2018 Merit Award


Collaboration and Craft: Contemporizing an Historic Garden

Westchester County, NY

Landscape Architect:

Renee Byers Landscape Architect, P.C.


Project Team:

Hudson Engineering & Consulting, P.C.

Ruspini Consulting Engineers LLC

Richard Pippenger and Sons

About the Project:

Our clients sought rehabilitation for the dilapidated grounds of a distinguished house they’d recently purchased—a 1928 Jacobethan Revival by architect Lewis Bowman. While requesting modern outdoor amenities and improved rapport with the interior, the owners wanted to echo the historic craftsmanship of the stone house. They wished to also include a valuable array of garden antiques collected by previous owners, discovered under vast overgrowth and crumbling patios. The landscape architect demolished most all existing site masonry, and re- designed every aspect of the garden: terraces, fountain, walls, driveway, lighting and plantings.

Channeling Beatrix Farrand, naturalism, formalism and craftsmanship were blended with contemporary nuance so that every element within the landscape feels appropriate, and succeeds only in synchronicity with its context.

Architect Bowman’s trademarks abound on the residence—from dramatic leaded windows and woodwork, to Ludovici roof tiles and intentionally twisting chimneys. Outside however, the siting of the house on a narrow and sloping 0.6 acre, perpendicular to the road, posed many constraints to a functional garden. Original house plans were available, but nothing existed on the original site design, so the landscape architect interpreted the solution: a 19th century English garden with a transitional overlay. The driveway was reshaped to an arcing entry court that complements the front door and allows for parking. At the side and rear, a series of stone terraces and parterres, with strong architectural alignments, unite each façade to the ground plane. A multi-level landscape by necessity, each garden room is linked with the adjoining space by articulated grade changes and directed vistas; the restored garden antiques are placed as serendipitous finds throughout. A breakfast terrace gives onto a dining platform with an integrated grill, several steps above the main outdoor seating area of the fountain terrace. Here a linear pool stretches nearly the terrace’s entire length, dampening street noise and creating a modern inflection that is the garden’s centerpiece. In close collaboration with the mason and waterscape consultant, a single bar of bluestone was carved with three angled scuppers to conduct water from an upper to a lower pool. A wide-spreading Snowbell (Styrax japonica) was placed at the pool’s terminus, supplying shade and a soft, structural foil to the house.

What sets the garden apart, is the role every detail plays in the point-counterpoint of period and contemporary. The landscape architect designed and selected each element in collaboration with the fabricator who produced it. Stonework, metalwork, woodcraft, plantings, furniture and lighting were considered individually and collectively to marry contextual relevance and a contemporary dynamic.