8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities

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By Kate Reggev / Published by Dwell
These urban refuges effectively use greenery, water features, and delicate lighting in every inch of their modest spaces to create lush escapes that provide a breath of fresh air in the city.

Peace, quiet, and privacy can be hard to find amid the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas, but there's no challenge that good design can't tackle. Whether it's by employing a simple flower box on a balcony, noise-muffling wooden baffles, foliage-lined pergolas, or leafy green trees, it's possible to create a moment of silence in some of the largest cities in the world. Check out some of our favorite urban havens that can be found in backyards, courtyards, rooftops, and beyond.

1) East Village Garden Rooftop by Pulltab

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 1 of 8 - In New York City's East Village, a rooftop garden—complete with wisteria and succulents—provides both privacy and views of the city. Wood paving, benches, and an overhead brise-soleil keep the space feeling earthy rather than urban.

In New York City's East Village, a rooftop garden—complete with wisteria and succulents—provides both privacy and views of the city. Wood paving, benches, and an overhead brise-soleil keep the space feeling earthy rather than urban.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 2 of 8 - In a city with constant traffic and little green space, architects Simone Carneiro and Alexandre Skaff renovated a cramped apartment with a small terrace. Plants, vines, and pergolas now form a barrier against the city’s notorious noise and pollution.

In a city with constant traffic and little green space, architects Simone Carneiro and Alexandre Skaff renovated a cramped apartment with a small terrace. Plants, vines, and pergolas now form a barrier against the city’s notorious noise and pollution.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 3 of 8 - In Saigon, courtyard-facing balconies are common and allow residents to be simultaneously outside while still being in the privacy of their own home. Here, flowers on the railing and a large tree in the courtyard below bring life to a narrow space.

In Saigon, courtyard-facing balconies are common and allow residents to be simultaneously outside while still being in the privacy of their own home. Here, flowers on the railing and a large tree in the courtyard below bring life to a narrow space.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 4 of 8 - In Tel Aviv, a small pool and garden were carved out of the backyard of this renovated townhouse. White walls reflect the powerful sun rays while trees and greenery provide shade.

In Tel Aviv, a small pool and garden were carved out of the backyard of this renovated townhouse. White walls reflect the powerful sun rays while trees and greenery provide shade.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 5 of 8 - A living wall, expertly located potted plants, and a mixture of paving materials bring a designer's eye to this formerly desolate, narrow rear yard in Manhattan's Upper West Side. The wooden planters and English ivy also provide privacy from the neighbors and help keep out noise without blocking light.

A living wall, expertly located potted plants, and a mixture of paving materials bring a designer's eye to this formerly desolate, narrow rear yard in Manhattan's Upper West Side. The wooden planters and English ivy also provide privacy from the neighbors and help keep out noise without blocking light.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 6 of 8 - A large quince tree dominates the interior patio of the home of renowned architect Benedetta Tagliabue of the firm EMBT. Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, the home revolves around the bright and refreshing patio de luz and offers a respite from the narrow streets of the neighborhood.

A large quince tree dominates the interior patio of the home of renowned architect Benedetta Tagliabue of the firm EMBT. Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, the home revolves around the bright and refreshing patio de luz and offers a respite from the narrow streets of the neighborhood.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 7 of 8 - Honoring the traditional Korean residence and its typical interior courtyard, this modern wood-and-concrete home in South Korea seamlessly plays with interior and exterior spaces with its glassed-in interior yard. A single crepe myrtle provides life during the winter and color and shade in the summer.

Honoring the traditional Korean residence and its typical interior courtyard, this modern wood-and-concrete home in South Korea seamlessly plays with interior and exterior spaces with its glassed-in interior yard. A single crepe myrtle provides life during the winter and color and shade in the summer.

8 Small and Unexpected Garden Oases Hidden in the Middle of Cities - Photo 8 of 8 - The rooftop courtyard of an unassuming 1970s concrete home in Mexico City transforms into an urban oasis thanks to native plants including banana trees, palm trees, lion’s claw, Mexican breadfruit, and native vines. 

The rooftop courtyard of an unassuming 1970s concrete home in Mexico City transforms into an urban oasis thanks to native plants including banana trees, palm trees, lion’s claw, Mexican breadfruit, and native vines.