Client: Hammerson
Architect: Barton Willmore
Contractor: Careys PLC

Leading by example

Landscape architects can take inspiration from the completed works on The Oracle, a stunning public realm scheme in Reading. 

In 2017, a two-phase improvement plan was completed on the Riverside area of the site. The scheme features a unique design with the River Kennet running through the heart it. Home to several dining and entertainment businesses, the new landscape design has helped to enhance the appeal for tenants and customers alike, creating a premium and award-winning shopping destination. 

Hardscape played a key role in the revitalisation of the public space, which has since become an extremely popular summer lunchtime spot! 

The brief

The improved public realm aimed to increase the number of visitors to the town and enhance the Riverside’s identity, making it a destination with improved access to the waterside amenities together with a new events space. The landscape designs aimed to create a sequence of spaces to maximise the riverside location. 

A key component of the brief was to create a ‘London Standard’ style urban realm, with a similar vibe to the capital. A series of high quality and accessible spaces were required in order to de-clutter the urban realm, improve access and people flow and provide added value to the external environment through new retail and pop-up opportunities. 

Material selection and delivery

Hardscape worked closely with the client team and attended number of workshop meetings during the design development offering technical support and expertise. 

European Germania and Roriz Silver Grey Granite 50mm x 50mm setts were selected for their hardwearing and aesthetic values, blending well with the steel metal-work fencing used along the river. 

Similar Granite flame-textured step units and cladding were used with Chinese Crystal Black granite featuring contrasting tactiles and nosing to the steps. This design detail beautifully complemented the interface of the hardwood step seating. 

Further thought was given in sourcing a contrasting material to the granite and Italian Prima Porphyry was chosen in collaboration with the client team. This elegant material has a natural appearance and a perfect deep colour variation range with a warm textured look. Robust and hardwearing it was the perfect choice for an event space like The Oracle. 


Thanks to its new signature scheme, the public realm has seen an increase in annual footfall, up to 15 million people this year. The engaging flexible spaces are perfect for performances, kiosks and an improved marketing pop-up culture. 

Hardscape helped to bring this shared vision to life, combining expertise and a passion for modern and natural materials. The combination of hardwood and granites overlooking the River Kennet, helped to create a warm and welcoming appeal. 

The Riverside has always been the jewel in The Oracle’s crown, offering a premium destination for leisure and dining in the town centre. We’re delighted to see growth for the centre and a revived public space for Reading.

Andy Briggs, General Manager at The Oracle