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Less is more: the Living Architecture approach to the art of the garden

Less is more:  the Living Architecture approach to the art of the garden

26.04.18

Curating gardens to look un-curated: how we have worked with nature (and professional designers) to create the gardens around our houses

Less is more:  the Living Architecture approach to the art of the garden

Before building each of the Living Architecture houses, our starting point has been to find the right outstanding location. In situations ranging from a remote Welsh hillside, to the shingle shores of Dungeness, or the dunes of Suffolk, we have worked with leading architects and designers to create our unique portfolio of homes to holiday in. As important as any design consideration, has been how each house will sit within its immediate landscape. The outside space is the key to ensuring the building becomes part of the place.

Our approach for each garden has been to return it to a more natural state, remove the often-domestic layout and combine it with adjacent surroundings. At Shingle House and Dune House, this simply meant removing the mown lawns and taking local advice on reintroducing some native planting. However, at Life House in Wales, Jonathan Bell, the long-time collaborator of John Pawson was commissioned to transform the landscape from horse paddock to the original rolling Welsh moorland. By introducing planting to blur the boundary with the wider environs, along with folding the contours of the land around the part-submerged house, he thereby ensured house and hill became one. With an outdoor contemplation space, next to the house, guests can find place to sit and enjoy the natural world, without the encroachment of a more demanding, formal garden design.

At Long House, Norfolk the original garden area was a rigidly manicured space, with rows of leylandii separating the previous structure from the road and blocking the sea views. In the house known locally as the ‘Big Barn’, two sheltered terraces were created as places to sit and enjoy the sunshine and extensive views towards the sky and over open fields. Today, the grass and planting that extends right to the house adds to a timeless impression of a barn in a field.

Leylandii also dominated the original site of Balancing Barn, here covering a third of the extensive gardens. Working with local practice The Landscape Partnership, we removed these along with other non-native trees and shrubs, and replaced with local species. Within the gardens, the footprint of previous buildings are retained; as a firepit, a terrace for eating and raised lawn area. Located on different levels connected by mown paths traversing the meadow planting - whether below the cantilever, or in the garden above  - guests can enjoy the peaceful location in a variety of ways, often with binoculars to spot birds and wildlife.

The nature reserve and ponds, surrounding the Balancing Barn and this especially tranquil setting, are home to many birds and various protected species. Before construction, we employed specialists to remove out of harm’s way these very important neighbours, who have now returned and re-established their habitats.

At the soon to launch Secular Retreat, the commanding site on a Devon hillside has been occupied for some 80 years. More than 5000 different plants and trees have now been planted in the gardens, to compliment an original hexagonal handmade walled area and reinstated field boundaries. From this elevated spot, soon visitors will again sit, read, eat, and look for miles across open Devon countryside.

Less is more:  the Living Architecture approach to the art of the gardenLess is more:  the Living Architecture approach to the art of the gardenLess is more:  the Living Architecture approach to the art of the garden
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