On the Boards

A Wave Organ Proposal with Peter Richards

Third Nature Studio and graphic designer & landscape architect Leah Elamin are assisting Peter Richards with a wave organ project for the City of Marseille. As an artist in residence at San Francisco's Exploratorium, Richards created a Wave Organ in the San Francisco Bay 1986.

The Marseille wave organ is inspired by the graceful form of a fish, with undulating, silvery, expanded metal mesh decking that is hidden and revealed by the changes in the tides. The organ pipes turn the form into a piece of habitable, sonic sculpture.

Marseille is undergoing extensive renovation along its central harbor or Vieux Port, including a new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations just opposite the site of the organ at Fort Saint Jean.

A Lush Bernal Heights Garden and Patio Redesign

I have been doing a handful of quick projects for friends this summer, and the following drawings are for a residence in Bernal Heights, San Francisco. The client has a huge expanse of brick that I am proposing they cut back and re-edge to help define the central patio space. Their house is a charming former storefront with an amazing lookout tower, and I have suggested the introduce a strong single curve to play off of the mass of the architecture, and bring in mixed tropical & mediterranean style plantings to add some lushness. In addition, stepped landings, rectilinear stepping stones, and vertical lath screening and fencing will provide some visual richness, and a new modestly sized lawn will give their family an outdoor surface for play and relaxation.

Masterplan for Puget Sound Waterfront Lot

I am putting together a masterplan and design recommendations for my family's property on Puget Sound, in Port Orchard, Washington. And as I work, I realize that there is no project that will come as close to my heart as this one.

My grandparents retired here from Seattle thirty years ago, and divided the property into four lots in order to give parcels to each of their three daughters. My grandmother lives here still, and my parents live in a house next door that our family designed and built in the early 90's.

Both of my grandparents were master gardeners: my grandfather's plant notebooks, garden plans and love of this place are what inspired me to pursue landscape architecture. My parents and aunts also love gardening and design, making it a joy to begin to imagine some subtle changes that will provide a framework for the love and care that will continue to be poured into the land.

We've commissioned a survey, and with the drawings I produce, we hope to preserve and enhance what my grandparents imagined for their children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren Freya, Felix, Sasha and Ovidia.

Design Ideas for a San Francisco Entry Garden

I have been doing a handful of small projects in between preparations for my class, bookkeeping, and marketing tasks (oh the joys of a small design shop!). These little packets of design recommendations are great for home owners with limited budgets who want some professional guidance, but can't afford to divert too much of their overall budget into design.

Not sure where you fit in? Think about a grand total budget for your project. Design services shouldn't exceed 10% of that amount. Now, good design takes time: it is never mindless, easy and fast (damn you, HGTV). But don't despair. A package of well considered plant recommendations, quick perspective drawings and a simple plan can often be done in less than 20 hours.

Landscape Renderings for a Shanghai Park

I just completed some work for Meyer + Silberberg, assisting them with some renderings for a new waterfront park on the shores of Dianshan Lake, on the outskirts of Shanghai. As always, it was a pleasure working with that office; I've never known designers to be more thoughtful or throw their heart and soul into every last detail the way they do.

The park will be beautiful, Sinuous, braiding marshes, long grand pedestrian and bicycle promenades and amazing waterfront amenities.

The park will be beautiful, Sinuous, braiding marshes, long grand pedestrian and bicycle promenades and amazing waterfront amenities.

Landscape Plans for Marin Midcentury Modern

We are in the bid process for the Midcentury ranch landscape in San Rafael.  The design was a fun collaboration with the client (a designer herself) and myself. She was inspired by the Portland residence that Third Nature Studio completed last year. There are a few similarities, but this garden will be distinctly Californian.

Marin Mid Century Modern

I've just started working on another great mid century modern ranch project. It's located in San Rafael, just a few blocks from Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin Center. The backyard features an existing pool set at an angle, and I'm proposing adding a long clean concrete planter wall parallel to the pool edge, simplifying and solidifying the plant palette, and screening the mismatched fences along each property line.

For much of the year its a hot, sunny spot, so we're cutting back on the amount of lawn, and adding a long shade awning to the back of the house over a new deck.

Raised Bed Entry Courtyard

Here is my latest study for the Puget Sound residence on Southworth Drive. I have been working on the entry to the house which is tucked out of sight of the entry drive and in need of some definition. My thinking was to add evergreen boxwood and herbs to the existing raised beds to create a more formal year round appearance. The clients can continue to plant and experiment with annuals, vegetables and other herbs within the evergreen frames.

The property has vast amounts of lawn, and while the Northwest climate can keep it lush without much supplemental watering, I have replaced the lawn between the raised beds with gravel. This courtyard is the sunniest spot on the property, and a little more hardscape will help define the space and create the feeling of a warm courtyard on cool days.

