Friday, December 24, 2010

Sense of Place...

The front entrance is what can make or break a landscape... this is a re-occurring theme in my blog posts because I think it is one of the most important aspects of the landscape.

One of the important things we were taught in my years studying Landscape Architecture was that we were to give the visitor of a landscape the idea of a sense of arrival... or give the visitor a sense of place!

Being a young first year University student back just blindly wrote down words uttered by your prof in hopes that one day you'd understand what they were talking about... of course, in my mind, the term needed further study which paved the way to an understanding that creating a landscape with a sense of place, would take a few years of practice to master the idea....

Wikipedia defines the term in a round about way as a place that has a special relationship to both the area and context it is located in as well as a special, unique or authentic feel to the person visiting the space.

Have I mastered this unique experience in my designs? Many clients have told me they love the landscapes I created for them... Each one unique to the home and to the user of the space... each place has it's own feel and energy to it and provides hours of enjoyment while a person uses the space. I guess by that definition and their comments, I have discovered how to put a "Sense of place" into the landscape...

But by my own definition, I am constantly learning and improving with the next design...striving to bring a unique flavour that is unmatched by my older work... so to say I have mastered it... I think the day I decide to retire from my work would be the day I consider that idea...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Coming soon...

Sorry folks, I have been away from my posts as of has been a very very busy season for me and in the meantime I have been doing my own backyard landscape project.... it is still in progress but here is a slight taste of it...when I am complete with my fence, I will update for this post....

Cabana House Update

After a few months of work and some small delays on the roof trusses, the masonry aspect of the Cabana is complete...also, the roof is now on so the place will be forever dry inside!

Still a bit more work before it becomes a year round structure that can be used comfortably in the dead of winter....

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pool Cabana

Not complete just yet, but here we see the timber frame assembling for a Cabana. This article is a continuation of my recent one: Pool Coping

When I was called in to this project back in February of this year, the home owners already had a landscape design drawn by another designer for their yard. They expressed to me that they were not too crazy about the design as they felt something did not fit right...
I had to admit that my first reaction when I saw the design was...why is there a big Cabana planned to be positioned right in the middle of the yard...blocking the view of the forest behind it and right over top of a group of 30 foot tall trees?

The trees were a nice feel to the yard and I wondered why they would be slated for removal?
I asked that question to the home owners and they expressed that they loved the trees on their property...all of them! That said it all...this is why they were not crazy about the design plan they had....

So I pushed aside the landscape plan they had...and said lets start fresh! We work around the trees to preserve them for you to enjoy and give you everything else you wanted in the yard!

The end result is the pictures above...I call it my wrap around Cabana! I am sure those trees thank me for my design every time I visit the yard! When the Architect came to visit the site to get an understanding of my layout...he smiled and loved the idea of the structure being able to work around the existing trees and having wide open views all around the yard!

I smile every time I think that those trees in the middle of the yard will grow to a big healthy stand of mature Ash trees in the years to come...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pool Coping

Well... it is a hot summer in the Toronto area...and the landscape work is in full, busy swing! My blog posts have somewhat slowed due to being very busy these days with many clients!

I thought I would throw in an update on my last post about Owensound Ledgerock. After my tour of the facility, and the ordering of materials, the project is finally coming together! The above picture displays a close look at the Eramosa Bush-hammered coping ordered for the job.

This picture shows the Stone Mason at his craft...carefully inspecting his mortar joints and checking his level to make things look good! The important thing when using a coping like this... the edges are machine-cut and all the pieces are gauged to almost exact you want to make sure your lines are straight and levels are equal!

If care is not put into those two important will show up in the final product and you will notice that something is out of square or not level. A less uniform type of pool coping with varying edges and thickness will be more forgiving if a mason is not too careful during the installation process.

I always demand high-quality stone work when I refer a job to a Stone Mason...the man for this job in particular put the care needed in this install to make this yard look stunning! The project is almost complete...what's next is a couple of stages, one is to build a Cabana suited for a king! ...the other is to complete the planting to make all the!!!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Owensound Ledgerock

About 2 months ago, I had a chance to visit a very special place! I figure that every landscape designer, architect and natural stone enthusiast should make it a point to visit this place at least once in their career!
The place you ask? The Owen Sound Ledgerock Quarry Facility in Owen Sound, Ontario.

Now it has been over a decade since I was last in school and going on class field trips, but when this opportunity came up to visit the Quarry, I put everything on hold and jumped at the chance to go! Consider this place, the place of ideas and wonders of what can be done with natural stone... in the picture below is a pile of limestone quarried out of the Niagara Escarpment in the surrounding area.

What Ledgerock does with it after is combine old world ideas with new world technology and provides you with a beautiful natural product. As the stone is picked through and selected for various uses, saws like the one in the photo below go to work at the stone chunks.

