Private offices open up onto a compact tropical garden.
With the strong presence of the architecture covering almost the entire area of the lot, which measures 47 x 20 meters, this garden proposal conquers the vacant areas adapting to the existing situation and, in the end, becoming as important as the architecture. Projected as a particularly modern building located in a quite traditional residential neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires City, the glass oval-shaped building houses the offices of a local firm; the landscape project, conditioned by important size and planning restrictions, rises to the challenge set by the architecture.
The location of these offices in this residential area of Buenos Aires responds to the need and preference of a quiet and green environment, perfectly achieved in this neighborhood situated to the north of the city. However, the traditional presence of private residences, especially the ones on each side of the lot, meant the garden project was subject to specific conditions. Therefore, not only the size but the privacy issues had to be resolved.
As part of the architectural project, the two-story oval building is completely surrounded by water. The oval shape is positioned, in perfect symmetry, within a rectangular shallow pool as though emerging from the water; this means, on the one hand, more size restrictions for the garden and, on the other, the reflections of the landscape on the water´s surface, thus creating a virtual enlargement of the green component. The owners, for their part, asked for a tropical looking landscape composition, something that was possible to achieve because of the special microclimate that is created within the lot; framed by the large trees planted on the adjacent parcels, the site is mostly in shadow and lacking of the typical morning frost which occurs in the open, in this district.
This whole situation was the starting point for the project produced by Estudio Ines Stewart- Cecilia Murray, an office specializing in residential projects. Known mainly for their experience, knowledge and management of the local plant repertoire and the design for large estancias and private developments, these two landscape architects also bring their expertise to these kinds of very compact projects.
Firstly, they decided to make the party walls taller, by adding a fence which over time and with the natural growth of climbing plants and shrubs will become a green screen. On the right side of the main access, framing a descending ramp to the underground parking area, another tall white wall which created unhappy sun reflections and appeared as a bare vertical surface, was also screened by a naturally composed covering; planted with Brush cherry (Eugenia mirtiflora), this green element hides the car access and helps to create a more welcoming image.
The architectural project was presented with a central wooden path that runs along the full extent of the longest side of the lot, dividing the front and back gardens into two equal parts and crossing over the water surface to create an access low bridge which connects to the interior of the building. The landscape plan proposes to virtually reconstruct this axis inside the main hall with a linear planter. Planted with a dense base of Peace lilly (Spathiphyllum), an elegant indoor plant, and Guadua Angustifolia (Columbian thorny bamboo) as a tall and ethereal screen, this element recreates the central mark and offers a refreshing presence inside that also reaches the upper level. In order to assure a correct function of this planting structure the designers planned a special drainage system and used specific geotextile products.
The garden is basically formed by a front and a back space and the two narrow linear strips that were left at both sides of the lot, thus framing the architecture and making some kind of a green wrapping box.
Both the front and back gardens present an organic layout, a series of curves and natural lines that define the groups of plants. In the front, yellow Day lillie (Hemerocallis) and white African lillie (Agapanthus) form dense volumes and are framed by a number of Sago palms (Cycas revolute) which offer a traditional tropical taste. When walking into the site, the image of the glass house and the luxuriant green composition of this front garden means a first warm and interesting combination; additionally, planted at both sides of this welcoming space, appear two Silver maple (Acer sacharinum) which provide some subtle color and also work as a medium scale component between the large existing trees and the groups of shrubs and herbaceous. Existing cypresses, Ibirapita trees (Pheltophorum dubium) and eucalyptus create the “roof” of the garden.
The two remaining strips of land that are developed along the opposite sides of the lot become linear shadow gardens. On the left side, which is somehow narrower, the walls were completely covered in green with climbing species such as Creeping fig (Ficus repens) and the incorporation of bamboo that reach a height of 5 meters. Dynamic groups of different kinds of ferns provide a large range of green hues and the rhododendrons are used to add some color to the composition. Because the right side is a little wider, the layout allows creating a more flexible planting plan and adds colorful flower species: blue Plumbagos, Fuchsias, Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata) and Calla lillie (Zantedeschias) mix up to produce a homogeneous but lively border. Punctuating this linear space three Silver maples repeat the ones in the front and provide larger volumes.
In the back garden, the same central wooden path that appears in the front reaches an outdoor living-room, or semi-roofed meeting area, which opens onto the green expansion. At one of the sides of this construction the project presents a small hot-tub which is framed with some existing China roses (Hibiscus sinensis), Cycas and ferns. The landscape plan only reconstructs these existing groups, preserving the plants onsite and completes the planting design with more ferns and shadow-loving plants. Framing the central wooden path, a tidy group of Phormium rubra adds reddish hues to the garden and, at both sides, the incorporation of three large Yatay palms (Butia yatay) offers a stronger presence.
All these plants combinations and compositions were planned to be appreciated from the inside of the glass building, both from the lower level, where extend the lobby and other public spaces, and from the upper level, occupied by the private offices and the meeting rooms. The main office, located at the back of the building, faces the outdoor construction; for this reason, the landscape plan includes an intimate design for this small roof, thus creating another point of visual interest made up of a wooden planter with grasses and a horizontal plane covered in white crushed stone.
The spaces of the garden that are not fully planted appear as neat green carpets and provide a fine balance in the garden. The lighting plan seeks to highlight some of the large trees that crown the landscape and, at the floor level, some of the varied shapes of the lower planes of plants.
What makes this project all the more remarkable is the ability of the landscape project of becoming as strong as the existing architecture, quite unique for a traditional neighborhood, especially in a very fragmented lot that ends up providing small garden areas. The design explores all the possibilities and comes up with a compact green composition that reads and feels as a stunning single space.
Designers: Estudio Ines Stewart- Cecilia Murray
Location: Buenos Aires City, North District
Year of completion: 2010
Size of the lot: 940 m2
Size of the garden: 530m2
Photos: Agustín García Oliver