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The Mandarin Project – Green Roof Garden on a Parking Garage

By Tobias Wolf

Boston’s Prudential Center has been transformed in recent decades with the construction of new buildings, shopping arcades, and landscapes.

Mandarin Project Photo 6The most recent addition, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, includes a public garden built in 2008 on the roof of a 1964 parking garage.The half-acre garden stands in deliberate contrast to the buildings around it. Its native stone walls, reused brick pavement, and lush plantings give shoppers and hotel guests a chance to step outdoors and experience a taste of the New England landscape beyond the city.

The garden’s plantings are predominantly New England natives, but include non-native plants that are characteristic of New England gardens.

Mandarin Project Photo 4The success of the plantings reflects careful attention to soils and drainage. Custom-designed soils vary in depth from nine inches in lawn areas to nearly three feet around trees.

To reduce loads on the existing structure, the soil rests on lightweight fills that include expanded shale and, in especially sensitive areas, stacked foam insulation panels.

Mandarin Project Photo 3The garden’s native trees and shrubs include:
Red Maple (Acer rubrum),
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea),
American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana),
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis),
Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus),
Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea),
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia),
Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina),
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata),
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styriciflua), Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), Roseshell Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum), Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). The planting of Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) in the hotel’s Boylston Street sidewalk marks the first use of this rugged native as a street tree in downtown Boston.

Project Credits:

• Landscape Architecture: Halvorson Design Partnership Inc.,
Tobias Wolf ASLA, project manager and lead designer
• Soils: Pine and Swallow Environmental Services
• Architecture: CBT Architects
• Lighting: Collaborative Lighting, Inc.
• Developer: CWB Boylston in collaboration with Boston Properties
• General Contractor: Suffolk Construction
• Landscape Contractor: ValleyCrest
• Mandarin Oriental Boston Garden Cross Section – Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.
• Photographs © 2010 Tobias Wolf Landscape Architecture, ASLA

About the Author

Tobias Wolf is a landscape architect who works with homeowners, businesses, and non-profits to make places that are practical, beautiful, and authentic. He has taught at Cornell, RISD, and the Landscape Institute, and will be teaching this winter at the New England Wild Flower Society. You can reach Toby through his website at: