Even the smallest projects can benefit from a little design expertise. Otto Architects’ Urban Garden, completed last summer, takes a barren 12-by-17-foot backyard in Philadelphia and turns it into a gracious outdoor room. Vines irrigated with captured rainwater cover the 6-foot-high walls, while salvaged, graffiti-covered boards clad the vertical surfaces of built-in planters, seating, and a metal-topped bar.

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