Flipping the Script: How to Bring the Outdoors Inside

Flipping the Script: How to Bring the Outdoors Inside

You’ve heard a lot about the desirable indoor/outdoor relationship between architecture and landscape. Many inspiring structures have been built throughout the world to be one with their environment.

Hundreds of architects do an excellent job of blending interior and exterior space with outside in architecture. Regrettably, it’s more common for an interior designer or architect to care about exterior space than for a landscape designer to get involved in the interior spaces. It shouldn’t be that way. Just as it is important for an architect to understand the spaces surrounding architecture, it is essential for a landscape architect to be familiar with what is occurring inside the building.

Rooftop and Urban Design

Designing outdoor space in an urban setting without collaboration between the disciplines is impossible to do well. The density of large cities calls for an even more coordinated approach to design. Urban environments offer unique opportunities to merge interior and exterior spaces in new ways. The limited surface area on the ground for gardens and recreational space means more developments have to position the amenities on the building itself. Because of this, the design of rooftop amenities begins with a very close relationship to architecture.

Interior architecture is inextricably connected to rooftop amenities, outdoor living experiences, and the community at large. And this tight connection is pivotal to the overall success of a development project.

Process Timeline for Outdoor/Indoor Collaboration

Check out our step-by-step method for interacting with other disciplines during a development project to ensure outdoor and indoor synergy.

As rooftop and urban design specialists, we have learned the following lessons about the importance and value of successfully coordinated indoor and outdoor spaces.

Activity and Building Community

During recent post-occupancy visits to some luxury mid-rise apartments downtown, we observed a key difference between two properties. The first features a rooftop pool deck positioned directly between an interior rooftop clubhouse and a separate interior rooftop gym. The rooftop amenities on the second, however, are accessible only by a stair/elevator tower with no relationship with any interior common space.

The amenities at the first are enhanced by the adjacency of the exterior amenities with those of the interior. This relationship makes each space more usable. The different, but related amenities together form a hub of activity. These connected uses provide more opportunities for chance interactions between neighbors. The second property had the opposite effect, with amenities scattered throughout the building.

Feedback from residents in the first building identifies the rooftop as a great place for networking. It is a reliable place to meet new people because it is well-used throughout the day. This activity helps residents feel part of a community and leads to higher occupancy and retention. The space has massive value to the residents and ownership. The rooftop at the second property is less valuable.

A key to connecting indoor and outdoor space is identifying the right organization of uses. Understanding this, architects and landscape architects should work together to create the best arrangement of community space at all levels.


Depending on the climate, outdoor space encounters different amounts of use throughout the year. For some, this may seem like a reason to limit investment in outdoor space. However, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Outdoor space is a major component of the experience within architecture. We saw this principle in action when working on the design of a new allied health building for a technical college. It was important to the school that the campus landscape surrounding the new building provide interesting natural scenery throughout the year to enhance the students’ ability to learn. 

We collaborated with the architect to provide visual interest in the plantings that would cycle throughout the seasons, highlighting different portions of the site from certain viewpoints within the building. Together with the architect, we took it a step further and proposed certain bioclimatic design moves to provide the best experiences within the building throughout the year. For example, deciduous columnar trees against a glass facade provided filtered sunlight and shade to cool the interior seating area and hallway during the summer. During the winter, the trees drop their leaves to allow passive solar heating to warm the space and provide extra natural light.

Fire features, heated pools, and outdoor heaters extend the seasonal use of an outdoor space. Similarly, thoughtful placement of organic material with a focus on the architecture extends the value of outdoor space to the interior experience throughout the seasons.


Every new development is hoping for a strong brand. But few actually get there.

A developer may think that all they need to create a “branded” community is a logo and some signage. Or perhaps a couple of social media accounts.

A true brand is not those things. A true brand is what future tenants think and feel about the property. It is what they hope to experience when they chose to lease the space. The coordinated efforts of the design team is where branding begins.

The more consistent the experience between the outside and inside portions of a project, the stronger the brand will be. We were privileged to collaborate with a visionary architect in the renovation of an indoor/outdoor rooftop amenity for a downtown office complex. The result of our teamwork was a seamlessly integrated indoor parlor and outdoor patio that connected on a deep level. Related custom elements brought the space together. From shelving to shade structures and furniture, each finish and color for the outdoor patio was coordinated with those of the indoor parlor. The creation was irresistible to the high profile office tenants that the project needed for the revamp to be a success.

The subtle connectedness of indoor and outdoor space is almost only perceivable subconsciously, but it has a strong impact. Architects and landscape architects should do their developer clients a favor by considering branded and consistent experiences early on in the design process.

Sales (The Walk)

Indoor/outdoor connectivity sells projects.

We’re in the process of designing a large urban mixed-use development with ground floor retail and apartments above. Four podium level courtyards are lined up across the building with indoor amenities in between. These amenities act as links in a chain, connecting each highly-marketable experience. Imagine how much easier a sale will be for the leasing office as they walk a prospective new tenant through this environment. No awkward elevator rides or long walks down corridors here!

The importance of the sales walk experience is up there with the experience of actually using the space as a tenant. Many of us know from personal experience that just because we may not end up using each and every amenity space all of the time, having access to them is a huge selling point.

Crafting the sales walk experience is a task for both the architect and landscape architect to work on together. It involves the community, seasonality, and branding, but approaches them from a very specific point. Because it forms one continuous experience, it requires a joint outside/inside effort.

Our Obsession with Outside In Architecture

At Loft Six Four we love architecture. We understand that connecting indoor with outdoor space increases the value of both.

Ready to collaborate? Hit us up and let’s see how we can craft some creative indoor/outdoor experiences together.