New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998
White On White — A Plain Jane Suburban Section is Transformed, With an Artful Hand, into a Neoclassical Garden
White On White
A Plain Jane Suburban Section is Transformed, With an Artful Hand, into a Neoclassical Garden.
Beginning with little more than a sloping, quadrant-shaped section, a house which was poorly positioned on the site, and a raft of seemingly impossible town planning regulations, architecture student Chris Howe had to think well outside the square to achieve his desire for a structured but uncontrived garden.
The house was already sitting on the maximum site coverage allowable and the swimming pool Chris envisaged for the rear of the property would require building over the main public sewer line. He wanted minimal lawn throughout, but regulations allowing no more than 25 percent of the site to be non-permeable surfaces required him to be inventive about his choice of paving materials. But rather than dwelling on the negatives, he focused on the features that originally sold him and his wife Betsy on the site.
Chris is currently in the third year of an architecture degree at Unitec in Auckland and his interest in built structures guided his plans for an elegant, yet practical extension, to the ground-floor living areas of his expansive new home.
So began the transformation of a backyard with wall-to-wall lawn relieved only by flower beds, a vegetable patch and a greenhouse into a series of elegant outdoor rooms. Pittosporums flanking the curved boundary fence of two neighbouring properties combine with the white plastered walls and columns of the house to define the garden.
Natural materials and flowing shapes have been used to create a restful atmosphere and to tie together the different parts of the garden. A Jacaranda mimosaefolia framed within a circular feature forms the focal point of the garden. Deliberately placed at the site's widest point, it represents the junction between home and garden. At the same time, it entices the eye to 'lesser' focal points, such as a raised garden of densely planted camellias and azaleas. The planting plan is finished with touches of pinks, mauves and whites to lift the mood and link the foliage-dense garden to the white house.
The concrete bench was limewashed to resemble the Hinuera stone paving that extends through the garden.
Chris's young son Harry, and friend, enjoy the 'pergola' by the pool, where a table is set up for al fresco entertaining.
Crushed Waitomo Stone forms a circular feature around a jacaranda tree which is embraced by the sweeping curve of a pergola behind. The stone breaks down and doesn't 'walk' its way indoors.
The greatest challenge Chris saved for the end, tucking the pool into the slope of the former vegetable garden. With no access available for construction equipment, he arranged for a crane to hoist a five-and-a-half-tonne digger over the house and onto planks protecting the Hinuera stone paving. The L-shaped pool was dug in one day and only two of the stone tiles were cracked in the process. Even so, it wasn't an exercise for the faint-hearted.
"If the digger had dropped the crane, we'd have ended up with a basement," says Chris. Somewhat philosophically, he says it's all part of getting the best out of your garden, rather than taking the easy design choices. "A difficult site certainly makes the whole process most interesting." HBpage break page break