SoMa condo garden takes advantage of enclosure

How does a garden grow between buildings?

With The Palms, a 300-unit condominium complex in SoMa near AT&T Park, the challenge for Kevin Conger and his team at CMG Landscape Architecture was to create a green, verdant garden in a space walled in by high towers.

“It was a difficult garden to do, in an environment like that,” Conger says. “The garden is sited on the fourth floor. The garden space is a canyon, and the two sides of the courtyard are only 40 feet apart, with the buildings rising five stories above.”

Conger set about creating a “nontraditional, nonhierarchical garden” that touches all senses.

It looks like an oasis, with tall palm trees, ground cover, ferns, and various perennials and annuals at midheight. It has a surreal look, like an outdoor arboretum.

Conger combined man-made and natural elements into a base of green foliage, with splashes of color. He built and placed giant pavers, which hold the palm trees, on the deck. Then he added shrubs, rooted plants on dirt mounds and designed a medley of tree lights around the area to highlight the garden. 

It’s all about focusing attention on the space — a treat for the eyes. 

With the vertical layout and views from different angles, there are diversions in sight lines — looking up at a palm tree from floor level or down from the buildings at a lush, tropical garden. Even the palm trees rise to different heights.

Conger first set about establishing a meandering path along the garden.

“We wanted it to be like a jungle, where the plants and concrete planters are bigger than you are,” he says.

He and his team allowed no direct sight lines through the garden. They wanted it to feel like a self-enclosed playground.

They first precast concrete that was custom-designed for planters, and made a mold to hold the large amount of soil and giant palms.

They filled the planters with big chunks of slag-blue material and added LED lights for drama.

Everything is self-contained. There’s no dirt underneath the garden; its base is concrete pavement on top of a parking garage.

The team planted different kinds of palms, including Royals, added ferns, philodendron and banana trees, some 15 feet tall, and mounded everything up with rich, lightweight soil.

They crafted a field of lights with ring patterns on the ground, lit in such a way that palms become tree canopies. And at night, the garden becomes a fantasy delight.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The sidewalk on Egbert Avenue in the Bayview recently was cluttered with car parts, tires and other junk. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
New surveillance effort aims to crack down on illegal dumping

’We want to make sure we catch people who are trashing our streets’

The recall election for California Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled for Sept. 14. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF could play a big role in overcoming Democrat apathy, driving voter turnout for Newsom

San Francisco voters are not used to swaying elections. Just think of… Continue reading

Health care workers treat a Covid-19 patient who needs to be intubated before being put on a ventilator at Providence St. Mary Medical Center during a surge of cases in Apple Valley, Dec. 17, 2020. Confronted with surging infections, California became the first state in the country to mandate coronavirus vaccines or testing for state employees and health-care workers. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
In California, a mix of support and resistance to new vaccine rules

By Shawn Hubler, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Soumya Karlamangla New York Times SACRAMENTO… Continue reading

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

Most Read