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BY JONATHAN LERNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM WESTPHALEN

Wagner Hodgson’s assignment for a lakeside estate in Vermont required subtle deletions, essential corrections, and thematic consistency.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The property is a stubby peninsula jutting west into Lake Champlain. The lake is nearly two miles wide here. Beyond it, in New York, the tiered peaks of the Adirondacks appear flattened and monochromatic, blurring as they recede into the distance. Given the setting, the place seems even more expansive than its 140 acres. But the grandeur is counterbalanced by the land’s gentleness—it has the unassertive quality characteristic of Vermont’s culture, if not of the state’s more typical mountainous terrain. From a country road, you turn onto a half-mile-long drive. The approach runs between meadows, where sheep from an adjacent farm are grazed, before entering a wood and then curving toward the house. From here, 30 feet below through the filter of trees, the lake gleams slate blue.

Bays scoop out the north and south shores of the peninsula, shaping it like an anvil; the west shore runs for 2,000-plus feet along the lake proper. The main house sits in neat, tree-dotted lawns near the anvil’s southern point. It’s grand in scale, and traditional though restrained in style. There’s a pool and pool house, and a carriage house that doubles as entertaining space. Both are well spaced from the house and each other and visually buffered, at least in summer, by planting areas: There’s a curve of river birches undergirded by Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’), Astilbe, and a mix of sage and grass varieties, and separately, a little grid of honey locusts. Farther away, past an intervening sweep of woods, a guesthouse overlooks the south bay. A quarter mile from that, above the north bay, sits a smaller second guesthouse. Near that structure, but also shielded by trees, there’s a reconstructed antique barn. Aside from a short steep drop down to the lake all around, the land has only soft contours. As a whole, of course, this estate is plenty splendid. But its buildings are scattered, and unostentatious. Sight lines are veiled by the skeins of trees. There is no hill to provide a commanding view of the place all at once. When you’re there, it feels understated and quiet.

The Burlington, Vermont, firm Wagner Hodgson was hired in 2014 to create a coherent master plan that would transform the abandoned farm property into a working estate. That required addressing woodland management, shoreline protection, field restoration for sheep husbandry, management of agricultural runoff, siting of outbuildings, and establishment of outdoor living spaces for the client family. The property had been neglected. Some fields had been in agricultural use, but wooded areas including the lakefront bluffs had become overgrown and thick with invasives. “Before, all the way up to the house, you couldn’t even tell there was a lake here,” says H. Keith Wagner, FASLA, who was the principal in charge on the project. “You couldn’t see the house either,” until you’d come right up to it. A big part of the job came down to editing. Wagner says, “It wasn’t only what you added; it was what you subtracted.” Thinning of trees along the bluff now allows views to the water as you get close. And selective removal neatly “opened up a shot,” as Wagner puts it, between remaining trees, to provide a 400-foot head-on prospect from the curve of the driveway right to the front of the house. You glimpse the building for a moment—it’s a stately one, well served by that long view—before passing back among trees that intermittently screen it, and finally arriving at the door.

Editing, of course, involves not only deletion but also elaboration and punctuation. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Kua Bay Residence is a simple pitched roof pavilion that works as an enticing collector of ocean views. Photo by Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA.

More than half of the world’s anchialine ponds are located on Hawai‘i, also known as the Big Island. They’re formed when fresh water flows downward toward the ocean through porous volcanic rock and mixes with salt water pushed inland by wave action. Where the shoreline dips below sea level with sizable crevices, pools of water are exposed at the surface. It’s a brackish mix, though the salinity can vary, as can the depth and size of anchialine ponds. Some can be more than a dozen acres wide; others are smaller than a bathtub. These pools were vital to native Hawaiians, who would harvest shrimp (such as the ‘ōpae‘ula red shrimp) for food or bait, or use larger ponds closer to shore with higher salinity levels as fishponds. Freshwater ponds were used for drinking water and bathing.

Anchialine pools are characteristic of the landscape of the Big Island, the site of the Kua Bay Residence, and were a source of inspiration for its landscape architect, Ron Lutsko Jr., ASLA, of San Francisco-based Lutsko Associates Landscape. Like the pools themselves, the project has an intimate connection to water defined by the rock-face crevices at its border, and it offers cloistered shelter for local and native species amid an otherwise beautifully barren landscape. The project is a recipient of both a Northern California ASLA award and, most recently, a 2019 ASLA Professional Award. (more…)

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FOREGROUND

Atlas of Abandonment (Interview)
Jill Desimini, ASLA, discusses her new book on vacancy.

