Terrace With A View

Amazing city views. A rooftop escape. Our design/build team opens up a penthouse floor plan with outdoor living in multiple rooms, all set against an unbelievable skyline backdrop.

The magnificence of this project is due in part to its incredible location – the rooftop of a Chicago Highrise. With views to blue-gray skyscrapers in the west and out over Lake Michigan in the east, this location had a reservoir of untapped potential. The space began as an uninspired area for the family to spend time outdoors: although the rooftop was accessible, it was simply bare turf and flat paving. Although the Chicago skyline is a unique resource for a home to have, it is equally important that it be accompanied with comfort and an appealing setting. The design intent was to do just that: use landscape elements to screen the area off from unwanted visibility while still allowing for unobstructed views to the east and west.

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Early on, this project required ingenuity. As the rooftop was 33 stories up and in the midst of the city, crews would have to carry materials to the top floor via the service elevator. Weight limits placed a heavy burden on the materials that could be used, that would still be strong enough to sustain high winds. During construction, the wind would require that all materials be tied down, while the scale of the project meant that all features would need to be built on the rooftop itself. This would mean that all planters needed to be custom built onsite. Even the planters’ sizes were limited by what could fit through the door. But these limitations became the catalysts for innovation. The team was able to create everything that was asked for: a dining area, a private nook built around a fire table, lounge space, and multiple viewing bars on the edges of the rooftop.

Integrating plants into this unique location was met with similar ingenuity. Specially crafted aluminum tree planters, resilient yet lightweight, cradle a variety of birch, juniper, and evergreens, as these specimens are well-known for their ability to handle high winds. Sedum grasses create an intriguing, yet undemanding, groundcover when paired with a layer of wind-resistant lapistone to anchor the plants. Farther along the perimeter is a viridescent frame of blooming shrubs like hydrangea and crabapple.

Today the rooftop is a fluid transition from the clients’ indoor living spaces. The addition of abundant plant life, given the nature of the location, humanizes the area by juxtaposing urban splendor and natural grace. There are opportunities for every day, whether your preferences reside in a tranquil morning at one of the viewing bars, a satisfying afternoon of grilled entrees, or a more moody atmosphere next to the fire table in the evening. The project is proof that any location can be made into a versatile addition to your home – with a touch of imagination and expertise.

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