How can we help you?

Tell us a few details about your project or enquiry and a member of our team will be in touch.

When everybody is planting apples a visionary plants oranges.

Matshona Dhliwayo

Client: McLaren (Construction) and McArthurGlen (Aftercare)

Install Date: 2019

Biotecture’s statement living walls are integral to the architectural look and feel at the McArthurGlen Ashford Designer Outlet. They were designed to enrich the retail experience and strengthen the outlet’s position as a flagship shopping destination. Working collaboratively with the design team and the main contractor, Biotecture designed and installed over 2,000m2 of living wall to create a rich vertical garden. The green walls help establish a sense of place, and reflect Kent’s status as ‘The Garden of England’. The project is one of Europe’s largest living walls and demonstrates how living walls can be delivered at scale to enhance the urban environment.

Project Brief

Biotecture were appointed to design and install over 2,000m2 of living wall rainscreen cladding at the McArthurGlen Ashford Designer Outlet extension in Kent. The whole project was conceived by the site’s owner McArthurGlen, as an opportunity to revamp the retail experience and to create a unique flagship designer outlet for the UK. Biotecture’s living walls played a key part in achieving this vision.

The original retail outlet, designed by renowned architect Richard Rogers and completed in 2000, has a distinctive architectural aesthetic – a ring of tensile structures. The design team at Chapman Taylor wanted phase two to have an equally strong and innovative architectural language of its own. After working collaboratively with Applied Landscape Design and the Biotecture team, they chose to clad the new development in living wall to create a ‘rich vertical garden’, to help establish a sense of place, and reflect Kent’s status as ‘The Garden of England’.

The project has created new retail units as well as an events space, food piazza, interactive children’s play area and additional car parking. Biotecture’s BioPanel living wall system spans the walls of the new entrance promenade, walkways, and many of the 46 new stores.

  • Exemplar project for large scale living walls
  • Key part of the architectural aesthetic
  • Designed to enhance the retail experience, creating a relaxing and immersive environment
  • The living walls help reduce air pollution
  • and provide biodiversity net gain
  • Integrated design process at all stages
  • Over 2,000m2 of rainscreen cladding living walls
  • Over 120,000 plants and 30 + different varieties

Our Approach

Integrated Design

This innovative project needed a collaborative design approach at all stages. Biotecture worked closely with the architect, landscape designer, and main contractor to fulfil the client’s vision. We were first approached by landscape architect, Applied Landscape Design in 2014. Being involved at an early stage allowed us to contribute to the architectural look and feel the design and ensure that the irrigation infrastructure was considered early in the process.

We continued to work collaboratively with Applied Landscape Design and the architect, Chapman Taylor, writing and confirming the specification until the project went to tender in 2016. When McLaren Construction were appointed as the Main Contractor on the project in 2018, they appointed Biotecture to deliver the scheme’s living walls. Due to the scale of the project we ordered the plants 12 months in advance and nurtured them in phases in our nursery on the south coast. This was cost-effective for the client and helped with the integrated look and feel of the planting when the panels were installed on site.

The curved extension has faceted facades facing every direction, therefore the planting had to be carefully planned to account for varying climatic conditions. The final design creates subtle drifting waves across the buildings. Statement plants were included to create pops of colour, and seasonal planting was chosen to create a changing landscape throughout the year and encourage return visitors.

Installation and Maintenance

The living walls were installed in three phases between Spring and Autumn 2019. The works were carried out in a live retail environment so we worked closely with the main contractor McLaren Construction to minimise disruption to shoppers. Biotecture were able to accommodate McLaren’s compressed construction programme, delivering 60m2 of living wall each day, per installation team.

Our living wall system gives the plants the best opportunity to flourish and our maintenance operatives know how to keep them that way. Biotecture maintained the wall for McLaren Construction for the first 12 months and were then awarded a long-term maintenance contract by the outlet’s operator, McArthurGlen.

The extensive irrigation system is remotely monitored by our operations team and our expert horticultural team undertake regular maintenance visits to keep the plants in top condition. Our maintenance visits have drawn lots of interest from the shoppers, becoming a visitor attraction in itself!

Want to find out more? Download the full case study at the link below.

Realising the vision at Ashford was always going to be a demanding project but having tackled the hurdles early in regard to managing Client and Centre Managers expectations I have to say that it has gone smoother and looks better than we ever hoped for and that is down to the proactive and experienced involvement from all at Biotecture.

Kym Jones Principal, Applied Landscape Design
Download this case study