Irish designer Paul Martin had to manage strong winds on this seventh-storey terrace, says Jodie Jones
Dublin is a low-rise city, so when Paul Martin was invited to design a roof garden for a new seven-storey office building, he was working against a panoramic backdrop on the highest outdoor space in the area, and damaging winds. The job included three separate roof terraces and a lower courtyard with a punishing timescale – from initial consultation in August 2016 to project completion in April 2017. “The client was keen to provide breakout spaces for their company’s staff, and also to have extensive areas for corporate entertainment,” he says.
The whole project was designed following a grid system set out by the building’s architects, Scott Tallon Walker. “We based our designs on their 1,500mm grid throughout, both on the roof terrace and in the lower courtyard, linking the design. In practical terms, this helped shape everything, from the 1,500 x 500mm paving slabs we used to reflect their grid, to the proportions of the raised planters and linked seating areas on the long roof terrace, which were constructed from block and render,” Martin explains. Inevitably, weight loads were an issue, so multi-stemmed trees were used to give “maximum volume of top growth per root ball”, underplanted with grasses, lavender and herbs. “In the most exposed area, we put in big, sturdy Euonymus japonicus as a living windbreak, which have proved extremely successful.”
There are many access points from inside to outside, each of which appears to lead into a dedicated private garden, while in fact being intrinsically linked with the terrace as a whole. “Because this is an office, and therefore a lot of people in the building will spend most of their days looking out at the garden, rather than being in it, we did consider that aspect very carefully,” says Martin. Views through the floor-to-ceiling windows are softened by shallow beds of grasses, which form a living screen between the workspace and the zoned seating on the outdoor terrace. Disabled access was a specific concern, and all areas have been rendered fully wheelchair accessible. “This is a standard requirement, which we try to make look as good as possible. For example, we use Astroturf on ramps that could otherwise become slippery – a good mix of aesthetics and practicality.” Access was an issue and a lot of materials had to be craned in over an adjacent building. “It cost €25,000 a day for a crane and labour, so we had to limit its use and plan carefully to optimise what we could achieve when we did have it on site.” This encouraged Martin to come up with creative alternatives. “We designed powder-coated steel planters for several of the balconies in 300mm sections that link and lock together. These were small enough to be brought up in the lifts, then combined into larger units in-situ.” He also used an innovative range of furniture from Spanish company Vondom, which are lightweight and portable but, once in position, are filled with water to give them the necessary mass.