Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A master plan project in Marin.

I was visiting a project that we designed and installed several years ago.
It was a partial master plan in that we did not site the house or driveway, but we did set the grades, design all the hardscaping, softscaping , irrigation and lighting systems.

Welcoming guests to the front door is a stone fountain sculpted by Edwin Hamilton.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Walking through the house, one enters out to the back yard via the New England slate terrace.
This two tiered terrace looks over the garden and out to the San Francisco Bay.
A horse shoe shaped path links the various garden rooms together.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

The view from the upper terrace dining table
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

The lower terrace with a simple bbq and food prep area
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Adjacent to the lower terrace is a sweetly scented jasmine covered hammock.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

The curved path leads you out to the sunken spa overlooking the bay. A shower is set into the hedge . A beautifully hand sculpted stone surround set with a teak deck offers a pleasant place to enjoy the view.

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Looking back to the house and dining terraces from the sunken spa deck.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

The surrounding gardens adjacent to the spa
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

A wind sculpture set in the garden adds a playful touch.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

There is a small herb garden next to the house
From Front Yard Potager

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Along the south side of the path is a pine apple guava hedge with an opening that leads to the orchard , cymbidium orchid holding area, berry boxes and raise vegetable area.

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Leaving this area , we are taken to the lower side yard that has another wind sculpture.
From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

From Atop of Mt. Tamalpias

Thanks for taking a tour of a garden we designed and installed several years ago in Marin County.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trouble in Paradise.

I’ve had Trixie, an all white Jack Russell, for little less than 3 weeks now, I am caring for her as a foster care dog, though I have the opportunity to adopt her myself .

She has grown quite attached to her new adopted home and foster care mother.
So much so that she is showing signs of extreme separation aniexity when I leave her for several minutes to an hour or two.

Over the weekend we learned that she can hop the fence if she is left alone.

Trouble in Paradise.

Now we have a problem(s) to address .

Raise the fence ? She can jump to the top of my head, .. that's 5'-2".
Install a zapper ?
Teach the dog not to jump ( oh yeah right, she’s a jack russell ! )

Challenges , challenges.

From random photos

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When it is so obviously bad ....

From random photos

I have a nagging question that I can not for the life of me come to terms with.
I hope someone can shed some light on this question and the resulting situation for me.

Let me set the stage a little ;

I’m in the design profession so I tend to gravitate to reading posts and blogs and magazine articles about design.

Occasionally another designer will post an image of a project that they have done.
Sometimes these projects are just fantastic, have valuable merit or in some cases are just plain bad design.

My question is, why do other designers who should know better by now in their training and careers provide positive reinforcement towards the design bomb ?

Why do they say it is “fantastic”, wonderful” or some other congratulatory term that is just not applicable to the design. ( not to be confused with the person who did the design )

I get that people want to be nice to one another and there is a great desire by many to be liked by the crowd that you are hanging with, but doesn’t these false platitudes perpetuate ongoing bad design ?

If you are continually told it looks great , then you must think that it does, so why not keep on replicating it in all its poorly laid out proportions ?

I’m wondering why people can’t be nice while also being truthful about ‘the poor design’.
Is it because it is just too personal ?
And by truthful, I don’t mean that you have to be hurtful or demeaning to the person about their poor design.

Maybe it can’t be done in a social media setting because of the lack of face to face and the all important delivery of the voice tone when providing positive reinforcement feedback.

I find this to be a complex dilemma.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Morning stroll in the Pina colada garden

Up early.
Too early to start working.
Took a stroll through the garden.

From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

Looking at this photo , I see that the big stand of Heliconia has not filled in yet. I think it is time to thin the clump and add
some more cannas, which are more reliably hardy and bloom earlier .

From Pina Colada

Monday, June 21, 2010

Form follows function

Great article in the S.F. Chron this past week.
Its about a newly redesigned outdoor pizza oven.

I’m one of those conflicted environmentalists.
On one hand I love the taste of a pizza , tofu or a fresh salmon cooked in a wood fired oven but hate the amount of particulate matter that spews into the air making it unhealthful for many to breath clean air.

At this juncture, I’m going with the mantra, ‘everything in moderation’.
Most homeowners who have a wood fired oven don’t use it every night.
It’s more like a special event when it is fired up, so it doesn’t happen frequently in a private setting.

Below is a photo of a newly redesigned Nido wood fired oven designed by Mark Rogero for former Chez Panisse chef Nico Monday.
From random photos

The willow around the base gives it a ‘nest like’ feeling.
That part I like, but from a long term durable and sustainable perspective, I would tend to go towards a design that was both functional ( wood holding capaciy) and durable ( won’t decompose over a season)

Here is one we worked on in Napa Valley with storage provided.
From Outdoor Kitchens and Dining areas

I get that Mark and Nico were trying to pair down the bulky size of the stove, but I think they lost sight of the basic need that the best crafted and functional designs follow the tried and true recipe that form follows function.
In their beautiful design they lost the ability to easliy store wood within the foot print of the stove as well as store the smaller pizza paddles .

