Greening the city

Rooftop garden at The Commons

Opportunities for urban green space are increasing as we reconcile density with human needs and sustainability. From pocket parks to green walls to communal rooftop vege plots, some clean air and domesticity is softening our cities. Written by Andrea Stevens.


The Commons rooftop garden, Melbourne (above)

By Breathe Architecture, photo Andrew Wuttke

The five-storey apartment building we feature on page 94 features a rooftop vegetable garden that would impress even the staunchest suburban gardener. A residents’ garden committee shares responsibility for managing the productive plots: planning, planting and harvesting. The roof terrace includes a communal laundry, washing lines and a covered BBQ area. Community is kept alive at The Commons with these regular encounters and a monthly Sunday shared meal.


Balcony hanging gardens

Garden House

By Ryue Nishizawa, photo Iwan Baan

For a city house we looked to the people of Tokyo – the elite denizens when it comes to designing and living with urban density. This remarkable city house and office, designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa, is sandwiched between two large apartment buildings. The four-storey, four-metre wide house fills the gap with confidence, creating an open, light and well-ventilated residence. Balconies are filled with pot plants, vases and soft curtains. In the antithesis of what one would expect from an urban house, the architect has created a soft edge of delicacy and domesticity. In the city, it seems, anything is possible as long as we have the courage and imagination to design for how we want to live.


Green wall at Geyser

Geyser courtyard, Auckland

By Patterson Associates and Natural Habitats, photo Simon Devitt

A two-storey green wall is integral to the Geyser urban courtyard and mixed-use development in Parnell. The use of this green technology – over two thousand indigenous plants live in the vertical hydroponic garden – reflects the ethos of the Geyser building, a six Green Star-rated building that seeks to reflect our natural ecology in how it operates and in its aesthetics. ‘Light loving’ plants were positioned at the top and ‘cool shade’ species at the bottom, watered by an automated irrigation system which uses harvested rainwater. The verdant wall and granite paving make a calm retreat from the busy street.


Originally published in The Design Guide issue 4, 2015.


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