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The Vertical Slice Garden
A Slice of Modern Design

Landscape Architecture by Landworks Studio


Landworks Studio designed a garden for a set of two 41-story towers in Taichung, Taiwan. The garden sits on a narrow slice of land between buildings and is adorned with a unique water wall featuring tropical rock dwelling plants. The vertical water feature draws on the aesthetics of pixilation, using the rock wall's individual stone units to create a large canvas, bringing the individual 'pixels' in and out of focus.
Photo credit: Eric Hung.

The Vertical Slice Garden sits at the base of two 41-story towers situated in Taichung's dense West District. Located in a place of daily interaction adjacent to the ground floor lobby and common spaces for the tower, the narrow sliver of landscape allocated to the garden mandates a design that mediates the scale and density of the city. The garden provides sensory immersion as a way of momentarily transporting the visitor away from the everyday experience of city life.

All five senses are tantalized, whether through the tactility of the faceted stone modules that compose the garden's walls, the sound and spray of water cascading across the stones, or the subtle scent of the lush green panels of tropical rock-dwelling plants such as Asplenium, Nephrolepis, and Anthurium, which provide moments of visual refuge. These materials subtly reflect and refract natural light to provide relief from an otherwise dim setting exacerbated by northern exposure, pervasive shadow from high-rise buildings, and the city's perpetually gray, smog-laden sky.


At this section of the wall, water cascades down the stone face into the pool and flows over the pool's front edge into a trench drain at the edge of the courtyard garden. A continuous weir located at the top of the wall along the hedge supplies the feature with water circulating from pumps housed within the wall.
Photo credit: Eric Hung.

The Vertical Slice Garden walls set the scale of experience. As one moves closer, intricate geometries are revealed. The stone pattern was conceived as a massive canvas, where light is the medium and the stones act as pixels, seen as individual units up-close and as a singular composition from afar. Through the operations of flipping, rotating, aggregating, and modulating depth, five stone modules of three different sizes (10cm x 10cm, 10cm x 20cm, and 20cm x 20cm) were arranged in many combinations. The field conditions generated by these modules come in and out of focus depending on whether the stones are veiled by moving water or called into stark definition in their dry state.

The water flows from a continuous weir at the top of the wall along the tall hedge planter to the collecting pool which spills over the pool wall to the continuous trench drain, circulating from filters and pumps housed within the wall/planter structure. In addition to blurring and highlighting the modular pattern of the stone walls, water falling over the faceted stones generates soothing white noise that provides momentary separation from the sounds of the city. The environmental conditions and human experience of the space are further improved by the carbon sequestration and oxygen production of the garden's plants, which provide relief from the city's relentless smog, and the cooling mists flowing off the moving water, which provide respite from the city's heat and humidity.


The wall's individual stone units were designed to be seen as a composition from afar and singular units up-close. The changing light conditions fluctuate during the day and throughout the year, a sublte perception of day and season.
Photo credit: Eric Hung.

The Vertical Slice Garden's water features invoke a misty, craggy canyon that comes alive as a shimmering vertical landscape as it manipulates and maximizes the site's scarcest and most valuable resource: sunlight. As light conditions change throughout the day and over the passing of the year, the perception of the garden changes to give a subtle indication of the current time and season. Over time the garden's stone walls will develop patinas that will elegantly signify the garden's age.

The project posed unique sequencing challenges in that Landworks' Studio was commissioned for fast-track landscape design after building construction was well underway: at the time of commission, many of the concrete walls, foundations, and footings were already in place. As a result, the design had to adapt not only to the demands of an accelerated construction schedule, but also to the constraints of existing structures. Given the compressed schedule and resultant sequencing challenges, the design process skirted typical shop drawings and mock-ups.



A tapestry of optical effects are created as water and light flow in and around the precision cut stones. As the stones dry, they create a sharp contrast of shadows cast from direct and refracted sunlight.
Photo credit: Landworks Studio.

In a process that required coordination and cooperation beyond the norm, highly skilled local craftsmen worked directly from diagrams and images of the designer's full-scale foam mock-ups using very few technical drawings to quickly build full-scale mock-ups of stone and plants on site. Following thorough field reviews by Landworks Studio, stone was then quickly quarried nearby, allowing for rapid completion of the project. The garden's success relied on this close collaboration between designer and builder.

This small yet vibrant garden of stone, water, and plants transformed an otherwise narrow, dark, and unpleasant space into a glistening gem that evokes urban and mountainous canyons to provide a healthy, carefully-scaled, and sensorial respite from the environmental and psychological stressors of city life. In both its unique, contextual concept and its innovative, collaborative design and construction process, the Vertical Slice Garden is truly a contemporary landscape.


Axonometric drawings of the five stone module variations were used to create the stone wall canvas. As a testament to their skill, local craftsmen, working from foam mock-ups and very little technical drawings, cut and installed each module on site.

Vertical Slice Garden (at The Park)
Client: Pao Huei Development Company
Project Location: Taichung, Taiwan
Project Size: 236 m2 (2,544 ft2)
Status: Completed 2010

Landworks Studio Team:
Michael Blier, ASLA, Principal-In-Charge, Design Director
Kris Lucius, ASLA, Project Designer
Jackie Martinez, Landscape Designer

Other Project Team Members:
Builder: Pao Huei Development Company, Taichung, Taiwan
Living wall system consultant: Ele Garden Landscape Construction Co, Taichung, Taiwan
Lighting Designer: Lighting Design Alliance, Los Angeles, CA

Award: Boston Society of Landscape Architects 2012 Merit Award, Landscape Art Category


Plant Selection

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2017.

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