American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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Conceptual sketch of spatial idea.
Rooftop pre-construction, looking northeast (photo: Peter Vevang).
Rooftop pre-construction, looking southwest (photo: Peter Vevang).
Site/architectural floor plan.
Lawn, dining terrace, and kitchen terrace, looking northeast (photo: George Heinrich).
View from lawn across dining terrace and into dining room (photo: George Heinrich).
View of meditation pavilion seen from planters (photo: Peter Vevang).
Lawn, planters, meditation pavilion and art pieces seen from kitchen terrace (photo: George Heinrich).

Private residential garden, Minneapolis, MN
oslund.and.assoc., Minneapolis, MN

"Outdoor living room . . .makes interior space seem larger . . . nice composition, simple forms and materials . . . refreshing to have two experiences: interior view and view of city and plains . . . quality of execution is very high."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

The space is located on the 10th floor penthouse level of a loft conversion of an abandoned warehouse built in 1914, which is a national historic landmark. The space balances living materials and man-made materials within a precinct bounded by walls on three sides. On the fourth side are an expansive view of the Mississippi River and a postcard view of downtown Minneapolis.

Inspired by the owner’s love of minimalism and the complexity intrinsic to the works of Robert Ryman that grace the client’s interior walls, the landscape architect determined that the exterior rooms must contain the same sense of nuance and purity. As one examines a painting by Ryman, the initial mental reflex may be to question how anything so plain can contain anything approaching complexity. But as the examination continues the light shifts, the point of view is modified. It is now that the layers of shadow, differing textures, and subtle movement begin to become apparent to the viewer. In an environment where these shifts occur from day to night, from season to season, and from indoors to outdoors the opportunities for endless complexity are expanded exponentially.

The design challenge—creating a series of outdoor rooms that function seamlessly with the interior environment. The result: a design that features a rooftop lawn/badminton court, a Corten steel water wall and floating patio, planters, and a meditation pavilion all contained within a 3100 square-foot space. This striking garden terrace synthesizes the architecture and the landscape within a shared modernist vocabulary.

The loft architecture and landscape sustain a symbiotic relationship where each is enriched by the other, managing light and form outside of the traditional garden-residence paradigm.

This rich interior-exterior relationship is accomplished with an acute dedication to the subtle detail found in the Japanese garden tradition. The landscape architect worked intimately with the architect from the outset of the project to ensure the interior-exterior relationship remained seamless. Central to the tenets of Japanese garden design is the delicate shifting of light and shadow, and the intentional framing of views. The landscape architect’s attention to how light and shadow accentuate differences in the space creates a landscape that subtly shifts from morning to night, day to day, and season to season. The Japanese influence can also be seen in the deliberate framing of interior to exterior views, as well as the placement of objects within those views. This project speaks to a subtle combination of aesthetics and ecological design. By creating a pristine lawn and planting modules that occupy 65% of the roof area, the landscape architect provided an unexpected delight within the urban condition.

There was not a lack of challenges. The height of the building required most of the components of the design to be craned up 10 stories. The design elements needed to withstand the extreme weather conditions of a Minneapolis rooftop year-round. All of the inner mechanical and electrical components of the design had to be incorporated into the existing roof structure.

The framework of the space begs for simple hardscape materials that reflect its industrial vernacular: stone, concrete, steel. As the design called for the patio, lawn, walkway, and other elements to read as floating planes above the roof deck, construction was needed to support this illusion. Mounting structures and electrical and water utility chases were detailed to remain invisible.

The rooftop garden is an unexpected delight on two levels, the first level being aesthetic. To add a sense of warmth to the space, yet retain the industrial feel, the landscape architect chose to utilize Corten steel to create a floating wall plane that would incorporate an Ikebana shelf and a water feature. Three panels of 5/8” Corten plate were prefabricated off site and individually craned into place. Each panel was slipped between I-beams, to which they would eventually be attached, and then turned and carefully fitted into place.

The synthesis of the architecture and the landscape creates a quiet space of respite up and away from the city streets. The modernist vocabulary provides a refreshing contrast to the notable riverfront structure, allowing the historic fabric of the city to be reinterpreted and refreshed for the 21st century.

This space is designed to frame the natural and man-made beauty that surrounds it. The roof plane is covered in a deep grey Dresser Trap rock, providing the canvas on which the three-dimensional forms of planters, meditation pavilions and the lawn are incorporated. Hovering backlit art pieces by Lynn Geesaman have been placed on the wall directly across from the kitchen pavilion, offering a focal point during both the day and evening hours.

These modular forms frame the outdoor space. The planters frame the meditation pavilion and the walkway, the terrace frames the lawn, the plantings help to frame the approaches to the lawn space; they also offer an opportunity for fresh flowers and herbs to be plucked without fuss.

The second level is that of ecological design. Rainwater is collected and stored for the irrigation of the lawn. The 925-square-foot lawn panel needed not only to seem to float above the roof deck; it also needed to include a hidden irrigation system to allow the lawn to stay green in the extreme rooftop environment. To achieve this, the lawn panel was constructed as a self-irrigating system. Water is introduced to subsurface reservoirs, which hold water and distribute it evenly across the square footage of the lawn. Excess rainwater can also be retained in the same reservoirs, helping to decrease stormwater runoff. Water can then be wicked up through the planting medium to the turf, which extracts moisture as needed.

This penthouse roof garden is an excellent example of creating a usable space for intimate or large gatherings that not only shows the finest attention to aesthetic detail, but also embraces the need for thoughtful ecological design in stormwater collection and reuse.



Corten water wall, Ikebana shelf, lawn, and planters seen from kitchen terrace (photo: George Heinrich).
Framed view of meditation pavilion, lawn, and dining terrace (photo: Peter Vevang).
Twilight view of Ikebana shelf, lawn, planters, and art pieces seen from kitchen terrace (photo: George Heinrich).
Kitchen terrace, Corten water wall, and stainless steel drapery hung from I-beams (photo: Peter Vevang)
Framed view of kitchen terrace and Corten water wall seen from entry foyer (photo: George Heinrich).
Framed view of meditation pavilion, lawn, and dining terrace from dining room (photo: George Heinrich).
Twilight view of art piece and corner of meditation pavilion (photo: George Heinrich).
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