Their end product looks great though , no denying that !

Friday, June 18, 2010

S.F. Bromeliad Club meets at the Conservatory of Flowers

On June 17, 2010 the S.F. Bromeliad Society was generously given a night time
private tour at one of our crowned jewels in The City , the S.F. Conservatory of Flowers located in the Golden Gate Park.

I was lucky to be tagging along with veteran club member, Wes Schilling as he was composing some of his photo shots inside and outside of the conservatory.
He encouraged me to compose this particular shot from this angle and I’m very appreciative of his coaching.
From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

As we were leaving the fog was rolling in.
From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

Once inside the front door this is the entry vignette :
From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

And the various plants inside the conservatory.

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

Of course there were many bromeliads and other epiphytes.

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

I was smitten with the grated floor drains.

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

This is actually a man made faux armature that these plants are growing on - nicely done.

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

A big Thank You goes out to the staff at the conservatory for staying open late and providing us with a wonderful personalized tour of the S.F. Conservatory .

From San Francisco Conservatory 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Art of Critique.

From its Greek roots the word ‘critique’ means discerning.

The first time I engaged in a meaningful critique was in an academic setting.
Our assignment was to redesign Harvard yard and present to the class our reasoning of the social impact and it's aesthetic value for the redesign.

It was during these two days of critique review that I began to understand the intrinsic value that a critique can bring to the learning process and the psychology of the human mind.

Boiled down to it academic essence a good critique will engage in communal discussion , critical thinking , tangible relevance and the exploration of theory.

What it won’t do is tear a persons efforts down, demoralize them and their work, ridicule , mock or jeer for the sake of cheap shots and cheap laughs.
That is not critique, that is a form of bullying or a sad psychological state of an over inflated ego that feels the need to put down people in order to make themselves feel superior.

Below is a project I worked on many many years ago.
When I first completed it I didn’t see many of the flaws that I see in it now and feel that time has given me some new perspective to critique it .

The back yard was a clean slate. A pie shaped lot with a massive drainage problem.
This pix shows how I started to deliniate the space and remedy the flooding.
From Before and After Projects

The bones of the garden takes shape. Various garden rooms are starting to be established. In retrospect I would have liked to used horizonally stacked ledge stone as the lawn / path borders to match the water feature for a more consistant design element. An open trellis structure mimicking the homes architecutre could have been used instead of trees to create a screen behind the sitting patio.
From Before and After Projects

Two years later the trees have started to grow into the design creating a series of walls and partial ceilings
From Before and After Projects

From Before and After Projects

From Before and After Projects

Perimeter shrubs now have enough growth on them to be hedged into specific forms
From Before and After Projects

Garden rooms withing the landscape have grown into the hardscaping

From portfolioMay08.jpg

The extensive drainage system below the dry creek has kept the property from flooding since its installation. Aesthetically I feel it works well within the site, but I could have used some larger boulders down stream.
From portfolioMay08.jpg

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Iconic image; Adirondack chairs in the garden.

The first few years of my life I lived with my grandparents in Massachusetts.
Every summer around Memorial day weekend my grandfather would carry the adirondack chairs out to the garden from the cellar and we would sand them down and repaint them white.
To me this signified the beginning of summer ; a shoe box filled with sanding paper , several paint brushes and a can of white paint.

I looked forward to sharing this outdoor project with my grandfather every year.
He was a good conversationist as well as a good listener.
My grandmother would bring us chilled juice or iced tea and would sometimes join us in conversation as we sanded and painted the day away.

When my Grandparents retired they moved from metropolitan Boston to Cape Cod .
The adirondack chairs were starting to wear thin by that time and I suppose my grandmother wanted nice new modern garden furniture for her new retirement house.

So the last time I painted the adirondack chairs was somewhere around 1974 or so.

That is how I sentimentalize about adirondack chairs. They are the harbinger of summer and the proffer of good conversations. ... after all, they are comfortable.

Leann White Photography
From portfolioMay08.jpg

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Friday, June 4, 2010

Muddy Marin. Rain in June.

It rained this morning. June. Rain in June in California.

What !!

We are normally a mild dry Mediterranean climate that experiences little to no rain in the summer months.... and yet it rained this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the rain, but it sure can make a total mess out of a landscape construction project.

We’re working on two installation projects at the moment. Both are located on steep hillsides.

Today's word for the day was MUD.

I might as well brought my rock skis to work with me to get some good down hill skiing in, sans the snow. ( again not complaining, I LOVE to ski.. .. but prefer snow to mud ! )

It’s amazing the difference a morning of rain can make.

Check it out : Yesterday no rain and no mud

From Hillside development

Today after the rain. Lotsa mud !

From Hillside development

From Hillside development