"Garden apartment" redefined in new green apartment building


Architect/developer Sebastian Mariscal designed and is expecting to build a 44-unit apartment building in densely-populated Boston where most of the space you'd expect to be used for parking spots is instead given over to a variety of gardens. There's a 7,000 public garden on the ground level and a roof that's 70 percent dedicated to community gardening. Meanwhile, each living unit includes a 144 square foot "outdoor room… full of vegetation."

"The Apartment Complex of Tomorrow—0 Parking Spots, 46 Personal Garden Spaces" (TakePart)

While Mariscal's original design only had six parking spaces, meant for rentals, and he only planned to rent to tenants who didn't own cars, the community was concerned that tenants would own cars anyway and park them on the street. So the architect added 35 spots to his plans and has apparently received preliminary approval to build from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. (Universal Hub, thanks Lis Riba!)


  1. Small-scale gardening is pretty inefficient generally; but if it makes car ownership harder, less convenient and more expensive, I’m all for it. A great lifestyle outcome from projects like this. Less convincing from an environmental perspective, but hey, we’re all screwed anyway.

    1. Other benefits – even if no one decides not to buy a car because of this, it gives people a pleasant hobby close to home, instead of driving more places on more afternoons.

      Taking a broader definition of “environment”, it has an additional environmental benefit – fewer bleak parking lots to walk past, and more nice gardens, makes for a more pleasant urban environment.

    2. Though small-scale gardening may begenerally inefficient, I don’t think it has to be.  Using raised beds / cover crops / “intensive” planting methods and smart polycultures, it is possible to cover one’s own food needs on 700 square feet (according to some claims) with relatively low labor input and no fertilizer.  It would be really exciting to see an apartment that actually encourages smart methods like that instead of just plugging in a garden for the property value.

      1. Also update:

        “There’s a 7,000 public garden on the ground level…”
        Should be:

        “…7,000 square foot…”

  2. Stepping up with sustainable development is laudable; it’d be nice if there was any sign that this was affordable housing, as well.

    I’m reminded to mention that the Center for Human Centered Design is also in Boston: http://humancentereddesign.org.

    1.  Any new housing inside Boston makes housing more affordable in Boston, even it’s it’s the most luxurious Yuppie shack imaginable.

  3. As pointed out here http://boingboing.net/2013/03/26/why-architects-should-stop-dra.html the rooftop garden is rather likely to quickly turn into a rooftop wind-blasted dirt patch that is incapable of sustaining plant life, and showers dust down to street level whenever the wind picks up until the soil is finally all eroded away.

      1. True.  And the building is shown on a featureless white background – there could be surrounding buildings that shelter it.

      2. I live in a second floor condo and have about 50 potted plants ranging from 8″ pots to half-barrels.  Besides the whole falling-over problem, I’ve had small trees completely stripped on a number of occasions.  I’m about 12 feet over ground level.

        Also, 15 out of the top 25 cities with the highest average wind speeds in the US are in eastern Massachusetts.

  4. It would be totally possible to live without a car where the project is sited (Union Sq. Allston).  There’s a major grocery store right around the corner and it’s pretty close to quite a bit of public transportation.  A lot of people in the neighborhood don’t have cars (or want them).  If you need a car Boston has Zipcar with some locations in the neighborhood.  I don’t think the developer is crazy at all to ask tenants to not have a car.  I didn’t have a driver’s license in Boston until my mid-30’s.

    1. I lived in Allston in my early-20s. When I moved there, I too was certain I’d never need nor get a car, because Boston is so drivable. Then my employer moved from Cambridge to North Reading…

  5. Less car use in a built up urban area is beneficial to everybody, lower public transit costs such as buss and taxi fares. 
    Small-scale gardening is more efficient.  The waste in large scale crop production is just hidden behind the curtain. 

  6. It’s a shame that the permitting authorities and community couldn’t have taken a chance on less parking space. Accomodating MORE cars is not a real solution to the problem of congestion in Boston. Condo covenants and rental restrictions can reduce the likelihood of the kind of problems they hope to mitigate.. I doubt this project would have any trouble attracting tenants/buyers/investors who are already committed to finding alternatives to the current car culture and would be proud to live by the standards implied in the design.

    I’ll have to take some issue with your assertions, dragonfrog. The last time I saw the living roof at the Vancouver Convention Centre it was shimmering with grass, not a dusty nuisance. The living roof at the Old Country Market in Coombs, BC requires goats to keep the greenery down. The roof at Randy Bachman’s place on Saltspring isn’t blowing away. Nor is the one at the Desert Heritage Centre, in sandy, windy Osoyoos.  Like most building systems, living roofs aren’t appropriate for every application, but neither do they merit a complete dismissal. The Pin Oak at the top of  Eugenia Place in Vancouver’s West End looks amazing.

  7. I’m pro-green & anti-cars-in-the-city, but this is a classic case of “LETS BUILD UTOPIA!… STEP #1 EXTERMINATE ALL THE NATIVES.

    The developer will be leveling a beautiful Victorian house which currently houses a bunch of happy-mutant artists & makers. They weren’t  even informed that their long time residence was about to be leveled until they read about the building project in the paper. Since they found out, building management has been threatening them and trying to break into their house and destroy their belongings. 

  8.  Most places have planning by-laws that stipulate at least one parking space be provided on the site for each dwelling. I’m sure this guy knew this and knew his plan wouldn’t fly: not because nearby residents complained (which, who cares, right?) but because it’s pretty clearly codified in law.
    Can be a major pain in the ass, especially when you know that a good chunk of residents won’t need or own a car, and when space is tight and digging down for a parking garage is very expensive.

  9. I can’t wait for architecture to move on past ‘bunch of white boxes stuck together’ It’s been that way for decades, and it’s dull as fuck.

      1.  Yeah really, WHAT in the hell is going on here? This level of uhhggg has to be somewhere in Las Vegas, no?

  10. As a current resident of 37 North Beacon Street, I offer this.
    When it comes to the developers, they have been very pleasent and answered questions we have had, opposed to the current slum-landlord – Arthur Toukhmanian, who along with denying that the property is for sale, is using intimidation tactics and harrassment on the current tenants, for no other reason as he puts it, other than he can. Whether this development happens or not, the City of Allston/Brighton needs to rid itself of slum-lords like Toukhmanian and replace his kind with responsible people who take care of thier property and are fair and honest with thier tenants.

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