-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Friday, February 17, 2006

apply patterns (3): Garden

These patterns are my favourites from the book "Pattern Language", as described in my previous post. In this post I look at the ones relating to garden layout and those spaces which are bridges between house and garden.

#105: South facing outdoors
People use open space if it is sunny, and don't use it if it isn't, in all but desert climes. Therefore:
Always place buildings to the north of the
outdoor spaces that go with them, and keep the
outdoor spaces to the south. Never leave a deep
band of shade between the building and the sunny
part of the outdoors.

As Pattern Language was written in the US, I presume in Australia we'd need to reverse 'north' and 'south', but the basic principles still apply. I guess we will find out when Eric does the "sun test" whether this will be an issue, but I can't see how it will be. There may be some areas of deep shade in the vicinity of the house in the secret garden area, especially when trees grow, but in the height of an Australian summer frankly you need shade.

#106: Positive outdoor space
Outdoor spaces which are merely leftover between buildings will, in general, not be used. Therefore:
Make all the outdoor spaces which surround and
lie between your buildings positive. (which seems
to mean: give it a distinct shape, as definitely
as a room, and make its shape as important as the
shapes of the buildings that surround it, but don't
make it too enclosed). Give each one some degree
of enclosure; surround each space with wings of
buildings, trees, hedges, fences, arcades, and
trellised walks, until it becomes an entity with
a positive quality and does not spill out
indefinitely around corners.

#114: Hierarchy of Open Space
Outdoors, people always try to find a spot where they can have their backs protected, looking out torward some larger opening, beyond the space immediately in front of them. Therefore:
Whatever space you are shaping, make sure of
two things. First, make at least one smaller space,
which looks into it and forms a natural back for it.
Second, place it, and its openings, so that it
looks into at least one larger space. When you
have done this, every outdoor space will have a
natural back; and every person who takes up the
natural position, with his back to this back ,
will be looking out toward some larger distant view

comfortable courtyards

#115: Courtyards which live
Courtyards intended to be private open spaces often end up unused, full of gravel and abstract sculptures. Most common reasons courtyards fail are because there is too little ambiguity between indoors & outdoors, so the transition is too abrupt; because there are not enough doors into the courtyard, so no-one ever passes through; or simply becuase they are TOO enclosed. Therefore:
Place every courtyard in such a way that there is
a view out of it to some larger open space; place it
so that at least 2 or 3 doors open from the building
into it and so that the natural paths which connect
these doors pass across the courtyard. And, at one
edge, beside a door, make a roofed verandah or a
porch, which it continuous with both the inside
and the courtyard.

#120: Paths and Goals
The layout of paths will seem right and comfortable only when it is compatible with the process of walking. And the process of walking is far more subtle than one might imagine. As you walk along you scan the landscape for intermediate destinations and try (more or less) to walk in a straight line toward these points, wiht the effect that you often 'cut corners'. These intermediate destinations, however, keep changing becuase the further you walk the different your vantage point, the more you can see round a corner. Therefore:
To lay out paths, first place goals at natural
points of interest. Then connect the goals to one
another to form the paths. The paths may be straight
or gently curving between goals; their paving should
swell around the goal. The goals should never be
more than a few hundred feet apart.

paths that meander to goals

#163: Outdoor room
A garden is the place for lying in the grass, swinging croquet, growing flowers, throwing a ball for the door. But there is another way of being outdoors: and its needs are not met by the garden at all. For some moods, some times of day, some kinds of friendship, people need a place to eat, to sit in formal clothes, to drink to take together, to be still, and yet outdoors. They need an outdoor room, literally - a partly enclosed space, outdoors, but enough like a rooms that people behave in it as they do in rooms, but with the added beauties of the sun, wind, smells, rustling leaves. Therefore:
Build a place outdoors which has so much enclosure
around it that it it takes on the feeling of a room,
even though it is open to the sky. To do this,
define it at the corners with columns, perhaps roof
it partially with a trellis or a sliding canvas roof,
and create 'walls' around it with fences, sitting
walls, screens, hedges or the exterior walls of
the building itself.

#167: Six foot balcony
Balconies and porches which are less than six feet deep are hardly ever used. Therefore:
Whenever you build a balcony or porch, always make
it at least 6 feet deep. If possible, to give it an
added feeling of security, recess at least a part of
it into the building so that it is not cantilevered
out and separated from the building by a simple line,
and enclose it partially - eg: with a low wall or
heavy columns. In terms of space, treat it as an
outdoor room

#168: Connection to the earth
A house feels isolated from the nature around it unless its floors are interleaved directly with the earth that is around the house. You want a house to feel rooted as if it belongs where it is placed. Therefore:
Build a series of paths and terraces and steps
around the edge of the building. Place them deliberately
to make the boundary ambiguous, so that it is impossible
to say exactly where the building stops.

gentle hazy boundaries

#174: Trellised walk
Trellised walks have their own special beauty. They are so unique, so different from other ways of shapng a path, that they are almost archetypal. Therefore:
Where paths need special protection or where they
need some intimacy, build a trellis over the path and
plant it with climbing flowers. Use the trellis to
help shape the outdoor spaces on either side of it.

#238: Filtered light
Light filtered through leaves or tracery, is wonderful. This is because direct light casts strong shadows resulting in harsh images, and also because filtering reduces glare. Therefore:
Where the edge of a window or the overhanging eave
of a roof is silhouetted against the sky, make a rich,
detailed tapestry of light and dark to break up the
light and soften it. You can do this, most easily,
with climbing plants trained to climb around the
outside of the window. If there are no plants you
can also do it beautifully with simple canvas awnings.

#243: Sitting wall
In many places walls and fences between outdoor spaces are too high; but no boundary at all does injustice to the subtlety of the divisions between the spaces. Therefore:
Surround any natural outdoor area, and make minor
boundaries between outdoor areas with low walls, about
16 inches high, and wide enough to sit on, at least 12
inches wide. Place the walls to coincide with natural
seat spots, so that extra benches are not necessary.

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