Sky's the limit: an incredible rooftop garden

Sky’s the limit: an incredible rooftop garden


An outstanding rooftop garden that is sure to increase morale at this forward-thinking company

We know the benefits of a beautiful garden for our homes, but what about at work? An increasing number of companies are going that extra mile by supplying a beautifully landscaped outdoor space for their employees to enjoy. One such example is this rooftop garden at Pentana Solutions, an automotive software company in Melbourne’s Mount Waverley. The team at Ian Barker Gardens were commissioned to design and construct a relaxing, social space for the company’s staff to utilise while at work. “This was a fantastic creative opportunity for our design team as this garden just happened to be situated on a rooftop, offering the chance to create something truly spectacular and a little quirky,” says director, Ian Barker.

“The brief was to take an ugly, disused roof space and transform it into something that would not only be stunning to look at, but encourage staff to head outside and get some fresh air before they went back to work,” says Ian. “We first looked to departmentalise the large space into areas that would have different uses. These were to include a medium-sized space for presentations for up to 100 people, a shade area with tables and chairs for comfortable outdoor dining, as well as some smaller private spaces where staff could have a moment to relax. These areas would be softened with a natural planting palette.”

A square expanse of synthetic turf reboarded by garden beds of mixed planting in the south-east corner of the rooftop provides the perfect place for gatherings or perhaps even group exercise classes. In the north-east corner of the garden, a bright orange car sits among a bed of natural planting, injecting an element of fun and whimsy in the garden. An Ekologix composite deck with block seating and a timber walkway edged with bench seats provides ample space for staff to sit and relax or mingle in the garden surrounded by beautiful plants. The north side of the rooftop features a large area of paving and a strip of turf flanked by a hedge contained in large rectangular planter troughs. Dividing this area from a row of timber benches and tables is a giant chessboard made of turf and pavers. This playful addition not only adds a feature, but makes the space more interactive and, of course, fun for the employees. A steel pergola with a retractable awning from Melbourne Awning Centre covers the entire area, ensuring the space can be enjoyed in all weather conditions.

Plants in gorgeous copper tones such as Helenium, Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’, Achillea ‘Terracotta’, and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ were chosen to add stunning warm colours and interesting textures throughout the seasons, providing the team at Pentana with a magnificent space in which to relax and enjoy nature.

As you can imagine, there were some challenges creating a rooftop garden on a five-storey building: getting the car, soil and building materials up to the top posed quite the challenge. The solution? A crane and careful planning!

The garden also had to float above a membrane so that it could be accessed if there were any leaks. Attaching items directly to the membrane would cause punctures that would most likely leak water into the offices below. “We had to find another way to secure items in the garden and stop them from being swept off the rooftop by high winds,” says Ian. “We used Elmich VersiPave, which is a lightweight, high-strength plastic paver support designed to eliminate the use of sand when laying pavers, resulting in reduced weight-bearing loads on building structures. It also allows easy access to waterproofing membranes and services when required. We also chose large 1200x600mm pavers and weighed down planter boxes with bricks to ensure that they would not be swept away, no matter how strong the wind.”

The result is a smartly designed rooftop garden brimming with plantings and designated spaces for staff to utilise and enjoy. “Green spaces, particularly in built-up urban environments, have been proven to reduce stress levels, encourage activity and improve social interaction,” adds Ian. “This ideology sat perfectly with Pentana’s goals for their staff. When I go back to maintain the garden, I notice that now the cafe is empty and the garden is full!”

Written by April Ossington

Photography by Claire Takacs