Architect: Guy Peterson / OFA I General Contractor: Ball Construction I Photography: Greg Wilson
The small 10,000 square foot property is located in a highly desirable urban neighborhood undergoing gentrification just south of downtown Sarasota. The new owners recognized the value in the mid-century modern home and appreciated how each room was connected visually with the site and adjacent garden spaces that put the natural environment on display. However, the property had been poorly maintained and the existing plants and hardscape were in a state of neglect and decline. The landscape exhibited little relation to the modernist architecture and even less cohesion to the surrounding neighborhood. Neither functioned as a desired extension of the architecture or highlighted the views from the extensive glass walls that are typical of modern architecture.
The existing landscape was dominated by an over-scaled grove of royal palms set in loose shell on a sloping ground plane on one side and an unfinished block retaining wall that was abrupt to the public sidewalk on the other. The pool area was unrefined, lacking visual presence and privacy and consisted largely of neglected vegetation. Other conditions included a shell driveway with a steep incline that rutted after heavy rains and a confusing arrival sequence that lacked spatial clarity, leading first time visitors through the carport to the kitchen door. The impetus for change came when a typical trip to the airport resulted in a frantic call to a taxi service when the owner’s car become stuck in a heavily rutted portion of the drive created by a rainstorm the previous night.
The landscape architect harnessed the strong planar forms of the modern architecture to create equally bold exterior spaces. At the driveway offset panels of permeable paving extend the architecture and horizontal grid of the home to the ground plane while allowing water to percolate instead of running off site. At the entry garden two long retaining walls create low horizontal platforms that are punctuated by sculptural species to connect the architecture and landscape to the surrounding neighborhood.
A new sliding gate creates a defining line between public and private space at the carport and ushers visitors along a new walkway to the entry gate of the private courtyard instead of to the kitchen door. This courtyard was re-designed as a modernist composition of character palms, fern, triangle palm and papyrus – each selected for their bold form and ability to create visual interest, shade and shadow. The arrival sequence was developed as a series of interconnected experiential gardens spaces informed by the architectural vocabulary, site and surrounding influences and this garden is the final link in the composition leading from the street to the front door.
An elegant new water element with a period sculpture provides visual and audible qualities to the otherwise static space outside the dining room. Although narrow, the side yards were thoughtfully designed to create useful garden spaces. To the east, a bamboo garden provides privacy for the large exposed glass of the master bath and guest bedrooms. Mechanical functions such as pool pump, AC units and gas equipment are screened along the western property edge while allowing direct access from the motor court to the pool.
The dining room, living room and master bedroom all open up to the pool patio with large sliding doors which, when stacked open, extend the spaces for entertaining. The pool patio was transformed with the addition of a new entertainment pavilion with with an extended wall that incorporates built-in dining benches designed to match the modern architecture of the home. Behind the pavilion, a dense landscape layered with oil palms, tall heliconia and fern create drama when viewed through the cut-outs of the wall while providing additional screening from adjacent homes.
With a distinct modern vocabulary, the landscape intervention transformed the neglected exterior environment into a series of interconnected spatial experiences that respect the site and blur the distinction between indoors and out. The result of the design is a fully realized regional experience of modernism that accommodates the climate of South Florida and the owners’ lifestyle.