M E I E R S T R E E T R E S I D E N C E
L A N D S C A P E
M A R V I S T A , C A L I F O R N I A
The scope of this project included the re-landscaping and re-hardscaping of a one- level single-family home, designed by Gregory Ain, in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. In 1947, Gregory Ain, one of the more prominent mid-century modernist Architects in Los Angeles, had designed 52 similar homes on a couple of city blocks in Mar Vista. Landscape architect Garret Eckbo worked along side Ain to provide landscape design for these 52 homes. This small development project from the 1940’s has been designated as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. We, at Archive Design Group, are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create a design in dialogue with one of these historical homes.
ISSUES WITH EXISTING SITE
Over the years there had been a certain amount of divergence from and additions to Garret Eckbo’s original plant palette and landscape organization. These changes included a circular concrete pad 10’ in diameter, a dry-stack concrete retaining wall with a subtle curve to deal with the slight elevation change between the rear of the back of the home and the rear perimeter fence, and a number of various types of plants.The grade change from the back entry of the house to rear of the backyard, though it was slight, had to be addressed. The majority of the back wall of the perimeter fence sits about 18” higher than the finished floor of the interior of the home.There were a number of pre-existing mature specimen plants, among these was a 40’ tall brazlian pepper tree. This tree, though it is sculpturally beautiful and clearly the central focal point of the backyard, did create a number of guidelines for any addition to the yard.Though Brazilian Pepper Trees are relatively resilient, treading lightly on the critical root zone was necessary. Also,the canopy of this very large tree made for a dramatic gradient of sunlight exposure on the ground level from one side of the site to the other. The few existing mature specimen plants from the landscaping’s initial conception would remain and would have to be addressed in a sensitive manner. Any new additions would have to be integrated seamlessly.
DESCRIPTION OF CONCEPTUAL PLAN STUDIES
In general, we approached organizational strategies from a more minimalist standpoint. It was important for us to find a balance of occupiable programmatic space and more decorative uninhabitable elements. The occupiable spaces could be for seating, play/leisure, or gathering. The more decorative uninhabitable spaces would serve more to enhance the experience of being in the occupiable areas.
DESIGN STRATEGIES AND SOLUTIONS
Our main goals were to integrate the landscape with the interior of the home as an outdoor living space, bring a sense of intention to the spatial planning of the landscape, and to create a sense of cohesion within the plant palette.Our intention was not to recreate Eckbo’s design, but rather to compliment some of the remaining original elements and to integrate them seamlessly with our contribution.Our design includes four main elements which concentrically frame each other: A rectangular center island of pavers and lawn, a sea of gravel, the central specimen Brazilian Pepper Tree, and a perimeter greenscreen.To create a flexibility of programmatic use for the yard we wanted to balance hardscape for tables and chairs, and a softscape grass area for play/leisure activities. We aligned the grid of large ( 2’ x 6’ ) poured-in-place pavers with the side of the house with the access points to the interior and used the other side, which has a greater level of sun exposure, for a small grass lawn.The main living spaces of the home face the the backyard. The pavers are seemingly on grade with the finished floor of the living room, to act as an extension of living space to the outdoors We surrounded the rectangular backyard with a lush greenscreen of vegetation. The only existing plants left to remain were two mature Pittasporum, a few large Australian and Tasmanian Tree Ferns, two tall slender Yuccas and a row of Podocarpus. To name a few, we added a variety of Tree Ferns, and Philodendrons,Taro, low lying plants such as Birdsnest Ferns, Souther Sword Ferns, Japanese Dwarf Juniper, and Irish Moss. Groups of the same species of plants were clustered and rivered rather than sporadically placed. This greenscreen would act as a visual backdrop for both the interior of the home and a buffer between the backyard and the perimeter fence.We used a berm of earth and low-lying plants to reinforce this lush vertical greenscreen and to address the 18” grade change from the finished floor of the interior to the perimeter of the yard.The grid of pre-cast pavers, which is separated by lines of Irish Moss, sits alongside the rectangular lawn, and together they form a larger rectangular island of occupiable outdoor space. This island sits in a sea of 1 1/2” “Black Rain” gravel. This sea of gravel separates the center island from the perimeter greenscreen and the house. The more organic lines of the connection between the berm/perimeter greenscreen and the gravel then softly frame the rectilinear grid of pavers and lawn.
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