April 20, 2021

Praising the roof


Pro Landscaper Gulf looks at an award-winning RHS Chelsea show garden designed to sit in splendour on an office block rooftop, combining technology and tranquillity to create an ambient working environment. Designed by Patricia Fox, of UK-based Aralia Garden Design, this stunning 10m x 20m plot was presented as an extension to the working office that could make excellent use of often neglected rooftop space.

The garden was created to inspire people to make better use of unused commercial space by demonstrating that office rooftops can be used as viable garden or work spaces amid overcrowded cities. Patricia’s aim was to create a practical, yet stimulating work environment that combined the requirements of an office within a relaxed and creative outdoor setting. The space is both practical and beautiful, offering an innovative, thought-provoking environment with ambient space for collaboration and inspiration. There are work spaces for individual staff members as well as collaborative group ‘breakout’ areas.

The garden is designed to capture and enhance the networked world we live in, being flexible and innovative. This is highlighted through the use of technology such as wi-fi, TV screens, laptops and tablets, which can be utilised throughout the garden. Sustainable features and recycled elements have also been used in the garden wherever possible.

The design, entitled Rooftop Workplace of Tomorrow, was awarded a prestigious RHS Silver medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and, as part of the technology already highlighted, an LED sports screen emitted calming and relaxing sounds and visuals as visitors enjoyed the scene, uniting cutting-edge technology and tranquility in one picturesque package. As well as 21st century technology, Patricia also selected a number of innovative materials, including bamboo decking made from fast-growing bamboo. All tabletops were built using Richlite, a compound material manufactured from compressed recycled paper.

Furniture and planters in the garden were manufactured from ‘up-cycled’ materials – Grade A plastics (including black plastic plant pots) which previously went into landfill and which Aralia commissioned from UK-based company Thomas Bramwell Outdoor Living. Quirky, ‘C-shaped’ chairs were commissioned to hang from the bespoke wood and metal pergola frame and functionality is key to this garden, which doesn’t stop with the planting as a stunning ‘herb wall’ was included, where users can pick their own herbs to make some revitalising herbal tea. The wall also features a vertical Buxus Parterre.

The modern ‘Cube’ building provides weatherproof office space within the garden and features a green roof that offers biodiversity by attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Calm and understated planting was used to create a textural, structured, yet beautifully delicate space.

The colour scheme is a mix of green and silver-blue foliage, with simple white flowering plants such as Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium), Rocket Candytuft (Iberis Amara) and White Campion (Silene Latifolia). The main focal plant was a stunning Pleached Field Maple (Acer Campestre) to give some stature to the garden. A West Himalayan Birch (Betula Pendula) was selected for its ashy bark, which complemented the white flora throughout the garden.

A Norway Maple (Acer Globosum) was included to provide a natural ‘umbrella’ for the floating workstation and render subtle shade under which staff would be able to relax with a laptop or tablet. Buxus cubes, Thymus balls and Buxus hedging provided the necessary structure to the garden, mimicking the ‘rounded square’ tablet-inspired shape used consistently throughout the garden’s design.

For visitors to the RHS Chelsea show, Rooftop Workplace of Tomorrow proved memorable, inspiring and thought-provoking.

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