RESIDENTIAL DESIGN HONOR AWARD
Erman Residence, San Francisco, California
Surfacedesign, Inc, San Francisco, California
client: Mark Erman
"Truly innovative. We love the landscape architect's ability to tackle a small space with warm materials and clever design and devices. Great ideas for urban living."— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments
2005年夏天，Mark Erman（一位早期发家的对冲基金经理）委托设计师在他位于旧金山Noe Valley社区新建的住宅设计一个后院。为了找到一种转变这一非常传统的25×50英尺的后院的方法，委托人只提出了两个提纲性的要求：花园要易于维护；有一个能在晚间用于放松的浴盆。经过一番精打细算，设计师创造出了一个非常符合委托人要求的花园，一个既利于维护又充满乐趣的青翠的空间——在冬天，藜芦茂盛的生长，到了夏天，雪花莲盛放，雪花般的花瓣飘落满园。
In the summer of 2005, the designers were commissioned by Mark Erman, an early-rising hedge-fund manager, to design a backyard for his newly built home in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Seeking to transform the fairly typical, 25-foot wide by 50-foot long rear space, the client, who lives alone in the bottom flat of the two-condo building, had only two programmatic requests: that the garden be easy to maintain, and that it contain a hot tub for unwinding at the end of the day.
At first glance, the lot's challenges were easier to spot than its potential. The developer had thoughtfully provided a carpet of sod (now gone to seed) and a water feature (broken). More daunting was that in order to maximize every square foot, he had dug the garden into the existing grade. Defined by a 14-foot retaining wall on the north side, a ten-foot wall to the west, and the house itself — a four-story elevation that fairly looms over the rear — the garden felt far smaller and more constrained than it actually was. Thus, the goal was to not simply insert a prefab spa within the existing landscape, but to find ways of creating movement and life in the garden and to provide opportunities for experiencing nature with carefully selected and placed plant materials.
In order to maximize the journey from the house to the spa, the designers began by organizing the garden into three primary zones. Immediately off the rear of the house a stone patio was expanded to create a place for outdoor dining that visually (and practically) extends the interior, which opens fully to the outdoors. From there one embarks along a path comprised of parallelogram-shaped stone slabs to the middle zone, a 20-foot tall grove of bamboo that has been under-planted with a dense carpet of mondo grass, an assortment of self-naturalizing spring flowering bulbs, and winter-blooming hellebores. This zone also acts as a delicate veil to the most secluded portion of the garden. Defined at its threshold by a diagonal Japanese boxwood hedge whose crisp edges mimic the geometry of the paving, the back of the yard contains the hot tub, which is flanked by three Japanese snowdrop trees that rise sculpturally from a field of decomposed granite.
With the inclusion of the hot tub, often considered something of an eyesore, the designers embraced the challenge of putting "banal" elements to new use. Encasing the prefab spa is an eight-foot square, steel-framed cover made of eco-sourced ipe wood, that appears almost to be inserted into the platform extending from the rear fence. When the tub is in use, this movable cover slides on tracks to become a waterside deck for sunbathing and toe dangling. It then zips along on stainless steel wheels forty feet through the garden and up to the terrace, where it doubles as a dining table — the literal interpretation of movement in the garden. Pausing in the middle, it becomes a three-dimensional frame for the plantings, which fit deftly within its volume. Even when the hot tub is uncovered, the steel plate that is fixed to its front continues to partially screen the spa from view while reflecting the tonality of dark fence.
Also imparting a sense of movement to the space is the side fence, which conceals the original concrete wall mass and its oppressive verticality while adding a feeling of craftsmanship to the generally austere space. Variously sized off-the-shelf redwood planks were stained black and intermittently canted inward — adding visual interest even as its inherent horizontal quality lengthens the appearance of the garden. As evening approaches, lights placed between the fence and the wall glow like lanterns through the gaps, casting interesting shadows and softly illuminating the space. An outdoor grill embedded in the fence in the front of the garden is used at al fresco gatherings in warmer months.
Through a series of budget-conscious interventions, the designers created a garden that met the programmatic requirements of the client within a verdant space that is as low maintenance as it is pleasurable — from winter, when the hellebores are in bloom, to summer, when the snowdrop trees are smothered in blossoms and rain their circular patterns of petals onto the ground.