To successfully create a feeling of cohesion between the architecture of our homes and our landscapes, the transition between these two living spaces requires delicate management. Whether a site is located in a semi-urban area like Eugene, Oregon, or in a more remote and rural setting, the success of a project hangs on the designers’ ability to elegantly resolve this critical transition. Landscape architects think of the transition as a gradient. The gradient is variable in thickness, transitioning from the built to the natural environment, with any number of bridging values in between. The thickness of the gradient will change depending on several factors such as the landscape context, architectural style, and the client’s desires.
The transition between home and nature may dissolve slowly over a large distance. In these cases, it may be difficult to discern where home meets garden and garden meets landscape. Common materials from the interior architecture may extend into the adjacent garden spaces, and natural stone and planting may find its way into the interior. Then, natural materials may become more dominant as the distance from the home increases. Form, like materiality, also transforms in relation to the gradient of transition. Ninety-degree angles could incrementally disintegrate until geometry melts into organic form.
On the other hand, the transition may be condensed and unfold quite quickly. If the garden itself is architectural in nature, there may not be as many incremental values of change. Consider a courtyard garden, bounded on all sides by architectural form. What is the experience of moving across the interface between interior space and garden in this context? What about the interface between an alpine home and the surrounding wilderness? Maybe in this case, the transition may only call for a careful editing of the surrounding forest. With these examples we can begin to understand how many conditions interact to shape each site’s unique transition.
The most significant intervention along the transition is exactly where and how architecture meets garden. What is the quality of that threshold? Is it marked by a physical transition from one ground plane material to another? Where does the boundary really want to be? The boundary doesn’t necessarily need to create a uniform circumference around the house. In some areas, the surrounding untamed landscape may want to come right up to the house while in other zones, the threshold moves farther afield. The resulting, undulating pattern of transition weaves context, garden, and architecture together.
What is most important is that this choreography of transition feels right and unique to each site. It is our job as landscape architects to help our clients discover an interface that is right for them and their personal architecture and garden.