Rooftop gardens – Common open space or private gardens?

We know that rooftop gardens in apartment buildings are a positive for the occupants and environment.  However, we recently had an interesting planning issue with Waverley Council in relation to the renovation of an apartment building in Bondi.

The existing building has a large common rooftop space with over 175sqm available on the fourth floor of a building with only seven apartments. There had been large parties on the rooftop (as expected in Bondi) and the owners had shut down access for social events.

We are working, with the clients and 360 Degrees Landscape Architects,  to design a substantial upgrade of the building and part of the proposal was to convert the, currently barren, common rooftop space to five private roof gardens (the two apartments without roof terraces have private balconies).

Each garden would be separated by planter beds and a screen to maintain privacy and the planter would run around the perimeter of the building to improve the existing privacy levels for the neighbours. Three of the gardens have direct access from the apartments below adding an ease of connection between indoor and outdoor.

Waverley Council and the NSW government via Apartment Design Guide  have a preference for rooftops to be common open space rather that private as there is the idea that this will encourage interaction and community. There are circumstances where this may be accurate however our experience, and the experience of the clients, was that large scale common spaces reduce casual use and encourage large gatherings. The lack of ownership leads to a lack of care and therefore use.

The council recommended maintaining the common open space and the Waverley Planning Panel overruled the recommendation and allowed the conversion to private open space.

We think this is a win for the occupants and the neighbours. The neighbours have greater privacy and reduced noise (with the elimination of large scale parties) and, we are hoping, the occupants benefit  increased use of gardens with panoramic district views.


Plan of the five private terrace - 360 Degrees

Plan of the five private terrace – (360 Degrees Landscape Architects)


Bondi rooftop terrace

Section through the rooftop  (360 Degrees Landscape Architects)

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