Planting on Structures – a Greener Infill

Tom Letherbarrow


Perth has had the highest rate of population growth of any state or territory in the past 10 years, and is grappling with massive urban sprawl. If metropolitan areas continue to grow by building large, detached houses on the urban fringe, many residents will miss out on suitable housing options, researchers say.

That level of growth prompts a reasonable level of trepidation within the community about the negative effects of increased density. Urban infill and increased density are fraught topics in Perth’s established suburbs, but proponents say the solution lies in good design.



Design WA, the draft planning policy for residential development has recently been considered by the Western Australian Planning Commission and will shortly be forwarded to the Minister for Planning for determination.

Along with several of our peers, Hillam Architects were engaged by WAPC to conduct testing of provisions of these new Design WA apartment design guidelines. We were suitably impressed with the majority of objectives that allow developers to respond to the characteristics of each site to create innovative and diverse design solutions.


The landscaping section calls for provision of deep soil so that new trees can grow to full maturity and the retention of existing tree canopies to provide shade for our hot summers. The policy in full promises better engagement at street level and sympathetic contextual responses within suburbs.

While the Design WA apartment design guidelines are yet to be ratified by the Minister, we played close attention to many of the objectives in our latest proposal for an infill project on the west side of the Claremont Oval – Lucent Apartments. In particular, the project makes close reference to the landscape and planting objectives by carefully placing trees in cantilevered planter boxes across the building facades.

While Lucent’s constrained site struggled to achieve the ‘deep soil’ area landscape requirement, the ‘planting on structures’ was seen as an appropriate alternative. An integrated, common reticulation system, tree anchoring and attention to detail will ensure the longevity of the tree species. This integrated planting contributes to the urban ecology while also providing shade, wind protection and a beautiful outlook to adjacent apartments.

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