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Bright cubes demarcate areas of this high-rise rooftop garden, framing the city views

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Living in a rooftop apartment might sound like urban bliss, but residents can be left with nothing more than a huge expanse of flat surface for an outdoor space.

For the owners of this city apartment, the bleak and often glary rooftop with high balustrades did not provide much opportunity to enjoy the expansive views. They wanted a low-maintenance garden with areas to view the sunset and city – and a spa. Having small children, they also wanted to retain some space for them to run around.

The project was the brainchild of Jamie Durie from Patio Landscape Architecture & Design. He had to consider that any installation needed to be freestanding and weatherproof.

"The roof is highly exposed to rain, wind and strong sun. Everything needed to be robust and hardy for the conditions," says registered landscape architect Julian Brady from Patio.

Keeping this in mind, and with a need for colour to brighten up the grey tones of the city view, Durie designed the garden cubes featured on these pages. Modular, self-supporting and structurally sound, the painted timber cubes are joined by galvanised steel braces. They provide some elevation from the rooftop, but do not need to be bolted down. Potentially, this means they can be moved.

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"There was a need for an attractive feature from day one, something with presence and height, but we didn't want to mask the views," says Brady.

With such a big space, the cubes act as a series of outdoor rooms, drawing the owners outside to enjoy a drink in one section, a spa in another, with another section acting as a bridge. They also frame the outlook – from the seated area, a cityscape is outlined in colour.

Durie used a modular decking system to provide a series of stepping stones and a pathway to the different areas. The timber tones of this and the wooden planter boxes, along with the coloured cubes, provide vibrance and warmth.

For rooftop gardens, planting needs to be contained. Durie used planters with lightweight soil irrigation and drainage. These are heavy enough to withstand wind. New Zealand flax, pandanus palms and native flax lily were chosen for their hardiness. In time, these will add privacy, especially around the spa pool area.

As a vigorous grower, bougainvillea was planted to twist around the cubes, adding softness and texture.

First published date: 10 September 2007

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Credit List

Landscape designer Jamie Durie, Patio Landscape Architecture & Design
Decking Modular timber system
Plants New Zealand flax; flax lily; pandanus palms