An Architect's Tips for Creating a Garden in the Heart of the City

An Architect's Tips for Creating a Garden in the Heart of the City

In our upcoming February 2016 issue, we visit the Gowanus, Brooklyn, home of architect Philippe Baumann and his family, which includes a rooftop garden. In advance of the issue, Baumann shares his thoughts on how to introduce plant life to urban homes.
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1) You don't need a huge space to make an impact.

Check out urban garden ideas from the Dwell archive here.

In Baumann's home, a five-by-nine-foot manicured lawn is what Baumann refers to as "a nod or wink to the American Dream." Though larger lawns are known for being a huge source of huge water consumption, Baumann says their patch stays green without being watered, a testament to how much water Americans waste unnecessarily.

2) Consider drainage.

In cities like New York, hardscape yards are ubiquitous, which can create serious drainage problems. "It would be a much better idea to use green pavers in your yard, as opposed to just concrete on the whole thing, because then you’ll have some green space and you can control the drainage," Baumann says.

3) Go for the green roof.

There are two types of green roofs, those that are intensive (built-in) and those that are extensive (modular and moveable). Baumann cautions that the first type, which requires adding a layer of dirt, introduces a structural concern. "Once you put a foot of dirt on the roof, you really have to have the building checked out by a structural engineer to make sure it will hold what you want it to," he says. Extensive systems often use "things like sedum, fairly low-lying plants that don’t weigh much and don’t need much root structure to survive," Baumann explains.

4) Try a trellis.

A trellis is a good opportunity to introduce a vertical green wall. Baumann cites Jakob as one manufacturer that can combine a mesh structure with plant life. Some varieties come built-in with water, while others are designed so that the plants, positioned at the bottom, will grow upward from their pots.

5) Experiment with planters.

Some indoor planters look too heavy for modern interiors. One clever technique Baumann has seen is a custom system of hanging planters against a window that could be controlled via a pulley system when one of the pots needed to be watered. Mobile planters are another area of interest, along with planters that are integrated into furniture.


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