Two years ago, Matt Blesso, a real estate developer, bought a 3,100 sq ft apartment in lower Manhattan.  He dreamed of  an apartment with beautiful rooftop gardens, and wanted to be surrounded by nature even in the heart of the city. Not having much of a green thumb as a real estate mogul, he turned his apartment over to two Yale professors. The duo was comprised of Joel Sanders, the architect, and Diana Balmori, the landscape architect, who teach a course together called , all about uniting architecture and landscape design.

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The task presented to Sanders and Balmori was, on the surface, to create a stunning rooftop garden and bring the flora indoors. This Manhattan apartment, however, proved to be an opportunity to rectify the fact that landscaping is often an after-thought in architectural projects. Here, Sanders and Balmori seek to inspire architects to believe that the integrity of the built environment does rely on how its hardscape and softscape meet.

The rooftop garden boasts an inclined herb garden, which acts as a roof for the bulkhead covering the interior stairs. A stainless-steel outdoor kitchen, outdoor movie screen, and hot tub can also be found somewhere amongst the shrubs, trees, and billowing grasses. And tucked away against the bulkhead and herb garden is an outdoor shower, which is very befitting of a 35-year-old bachelor, set to be named one of the 100 top bachelors by .

Indoors, the designers integrated nature with hard woods, loads of access to natural light, and plenty of foliage. Edenic bliss can be found in the master bathroom, where the mirror is surrounded by peace lily, peperomia and prayer plants.  These plants were specifically chosen so the large leaves would not clog the drain when they dropped off. The interior floor is cork tile and tajibo, a South American wood that is FSC-certified.

Even in all the architectural flurry, the bachelor pad is not without its quirks. The master bathroom is enclosed in glass making it visible from most of the apartment. However, to get some privacy all Mr. Blesso has to do is flick a button and the glass turns translucent. Blesso also had much of the artwork for the apartment commissioned. The most prominent work is a graffiti mural by the graffiti-style artist Doze Green, which makes the living room appear like it has been tagged.

Now we don’t claim that this apartment has many sustainable design features besides the FSC-certified flooring and the use of daylighting, but we like the extensive use of nature both indoors and outdoors. After all, good landscape design can make a big difference in water consumption and air quality. We can’t even fathom having 3,100 square feet of living space in Manhattan, but we do applaud Mr. Blesso for making his rooftop a beautiful garden.


Images ©LaurieLambrecht, 2008