touch, sight and sound come together, against a backdrop of contemporary design.”

New London: The scale of development at Wembley Park:

 Wembley Park: 85 acres

Nine Elms: 70 acres

Earl’s Court: 69 acres

Kings Cross: 66 acres

Canada Water: 46 acres

Elephant & Castle: 24 acres