By David Brussat
Dan K. Gordon Associates' garden design represents an effort to preserve the landscape architecture of a neighborhood west of Boston. The garden’s classical approach proposes that this style of landscape exemplifies a vital point on the scenic spectrum of Boston’s historic suburban enclaves. Interest in maintaining their character has grown along with renewed local recognition of their role as a resource to be appreciated.
The client’s desire to strengthen their garden’s link with the community’s verdant environment fits the firm's goals of its sustainability efforts—to improve existing conditions rather than replace. The young family wanted to augment the garden’s role in their home life. A magazine photograph of a classical swimming pool inspired their imaginations, so a pool played a key role in designing a strategy for changes in the garden. Gordon gathered all the client’s desired elements into a confined yard without upsetting the balance of aesthetics and function. The family’s love for their neighborhood’s traditional terrain, and for the garden that survived largely intact since the house was built in 1928, led family members to favor the preservation and restoration of the formal garden, lawns, and plantings.
Matching new stone for the garden wall to that of the house melded the feel of the new into the look of the old. The cross-axial relationship of the house to the garden and the garden to the lawn remains intact. Garden elements include the lawn, its border of hemlock, and the intimate formal boxwood garden. The rectangular pool replaces the raised garden centered on an urn. The urn now becomes the centerpiece of the arcaded niche of the classical lattice screen backdropping the pool.
The pool is from the formal garden and the terrace, but its primary approach is from the lawn and through the recast stone wall breached by a twin set of four low bluestone steps flanking the spa. The spa is a semicircular stone sitting pond, heated and fed by three channeled streams. The family can enjoy a view axially into the pool while on the lawn or obliquely while relaxing on the terrace by the new stone fireplace.
The lattice screen creates a backdrop to the pool terrace and shielding the pool equipment shed from view rivals the garden’s stone features and its ordered plantings for the lead role in commanding attention at the terminus of the axis. As the garden’s sole element partaking of the classical orders, the lattice screen’s robust performance on the stage of this garden solidifies the staying power of its traditional style. Its columns, architrave, pergola, keystone, and the relocated urn arise from a studied attempt to catch the aura of the period in which the house and the neighborhood were created.
Naturally, the garden’s outcome represented the design team’s effort to satisfy the needs and desires of its client. But the client, in addition to letting their landscape architect frame the work in terms of utility and delight, also sought to implement a design that would strengthen the cohesiveness of the neighborhood’s appearance.
A constant pressure from redevelopment threatens to erode established neighborhood character. Their leadership, and the beauty their home offers to the neighborhood, represents a bulwark against the erosion of the town’s parklike landscape—a treasure worth protecting not just for a young family but for all of New England.