The house is inspired by Norwegian farmhouses, with custom railings and eve details. Unfortunately, the heavy gingerbread railings on the decks and balconies obscure the phenomenal Puget Sound views. I propose to replace the railing with a more modern metal post and wire mesh, keeping in harmony with a farmhouse aesthetic while opening up vistas to the water.

Proposed entry courtyard

Proposed entry courtyard

Existing entry courtyard

Existing entry courtyard

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a 2010 filled with creativity, productivity and happiness.

We are spending January wrapping up our construction drawings for Templeton Ridge Winery & Burbank Vineyards. It should be a beautiful project when all is complete. Construction on the landscape for the main house should begin this spring (pictured above), and design development for the new cellar and tasting room facility should follow shortly after.

Agrarian Modern in SLO County

The rendering above shows our current plan for the residential garden on El Pomar Road in Templeton, California. The project also includes the landscape surrounding a second agricultural manager's residence, the long entry road into the property and vineyard, and eventually could include the areas surrounding a new tasting room. For the main house, the clients wanted an aesthetic that was low maintenance, agrarian, and strong, and worked with the hot San Louis Obispo County inland climate.

As an alternative to lawn, we have decided to plant no mow meadow grasses around the house, surrounded by a taller meadow of mixed pennisetum and nassella grasses to echo the golden hills surrounding the property. There really is no need for a traditional lawn in a climate like this, and also no reason to give up on having a lush, walkable, green landscape to relax in.

Design Progress in Templeton

We are nearly finished with drafting the bid documents for our project on El Pomar Road in Templeton, California. Nicole and I merged an orthogonal plan and a curvilinear plan to create a hybrid of the two that has grown into a design that feels fresh and dynamic. The geometry of the house was challenging to work with, and we decided to reinforce the primary entrance and egress with strong rectilinear stepping stones, and weave the house into the greater landscape with gently arcing concrete paths.

The planting will include lavenders, grasses and native shrubs and will be punctuated by grand shade trees and drifts of olives. As you can see in the plan, the linear vineyard planting comes right up to the edges of the house, and we plan to blend the residential garden into the rest of the winery landscape with lush meadows and ornamental grasses.

A New Project in Templeton

Nicole Kelly and I have found our scope expanding at the vineyard on El Pomar in Templeton, California. We just came back from a wonderful trip South where we spent a relaxing weekend with the clients and developed a quick plan for a new agricultural manager’s residence being built on the property.

Designs in Process

Nicole Kelly and I are continuing our work on a winery and future bed and breakfast in Templeton, California. Above is a quick perspective showing a small patio off of two guest rooms that will be just steps away from meadow and rows and rows of grapes. For this patio, our goal is to frame it while keeping it open to the vineyard, and to provide some much needed shade. We plan to replace the trellis with trees to simplify the design, and revise the plant palette to include more grasses, sages, rosemaries and lavenders.

Duboce Park Residence

This project was done in collaboration with Stephanie Stillman for a luxury residence near Duboce Park in San Francisco.  A two unit building was converted into a single residence, and Third Nature Studio provided landscape design services for the developer. The palette is simple, lush and drought tolerant – all vibrant green agaves, bright blue senecio succulents, and trailing rosemary. Three Arbutus ‘Marina’ trees anchor the front and back yards, and their firey red bark will stand in refreshing contrast to the the cool jewel tones of the succulents. Materials used include grey crushed granite paving, architectural slab pavers, and simple vine covered metal mesh trellises set over beautifully distressed brick.

A Central Coast Vineyard

I’ve just begun work on a residence in Templeton, California, just outside of Paso Robles. It’s a project for two wonderful clients, and I am working with Nicole Kelly, an old friend and collaborator. The house is set on a hill with 360 degree views, and the surrounding vineyards are just feet away from the back door. The house and vineyard are new, and the site is scraped clean and ready to be made over. The clients’ dream is to have the house nestled among oaks and meadow, and to look like the functioning farm that it is, while offering luxurious views from the comforting shade of vine draped trellises and patios. Nicole and I are happy to oblige, and thrilled by the possibilities.

A Sedona Retreat

Another great project in store for Third Nature is a residence on Brewer Road in Sedona, Arizona. As many of you know, Sedona is a funny little town (unicorn paintings, anyone?) set in the gorgeous high desert of Arizona, surrounded by spectacular rock formations.

The residence is great: part log cabin, part ranch. Think Twin Peaks meets Gunsmoke. The client is an interior designer with a big imagination, and together I think we can come up with something really funky and wonderful. The house is a vacation rental as well as a retreat for the owner, so we are going to strive to do something low maintenance, high design, affordable, and of course with low water needs and local materials so the landscape is in tune with its amazing environment.

There is no shortage of inspiration in the surrounding landscape (well, maybe not so much with that dolphin fountain)... While I was there everything from the roadside souvenir shops, to 700 year old ruined cities, to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West seemed like they could inform the direction we decide to go. I will keep you posted as we begin the process!