A Rooftop Garden in the Heart of Boston

April 6, 2020

Text by Tovah Martin    Photography by Nat Rea

Fifteen floors above a city that never pauses, let alone sleeps, the rooftop terrace of this Millennium Place home could be a seriously pulsating experience—but it’s not. Instead, the homeowners open the door to a high-rise backyard, complete with seating areas, a hot tub, and even succulent “lawns.”

Most rooftop gardens segment space to create a cocoon within their frenetic surroundings. Peter White of ZEN Associates took a totally different approach. This garden embraces its view, framing the metropolis in layers of greenery. White took a space often buffeted by wind and subjected to piercing sun and tamed it, creating a living experience that coaxes the homeowners outdoors.

Stark was an understatement for the rooftop scene when the clients called on ZEN. The homeowners were making a 180-degree shift from a suburban farmhouse to the unabashedly modern penthouse apartment. Eager to embrace the urban experience but unwilling to leave fresh air out of the equation, they asked for ambience. White went many steps further to deliver a cohesive design linked by a circuit of sleek stone walkways. In lieu of lawn, sedums are corralled within strong geometric edging. An oval-shaped soaking spa softens the lines. Overhead lighting gives the urban garden levity and creates a handshake with the city rather than slipping into the shadows. Overhangs shield spaces from the beating sun. And layers of planters in various strong geometric shapes and sizes nurture bold statement plants all top-dressed in stone for anchoring purposes while being quenched by a discrete irrigation system.

The result is so much more than just a backdrop; it’s a magnetic scene that draws the homeowners outside whenever weather permits. Birds come and hit the high notes. Grandkids splash in the tub. And yes, Boston drivers periodically blast their horns below. But no one dwells on the urban babble. In this ecosystem above it all, serenity with a view is only natural.

Project Team
Landscape design: ZEN Associates

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