One of my more fulfilling projects has been helping to develop this small private school’s landscape master plan. My alma mater, I was especially pleased when they saw fit to accept our son as a kindergartner. The school has undergone tremendous growth since I was a student there– after huge expansions and renovations, the newly configured traffic flow, playgrounds, and buffer zones are powerfully stark, left to the contractually obligated minimum development by the builder.
In broad strokes, I wanted to accomplish the following practical design elements:
Reduce and eliminate turf areas while at the same time improving surface permeability wherever possible. This one goal improves the space in a myriad of ways… it reduces operating costs (no mowing, edging, trimming,). It reduces carbon monoxide output, it reduces carbon footprint of the school, and of course, it reduces or eliminates nonpoint source pollution and noxious storm water run off.
Stormwater runoff is the single largest polluter of watersheds.
By reducing or eliminating turf, we reduce or eliminate potential nitrogen loading of the watershed via turf fertilizers running off the site. I also wanted to slow or eliminate storm water runoff as much as possible. Keeping storm water on the site for as long as possible allows for maximum infiltration via permeable surfaces– so concurrent to this goal I wished to reduce the impermeable surfaces as much as possible. Anything I can do to reduce sewer loading and again allow for storm water to exit the site more slowly or not at all was a fundamental desire. It was also important for me to create havens for beneficial insects and soil organisms.
From an aesthetic sense, I wanted to harmonize the Italianate architectural elements of the buildings with the landscape. I wanted to frame the main building within anchoring tree canopies, increase shade drastically, create a sort of visual flow and set tableaux or vignettes of which invite further study or conversely, in some areas, relaxation and recreation.
My first task (and phase of construction) was the creation of a small formal garden in front of the school, formerly a simple turf island surrounded by hot asphalt. This garden was to be markedly more formal than the rest of space; I accomplish this with certain hedging features and ease of classical lines in the stone furnishings as well as clearly defined color borders in the foreground.
In the spirit of permeable surfacing as well as traditional Italianate gardens, I selected Gravelpave² as the loadbearing yet permeable surface for the walkways and center waterfeature area. This is an ingenuous yet simple system that I look forward to employing on many more designs to come. The end result is a permeable yet load bearing surface which experiences negligible aggregate drifting or ‘migration’ and very stable properties overall. With the appropriate choice of top dressing aggregate very attractive visuals can be achieved.
Still to come: Photos of the finished garden!