FLASLA Award of Merit – 2015

Prime Consultant:            DWY Landscape Architects; David W. Young, Principal

Interior Designer:            David K Lowe – Interior Design

Completion:                       2014

Project Narrative


On a private beachfront site of crystalline white sand, the client wanted to create her own sanctuary, a place where she could live in step with the beach, the beautiful natural surroundings and the spiritual qualities they possess.   The client loved the contemporary design of the existing home that provided views to the 200 feet of private beachfront shoreline. However, years of deferred landscape maintenance from the previous owner resulted in a site overgrown with invasive species and a limited palette of poorly located trees, palms and accents that were all in a state of decline due to the harsh marine environment.  The vehicular and pedestrian circulation was poorly defined and guest parking was within random slots that developed between the invasive trees.


DWYLA was commissioned to create a design that would synthesize the existing home with the landscape gestures while honoring the spirit of place.  The module of the existing architecture – a clearly delineated four-foot grid – was extended to organize the new program. Design elements included a private entry drive; guest entry drive and motor-court; entry plaza with a Parsons bench, reflecting pool, glass cube; pedestrian walk with new mailbox; labyrinth; ground-level massage room with dry sauna; ground-level gallery space; moat; guest spa with water-wall and fire pit; expanded ground-level terrace; expanded elevated wood deck with private spa and glass rail; and new spiral stair to the existing crow’s nest.

Water was used to link the ground-level spaces and landscape to the home and each other. To complement the clarity of water as a design material, a minimal palette of glass, shell-top concrete, and wood was employed to represent regional influences and emphasize harmony throughout the site.

The implementation of the new landscape design was preceded by the removal of all invasive exotics which revealed a nearly blank canvas, allowing the architectural grid to unfold onto the whole property. Wind- and salt-tolerant bamboo was used on the east side of the property, along the street, for privacy. The driveway and walkway thresholds are evident at the breaks in this natural screen, bringing visitors into the guest motor court.

Adjacent to the motor court is a large reflecting pool positioned on an elevated plaza. The sight line of this dark pool focuses on a 12’x12’ glass cube that orients visitors towards the main entry of the residence. Encouraging a moment of pause, the cube – part architecture, part sculpture – acts as a threshold to the home. With no structural armature, the form of the low-iron glass panels appears to float at the western terminus of the dark pool. White marble Foo dogs within the dark water at the foot of the cube are imposing guardians, especially with lighting positioned to graze their forms at night. At the eastern end of the pool is a twenty-foot clear-span Parsons bench that provides a point of contemplation to take in the expansive site and new composition of water and glass.

On the ground level, two new interior spaces were conceived by DWY – a gallery and a massage room.  These “found spaces” were transformed from open sand below the house into glass volumes, carrying the architectural vocabulary of the cube into to the house, and connecting the existing architecture to the ground plane. Both of these “found spaces” provide valuable and functional grade-level space.  New floor-to-ceiling glass – again with no visual armature – was conceived and fitted into a recessed stainless steel shoe, concealed within the new shell-top concrete floors. This hardscape material has been used in the region for decades as a “coastal terrazzo’ and was selected to match the entry area in the existing home. Its suitability for interior and exterior spaces was employed here to link the old and new, as well as the inside and outside.

From the new gallery one has panoramic views from the motor-court to the east, around to the Gulf of Mexico to the west.  The physical connection of the new gallery space to the existing home sits seamlessly in the grid and was accomplished by removing a four-foot wide portion of the existing exterior block wall.

The new massage room was the second “found space” located just northwest of the cube that sits at the grade level stop of the existing elevator. The elevator car was modified to create a doorway and a direct connection between the master suite above and the new massage room space, which looks onto the labyrinth garden. This tranquil corner is hidden from public view by a wall of dwarf Buddha belly bamboo and is a place for spiritual reflection.

At the west side of the house, the moat wraps around the gallery linking it to a sunken guest spa and fire pit flanked by a glass-clad water wall.  Sitting within the spa one is fully immersed in the landscape and the character of the beach setting.  The shell-top concrete pronounces the four-foot grid of the architecture and extends on all horizontal surfaces until it meets the white quartz sand of the beach.

Emerging from the water garden, a new exterior stair ascends to the expanded deck above. This new deck provides generous space for entertaining and panoramic views of the horizon. From the deck a new spiral staircase ascends to the crow’s nest above. The owner’s “Aquadisia” logo was water etched into each tread of the stairs and a curved cast- glass railing was fabricated with a matching wood handrail.  The “Aquadisia” logo further reinforces the importance of water to the site and its use in this project specifically.  The crow’s nest shields views from the expanded deck to the private spa located outside the master suite at the other end. The private spa is elevated above the deck for unobstructed views of the Gulf through the low iron glass railing that sits within the deck without hand rails or visible armature.

Photography: Greg Wilson, SRQ360, Ryan Gamma