“The house appears before us, surrounded by a mass of flowers, wide lawns resplendent in the richest of greens extend…beyond them, pergolas, orchards, meadows, and woods seem to stretch away into the distance. A perfect, secluded world of its own, a little paradise on Earth. Here, if anywhere, is a surviving fragment of the old, placid way of life that stands, lonely as an island, in the brief transience of the modern world.”—Hermann Muthesius, The English House, 1904-5
We aim to capture the joy of being outside. From earth-moving artists like Maya Lin to otherworldly creations at the hands of landscape professionals, this issue celebrates open-air design moves that surprise, delight, and restore us.
Though the formal garden as described by Hermann Muthesius—a leading, turn-of-the-century architectural thinker—may seem an erstwhile notion today, paired with our lineup of stories, his passage aptly highlights the many ways in which our relationship to the outdoors, specifically the domesticated outdoors, has greatly diversified. The extent to which a garden can be designed has intensified, as has as ourconsideration and value of nature, in a time when green spaces are not merely sites of leisure, but a growing and global environmental necessity. We are gratified that nearly all of the projects in this issue employ drought-resistant or native plantings—hopefully, a sign of the times.
What hasn’t changed since Muthesius’s day is the human instinct for connecting with the land, however conventional or unconventional. But finding solitude in an urban environment takes resourcefulness. In Charleston, South Carolina, a web developer wanted to own a green space in the city, a quest that led him to the top of a warehouse, where he now lives in an aerie with a lush living roof. In Vancouver, the Cuddington family is blessed to have a backyard, and by adding a tiny structure cloaked in local fauna, they created more usable space—as well as a singular landscape to enjoy together. A property in Tiburon, California, directly references an English garden, imagined as a series of unfolding rooms, yet it presents a wildly contemporary view of how an outdoor space can function. With its fantastical topography and unusual points of interest, it inspires playful interaction to a much higher degree than one might imagine of the domestic landscapes in Muthesius’s time.
The author’s reference to a “secluded little paradise on Earth” also highlights the notion of an outdoor space that’s nonetheless contained and maintained privately. This certainly is the case for a renovated bungalow in Venice, California; a new build in Austin, Texas; and a rehabilitated ranch house in the Hollywood Hills, all of which boast architectural components configured—and reconfigured—to take in the best of the elements.
We also appreciate a countryside house in Belgium, where furniture designer Dirk Wynants applied his resources to produce a home that’s both respectful of an original 1850s farmhouse, and informed by a deep-seated responsibility to live an ecologically sensitive life.
We end with a tiny floating sauna off the Seattle coast: an optimistic, go-with-the-flow creation that’s as close to a little paradise on Earth as any. If nothing else, it reminds us that escaping to a perfect, secluded world of one’s own can be just a leap—or a swim—away.
Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief
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