But the tables are turning. Buyers and planners are demanding outside space and architects are having to think imaginatively about the design and ecology of the environment.
Cities are challenging places in which to live and with land in short supply, city planners want to ensure that green space is woven into the fabric of new homes developments. This philosophy continues on through “green infrastructure” projects such as the Garden Bridge and the “greening” of brownfield sites, like the railway siding in Peckham, unveiled this week.
TAKE A TOUR: NEW HOMES WITH AERIAL ALLOTMENTS, ROOF TERRACES AND SKY-HIGH POOLS
London's latest new homes with designer green spaces
London's latest new homes with designer green spaces
1/9 The Lido Line
A swimmable commuter route from Little Venice to Limehouse Basin? From Little Venice to the Limehouse Basin, the proposal would see Regent’s Canal made a clean, safe place to swim by carving out swimmable commuter routes using a breathable, multi-layered membrane that filters detritus and bacteria.
2/9 Earl's Court, SW5
At Lillie Square in Earl's Court, garden designer Andy Sturgeon was briefed to make the landscape more meaningful. "Now, wherever you are in the development, you’re in and among the plants.”
3/9 Earl's Court, SW5
The Lillie Square development, a former 7.5-acre car park, has one of the largest garden squares in west London that will sit in the heart of the development. More than 50 per cent of the site is devoted as green space a commendable first.
4/9 Hackney, E8
The Warehaus apartment scheme in Hackney has a centrepiece atrium showcasing a heated glass-bottomed swimming pool that also combines as the roof for the development. Visit uniondevelopments/warehaus.
5/9 Battersea, SW11
At Battersea Power Station, residents can enjoy gardens as well as allotments at ground level and on the rooftop.
6/9 Battersea Power Station, SW11
"The new way of landscaping London is not about creating jaw-dropping vistas on a panoramic scale, but about making sustainable green spaces that will benefit both residents and the passing public, as well as the broader environment," says Pattie Barron
7/9 Canary Wharf, E14
From £395,000: flats at Wardian London in Canary Wharf will have private outdoor spaces with sweeping views, plus sky gardens, an open-air swimming pool and an observatory. Call 0800 404 8855.
8/9 Poplar, E14
From £299,000: flats at Aberfeldy Village will benefit from a London Wildlife Trust biodiversity strategy. A green corridor will run throughout the scheme and liquidambar trees - which produce magnificent autumn colours - are being cultivated off-site so they are mature when planted. Call 020 3217 1000.
9/9 Aldgate, E1
£735,000: Goodman's Fields is an "urban retreat" of 920 homes grouped around squares, landscaped courtyards and aquatic gardens. Call 020 3217 1000.
People in glass houses
Wardian London, a Canary Wharf scheme of 792 apartments by EcoWorld Ballymore, is an elegant two-tower scheme that takes its name and architectural inspiration from sealed glass containers used at the height of the Empire to transport rare plants across the seas.
At ground level, soaring glass walls and giant conservatory-type spaces will be erected to set off botanical gardens and tropical planting with exotic trees, plants and flowers. This planted environment spills out into the whole development, from the edges of an open-air swimming pool to the sky gardens and observatory — and, of course, the apartments, which have private outdoor spaces.
The scheme is being built on a small dockside plot — less than two acres —and has a podium with showpiece lobby linking the two towers. The landscaping aims to create a tranquil place that reflects the changing seasons.
The interior design picks up on the wider theme — glass kitchen cabinets and shelving mimic miniature Wardian cases. There will be a spa, sky lounge, private cinema, concierge, gym and underground parking.
Completion is not until 2019, but you can buy off-plan now. Prices from £395,000. Call 0800 404 8855.
READ MORE: From Battersea Power Station to Earl's Court: London's latest new homes come with sky-high designer gardens and aerial allotments
Seeds of creation
At Aberfeldy Village, a new development in Poplar, a biodiversity strategy devised by London Wildlife Trust is transforming a rather grey part of London.
Liquidambar trees — which produce magnificent autumn colours — are being cultivated off-site so they are mature when planted. A green corridor will run through the scheme, and there are footbridges across a swale planted with meadow flowers that attract pollinating insects. The swale stores water and prevents flooding. Prices from £299,000. Call 020 7515 1491.
Landscaping is also being used to enhance security and privacy for residents. Passers-by are steered away from residents-only areas, with colour-coded lighting, colonnades, elevated paths and positioned artworks demarcating private and public areas.
Learning from the past
At Goodman’s Fields, Aldgate, developer Berkeley Homes is building an “urban retreat” of 920 homes grouped around squares, landscaped courtyards and aquatic gardens. Horse sculptures bring alive the history of the site — where horses for the City’s livery firms were once stabled. Prices from £735,000. Call 020 3217 1000.
When developer Alchemi acquired a concrete office block up the road from the Palace of Westminster, it decided to remodel it to make the most of its wide window bays and copious roof space. Re-clad in charcoal-fired bricks and bronzed balustrades, 55VS has a ground-level communal courtyard garden and a roof garden. Prices from £3.57 million. Call 020 7487 1698.
Manhattan Loft Gardens in Stratford has three communal sky gardens cut out from its façade. The double-cantilevered 42-storey tower has 248 apartments, priced from £750,000. Call 020 7409 9001.