One Fish, More Fish (Habitat)
Scott Scarfone, ASLA, is working on his own time to conserve brook trout,
sometimes swimming upstream.

FEATURES

Home Away From No Home
Brice Maryman, ASLA, has spent the past few years studying homelessness from a landscape perspective and learning that understanding it precedes design.

Tunnel Vision
When the time came to retire a big coal transport depot in Sydney, residents mobilized to keep the site public, which their predecessors had been unable to do a century ago.

The Lawn Is Gone
For clients with a house in Los Angeles, a big, boring patch of grass was not working. When the landscape designer Naomi Sanders was done, you’d never know it had been there.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for August can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting August articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Home Away From No Home,” Brice Maryman, ASLA; “The Lawn Is Gone,” Jennifer Cheung; “Tunnel Vision,” Rebecca Farrell for North Sydney Council; “Atlas of Abandonment,” Jill Desimini, ASLA, published by ORO Editions in From Fallow; “One Fish, More Fish,” Scott Scarfone, ASLA.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Promenade at the Metropolitan is a 40,000-square-foot park space serving a mixed-use multifamily building. Photo by Design Collective/Jennifer Hughes.

The developer James Rouse planned Columbia, Maryland, as a tabula rasa New Town in the 1960s, including ample green space woven throughout, a robust public realm, racially integrated housing, and the ability to make a tidy profit. In many ways, this ambition was realized, but with one important exception: the lack of a lively downtown. An inward-facing mall sits at Columbia’s center, looped by a small ring road, but the city has struggled to bring activity back to its center in recent years.

Just across from the mall’s ring road is the Metropolitan, downtown Columbia’s first mixed-use multifamily residential complex. Its signature amenity is a 40,000-square-foot open space called the Promenade, a hybrid playscape and rain garden intended to be a didactic showcase for stormwater retention and native plantings. (The project won a Merit Award from ASLA Maryland last year). The Promenade encourages kids to have some rambunctious fun while learning a thing or two about how these landscapes can shepherd rainwater from the sky to the ground. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Michael Geffel’s Field Mechanics installation. The site is a former pasture, Christmas tree farm, and nursery. Photo by Michael Geffel, ASLA.

For a few years after his undergraduate studies in geography, Michael Geffel, ASLA, worked as a gardener, performing the most literally and conceptually reductive type of landscape maintenance—weeding.

But after a while, Geffel, now a visiting professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, found his compositional hand here, even if it was glued to a Weedwacker. “Because we’re removing things that are aggregating, we feel we’re not changing anything,” he says. “We’re removing what’s accumulated and we’re trying to keep what’s there. But in the removal, and how we remove these things, there’s all the different outcomes in the landscape.”

It’s an idea he carried with him while in graduate school at the University of Virginia’s landscape architecture program, where Julian Raxworthy, another gardener turned landscape architect with transformative ideas about landscape maintenance, was then a visiting professor. Geffel pitched a thesis on “the generative capacity of maintenance and how it might be a design instrument,” he says, and was on his way. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY JENNIFER REUT

FROM THE MARCH 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

To be honest, you probably won’t notice the landscape design at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) the first time you come. The newest Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., has been a doorbuster—it had one million visitors in the first four months, and 2.5 million visitors in its first year. Timed entry tickets are snapped up three months in advance, and a maze of stanchions clutters the entryways to control the unexpected press of people. The museum’s restaurant, the Sweet Home Café, was a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Foundation Awards. The talismanic objects in the museum’s collection include Nat Turner’s bible and Parliament-Funkadelic’s Mothership, among nearly 37,000 personal objects, photographs, and historical documents. Visitors sometimes have to wait in line just to enter the museum gift shop. There are so many reasons to go to the museum and stay there all day, you might slide right over the landscape.

And that’s partly by design. From early on, the landscape design, by Kathryn Gustafson, FASLA, and Rodrigo Abela, ASLA, of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN), was meant to (more…)

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