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Project Description

YORK, PA // Award winner

The site for this project faces east and exists at the back of the residence at the edge of a suburban neighborhood. The primarily flat yard prior to the installation was characterized by traditional foundation planting and turf grass. A building setback line established through a neighborhood covenant restricted the boundary for the use of the hardscape materials.

The architecture of the residence is primarily colonial with contemporary embellishments. The clients desired to extend their contemporary styled interior into the garden for the purpose of relaxing and dining. In addition to contemporary styling they requested some form of fire, a pergola and a space to use their outdoor grille. The garden would also need to accommodate up to fifteen friends for entertaining.

The designer’s intent for the garden was to create a series of contemporary garden “rooms” that would possess a minimal sculptural quality achieved through the arrangement of a reduced vocabulary of materials. The hardscape materials consist of Italian Travertine for the paving and steps, stucco over block for the walls and cast architectural concrete for the wall caps, fireplace surround and hearth.

The garden is functionally and aesthetically divided by a large center wall that contains a gas fireplace on one side and a water wall on the other. The fireplace provides the clients with warmth and a sense of comfort. In addition to the surround of architectural concrete the fireplace features a cantilevered chimney and a switch for starting the gas fire for spontaneous occasions. On the opposite side a focal point exists in the form of a Brazilian slate tiled water wall where a perfect reflective sheet of water spills over the edge of the tile into a pool below. The tiles were cut into various width strips and laid vertically along the wall. The subtle sound of water helps to mitigate the sound of traffic while the reflective qualities of the water assist in creating an atmosphere of relaxation the clients desired.

A gate off the driveway allows entrance to the garden. The gate is constructed of Spanish cedar with powder coated rails to support the pickets. The gate hardware consists of a black brass knob set and hinges. The minimal appearance of the gate complements the pergola in the lower area. The dining area is nestled with a low knee wall that is capped with cast architectural concrete. A recessed area constructed for the client’s grille is just off the dining area and features a plate up area to the left of the grille. Closer to the house the clients have a small bar table with chairs used for breakfast. Steps flanking the fireplace lead to the lower area. The area in front of the water wall has Travertine slabs set in a series of linear pads with Travertine edging surrounding the pads. The spaces between the pads are planted with Thyme. Beyond this area is a space defined by a pergola. The columns of the custom pergola are constructed of sheets of Atek. A powder coated angle iron beam was fabricated to support the stained cedar stringers. The pergola draws you to the lower area and anchors the garden providing an axial view of the water wall. Contemporary light fixtures add further architectural interest and extend the clients use of the space into the evening.

Hicksii Yew hedging along the driveway edge will mature to a height containing the dining space and eclipsing the view of the driveway. Three Honey locust define the other side of the dining area with ‘Manhattan’ Euyonomus planted behind the HoneyLocust. The two eventually will provide a hierarchy of material creating a linear window between the canopy of the Locust and the hedge of the Euyonomus. A series of Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ holly are used as baffle hedges running perpendicular to the living spaces. The hedges serve as a divider among the perennial and ornamental grass blocks which are primarily set at a forty five degree angle to the hardscape spaces. The perpendicular arrangement of the Ilex contradicts the traditional use of hedging supporting the contemporary theme. The perennials and grasses have three to four season interest with foliage, flowers and seed heads.

The contemporary use of traditional devices and plantings to create a garden with sculptural architectural lines has given the space a sublime quality with dramatic impact. The clients love the space and are excited to see the garden mature.