Hollander Design’s Stephen Eich on Landscape Architecture in CRE

By Published On: April 29, 20226 min read

With the rise of sustainability in commercial real estate, it makes sense that many developers and architects are upping the ante on their landscape design. After all, landscape design is not an afterthought. As Stephen Eich, the Urban Studio Director of Hollander Design said, “It’s more than just potting plants.”

After all, more retail spaces are opting for private gardens, as are multifamily properties, which have their own outdoor alcoves. Commercial properties are demanding more outdoor space for tenants, whether it is weather-protected alcoves to sit under, tree-filled terraces or rooftop urban gardens.

A bustling sidewalk is rendered in front of a modern apartment high rise.

Press images courtesy Hollander Design

At Hollander Design, Eich has created landscape design for a number of multifamily and commercial properties, including 11 Hoyt, 27,000-square-foot outdoor space for residents in Brooklyn, including a sun deck, spa, forested walking path, garden and community gathering space. He also worked on the luxury Manhattan tower at 111 Murray, which now has a private garden exclusively for residents.

He created the terrace at 55 Hudson Yards, a 10,000 square-foot landscaped terrace that wraps around the office building. The space has a wellness edge to its amenity package, including stylish wooden benches, airy meeting spaces and a wealth of plants throughout both the interior outdoor areas.

The firm’s design philosophy is rooted in healthy, sustainable living for both their clients and their environments. Eich talked to Leverage.com about his thoughts on the intersection between urban design and sustainability, and rooftop gardens.

What do you do at Hollander Design?

Landscape architecture. What I specialize in is urban or constructed environments. Complex things, like a relationship between a built structure and a natural landscape.

A greenspace is scene from above.

Press images courtesy Hollander Design

What are you working on right now?

We have 40 projects on the go. 50% of that is the commercial development office world. We just wrapped up 11 Hoyt in downtown Brooklyn. We recently completed the courtyard at the Lantern House, too.

A shared workspace is accented with greenery.

Press images courtesy Hollander Design

How in-demand are private gardens, with the rise of wellness amenities?

At the beginning of the pandemic there was a slowdown of demand for the CRE market for new developments. We’ve seen it tick up over the past year. A lot of office landlords are reaching out to us, asking how they can enhance their outdoor spaces, use them better, which are attached to vacant office spaces, more speculative designs for new tenants that want outdoor space attached to their offices.

What are developers wanting for their landscape design for offices?

I think we have access to the outdoors, but how are they used? People want access to outdoor spaces for fresh air. That connection with nature. At the same time, they don’t want to be inconvenienced by precipitation. There is a trend of a covered garden experience where you get all the benefits of being outdoors but not risking the negative aspects of being outdoors, especially with office environments — people bring their laptops outdoors to work outside, but what if it’s raining? People don’t want to damage their phones or electronics. Everyone wants greenery and wants to work where they’re most comfortable.

A courtyard is filled with plantlife.

Press images courtesy Hollander Design

What makes 11 Hoyt special for downtown Brooklyn compared to the other condos going up in that area? The skyline is on fire.

The area is a bit of a desert when it comes to green spaces. You have Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fort Greene Park on the other side, but that whole downtown zone is void of green spaces. One of the things early on the architects wanted to emphasize was bringing greenery to this downtown urban city block. It resulted in a 30,000 square foot rooftop terrace that has all of the components of the parks, and is a flex use space for socializing, walking and sitting for its residents.

What landscape trends do you see coming this year?

There has been a desire to incorporate a bit more of a component where herb gardens or community gardens are on the rooftops now. Especially with multifamily developments and office spaces, this is going to become more popular. People mostly want to know where their food is coming from, and they want it grown locally. They’re growing their own fruits and vegetables in individual plots. It still might be taken care of by a condo’s gardener, but it’s there for the residents.

Press images courtesy Hollander Design

Vertical farming is taking off, too. How many rooftops are you working on?

We have between 12 to 20 rooftops we’re working on in the office right now. It is more busy than usual. 11 Hoyt, we are so proud of it. We were brought into the project early on. We got to work with the structural engineers, so we took advantage of every square foot of space. The residents love it.

Why is the design elliptical with rounded edges and a bit futuristic?

It’s all based on the shape of a monarch butterfly. Everything done at 11 Hoyt is related to a monarch butterfly — including the plant selection. The migratory path of the butterfly goes along the Hoyt, so we wanted to create a stopping point. We are continuing to feed and pollinate the gardens and landscapes throughout the entire city. That was a huge trademark to launch that initiative. It’s an ethos we’re employing in all of our city gardens now.

Stephen Eich

Stephen Eich | Press images courtesy Hollander Design

Where do you get your greenery?

A lot of it is grown on Long Island, all the way down to Maryland. All is coming from the northeast. Great native perennial farms in CT, too. We are looking for trees that look good in the wintertime. London plane trees, and on rooftops we do river birch, Japanese maple trees and flower trees like cherry blossom trees and crabapples, its welcoming of ‘we’re over the hurdle of winter and bringing life back to the city.’

Has social media changed how architecture is viewed or how we experience it?

It has had an impact on every part of our lives, no difference with design or architecture. For us it’s all about a story behind why we’re doing something, and we hope that is picked up by social media. It certainly has impacted design thinking.

What is the most misunderstood part of landscape design or architecture?

A lot of people see it as just planting gardens, planting a hedge, and adding flowers to pots. That’s a misconception. We touch everything above water around a building. We touch everything on the outside of a building. Architects are often the leads on most design projects. We’re starting to see a shift where we’re seeing a shared responsibility between landscape architects and architects. The value of outdoor space, especially in a city, is that an outdoor garden is just as important as finishes and amenities inside a building.

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