Japanese Roof Garden

About the garden

The Japanese roof garden is accessible to the public through the Brunei Gallery exhibitions galleries and is open whenever the exhibitions are, Tuesday - Saturday 10:30am to 5:00pm and late on Thursdays until 8:00pm. It is also closed whenever we are installing new exhibitions, so please check the main gallery website for details. 

The Japanese-inspired roof garden at SOAS, University of London was built during the Japan 2001 celebrations and was officially opened by the sponsor, Mr Haruhisa Handa (Toshu Fukami), an Honorary Fellow of the School, on 13 November 2001. It provides an area away from the noise and bustle of London streets, where visitors can relax and meditate.

The garden is dedicated to Forgiveness, which is the meaning of the Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin.

Peter Swift, a designer with experience of adapting Japanese garden design principles to the British environment and climate, conceived the garden as a place of quiet contemplation and meditation as well as a functional space complementary to the Gallery and its artistic activities.

A small stage can be used for dramatic or musical productions, for tea ceremonies or displays. Or it can be used simply as seating.

The Brunei Gallery was built in 1995 and has always had a roof garden. Unfortunately the original garden had pools that sprang a leak and the water had to be drained. As a result much of the original charm was lost and the garden fell into disuse. In 2000 Mr Handa offered to finance the creation of a Japanese-style garden and the designer Peter Swift from Planit EDC Ltd. was engaged to design and implement a suitable scheme.

The new garden was built during the summer of 2001 by Ground Control Ltd., Billericay, Essex with stone supplied by CED Ltd, Thurrock, Essex, and was opened as part of the Japan 2001 celebrations.


How to find the garden

SOAS is just off the north west corner of Russell Square, London. The nearest Tube station is Russell Square, though Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road and Euston Square stations are also close. When you are in the SOAS precinct, look for the Brunei Gallery. The garden can be accessed from the first floor of the Gallery, through the exhibitions space.

Opening times

The Roof Garden is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5:00pm and late on Thursdays until 8:00pm, except when exhibitions are being changed or during private functions. Please check the main Brunei Gallery web page for details.