2017 Merit Award

Compass Residences

Category: Residential Design

Landscape Architect:

Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PLLC


Project Team:

Stephen Whitehouse, PLA, AICP, LEED AP


Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners

Role: Landscape Architect

Jeffrey Poor, PLA, LEED AP Principal

Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners

Role: Landscape Architect

Hillary Cohen, PLA

Senior Landscape Designer

Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners

Role: Landscape Architect

William Stein, FAIA


Dattner Architects

Role: Architect

About the Project:

The Compass Residences landscapes create a welcoming presence for the first stage of a new affordable urban neighborhood along the valley ridge of the reviving Bronx River. The two landscapes—one public “through block,” one courtyard open to residents—are integral to the project concept. The landscape design joins modern elements with essential characteristics of the natural landscapes found in the great Bronx parks. Retained bedrock and site-salvaged boulders root the gardens to their place. The planting design, mainly forest species in the shady courtyard and meadow species in the open through-block garden, recall local ecology. Angular paths with corten-steel edging, crisp cast-stone stairs, stainless-steel railings and LED lighting bring a contemporary optimism to this new community.

Project Location:

Compass Residences are located in the central Bronx, south of East 172nd Street between West Farms Road and Boone Avenue.

Special Factors

Each of the Compass landscapes are half built over structure and half traditional at-grade landscapes. These transitions are concealed by consistent site detailing and plantings that create a continuous landscape experience. The plantings above the structure require raised soil beds to achieve sufficient planting depth. Raised corten steel edging was selected because of its thin dimension, low maintenance, and its color harmony with the earth tones of the brick building façade. The corten edging is fastened to the concrete pavement to minimize building penetrations; a narrow offset joint, filled with stone screenings, prevents the curing steel from

rust-staining the walkways. While major trees are limited to the at-grade areas, the above-structure areas attain sufficient depths for planting minor trees and shrubs, allowing continuity in the planting.

The project site is a ridge of bedrock, with a layer of schist underlain by harder gneiss. The at-grade portions retain outcroppings of bedrock integrated into the design. In the through-block a large outcropping was sculpted lower to provide clear site lines from the sidewalk to the building entrance and public space. A range of boulders was salvaged from the building excavations and placed within the garden in naturalistic arrangements; in the above-structure areas, the boulders were set on light-weight insulation stacked to raise the boulders to the proper final design grades.

The planting plan varies from the shady courtyard to the much sunnier through-block. The inner portions of the courtyard feature shade-loving shrubs such as Oak-leaf Hydrangea and Arrowwood Viburnum, with a ground cover of ferns and forest bulbs. The through block space has meadow perennials including Prairie Dropseed, Rudbeckia and Echinacea that lead out to an overlook to the Bronx River valley.