Relaxed Urban Oasis

Relaxed Urban Oasis


tropical gardens

An inner-city garden oasis with just a hint of Bali
Story & photos: John Storch

The family owned two adjoining properties in inner-Sydney, both of which had very secluded rear gardens. Due to the privacy this afforded and the topography of the site (thought to be located on an old sandstone quarry), it meant it would be an easy task to transform the combined garden spaces into a tropical resort-style escape.

As well as being sheltered from neighbouring properties, the garden spaces were elevated and therefore disjointed from the two residences. This was turned from a constraint to an opportunity by further reinforcing the sense of privacy and seclusion of each area and creating functional, self contained spaces.

A further requirement of the owners was that the overall garden could be easily converted back to two gardens if they ever decided to sell one of the properties. This was resolved by creating two outdoor rooms, each of which relates to the other through the repeated use of water as a design theme and the employment of integrated materials.
One room is comprised of a large lawn area with a reflective pond. This is linked, via a wide paved corridor, to the other room which comprises a swimming pool, water features and a cabana. The paved corridor connecting the two spaces is centred along the length of the swimming pool and creates a strong axial link across the property. This link extends from the dark reflective pond, guarded by a seated sculpture within the lawn area, through to a large piece of art positioned on a plinth adjacent to the swimming pool.

The owners travel extensively throughout Asia for both business and pleasure and love the style of gardens that are typically found in the boutique resorts they frequent. To capture the desired ambience, we utilised numerous pieces of Asian sculpture throughout the project, designed an Asian style pool cabana and built a huge swimming pool with surrounding paved entertaining areas that would do any resort hotel proud.

The elevated pool cabana has been extensively detailed using large recycled timbers, a slatted bamboo ceiling, slate roof tiling, and magnificent iron and timber doors. It even incorporates a modern, beautifully appointed bathroom.

The selection of turquoise coloured Italian glass mosaic interior tiles ensures that the pool colour changes from blue through to green with the reflected moods of the sky. The man-made paving extends into the pool in the form of broad steps and also features as capping on the unusual black stone walls that surround the pool area.

A unique water trench, designed to recirculate the water, surrounds the pool. A side effect of water moving in the trench is a haunting, echoing bell-like sound reminiscent of Balinese percussion music. There is also a tropical-style feature wall at the end of the pool which effectively screens an unsightly roof behind.

The swimming pool and gardens had to be cut into rock. In the process, a natural spring was discovered. This constantly running spring was put to good use, its water piped to feed the numerous water features throughout the extensive gardens.

In their original state, both sites were heavily weed infested. The weeds were removed along with any other unwanted plants, leaving only two central trees, a weeping willow (Salix babylonica) and a southern mahogany (Eucalyptus botryoides).

The planting for the gardens was heavily researched to provide an authentic Asian feel while utilising plants suitable to the temperate climate. All the main trees, palms and shrubs were mature when planted and include an ancient 1000-litre red bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectablis).

The overall result is a relaxed oasis that provides respite from the stresses of work at the end of the day.

About the author: Principal of A Total Concept Landscape Architects, John Storch is a landscape architect and swimming pool designer with more than 20 years experience.