Computer coordinates are entered into the saw's control program and these slabs of stone get sliced and diced into different shapes.

This was the saw of all saws! I figure that blade was a diameter of 12 or 14 feet and the sound it made once it started to slice the stone was the equivalent to locking a jet aircraft inside a room and having it go to full throttle while you stood beside it!

The stream of water that showers down from the saw helps to keep the blade cool and keeps the stone dust created by the cuttings from flying around, filling the room.

Here we see some of the stone slabs being polished into smooth top counters for use in kitchens, bars or even office buildings. My one regret was that I did not get a picture of the finished counter top... the grain of the stone pattern was gorgeous! A deep rich looking mix of brown colours.

Anyway, after all that mess of stone piles and saws...the end result is packaged up into wood crates and ready to be shipped all over the place....

I would say that this has to be one of my favourite natural stone pavers. The Owen Sound Bush hammered flagstone and coping gives any landscape site a very elegant and timeless finish to the space. If a client were to ask me, what stone I would use on a project? I would say to look no further than this article!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Privacy Screen...

This recent project was a simple deck overhaul in Downtown Toronto. The home owners had started out with an interior reno-project through the winter and worked their way right out to the backyard this spring.

Basically the old deck had consisted of rotting boards and very little space for today's style of furniture... A simple addition of a few more feet to the deck and eliminating a big step out from the back door gave the deck a lot more space to use for furniture and walkway room.

Add to that a very simplified design of a privacy screen to help create that feeling of a room and you have a nice outdoor extension to your quaint little downtown backyard.... without a major renovation expense.

The wood used here is Tigerwood...not to be confused with the golfer... it can be stained to preserve the beautiful rich colour you see, or left to weather to a silver-grey colour. The project was crafted by the expertise of Tony Fredricks of the wood crafters... 416-420-3999

Friday, April 02, 2010

Canadian Home Workshop

It was about the beginning of February... I was at my drafting table dreaming of warmer days and the season to come. I was drawing away on a landscape plan for a customer... placing a pool in the correct position for them when my phone rings and it is the editor for Canadian Home Workshop asking me if I wanted to participate in a story they were doing. Now there is a call you don't expect to get every day!

The idea was to have me create 3 landscape plans centered around 3 themes and make the drawings look pretty. The question was...would I be interested in doing that? My answer was very short and direct! Yes!!!! would be the case with most any landscape designer worth his salt...when presented with a chance to display themselves in a magazine...who would say no?
So here it is folks... in this months current issue of Canadian Home is actually the April/May 2010 issue... which can be found in stores now or ordered online here!

Anyway, after my phone conversation, I tossed my blackberry on the table and went back to measuring my pool spacing to ensure proper setback dimensions according to the Town of Aurora, Ontario. I kept looking back at my phone and wondering if I really just had the conversation I had....first with the editor and then a second one with the art director...or was I actually sound asleep and dreaming of a life that was not mine!?!

When I sat down to draw the 3 plans, it seemed like kind of a fuzzy dream to me as the drawings were just like any other landscape plan I would do...only I was the client for each of the three backyard plans! Anyway, I just drew from my experience with the many clients I have designed for and created the concepts you will see in the magazine article...

It was fun! was a lot of fun...and a lot of hard work too!!!....not to mention I was drawing these in the comfort of my workspace, watching Team Canada play Hockey...listening to a crackling fire in the wood burning stove while the snow lay on the ground outside.

When I opened my mail up yesterday...there it hard work along side my name printed in ink... in a magazine seen across Canada...not only was my stuff in there, but my good friend and colleague, Lawrence Winterburn of has one of his deck designs featured on the front cover of this issue along with a few showcased photos contained in a couple of the articles within this issue. He is someone I would gladly share the spotlight with on any given day....

Just wanted to say that the people at Canadian Home Workshop were a great bunch to work with and wanted to thank them for this opportunity!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A little of everything...

Recently I was asked to do a design that had a touch of everything in it...

The property owner had made requests for:
  • a pool with a water feature
  • enough patio space to allow for a chiminea and sun lounge chairs
  • deck space for dinning and BBQ area
  • a covered hot tub space
  • the cabana house with a small bar area incorporated in it
  • privacy
  • grass or lawn space to allow for kids to play and possibly have an ice rink in winter
  • storage areas
  • and last but not least....gardens!!!
When presented with these can sometimes seem like a tall order for smaller yards but the idea of a landscape design is to make things fit and organize the space so it fits well! The particular drawing shown above displays a slightly larger than normal typical sub-division lot which allowed for me to fit everything in that the customer had on their wish list! I was able to do it in a way that kept things in balance in terms of where things were located.

The end result.... a cool looking backyard that will provide hours of entertainment that would extend into the winter months with the addition of the skating rink, the chiminea spot and the hot tub!!!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What inspires- Winter 2010...part 9

Ok, so a few weeks ago I was dreaming about lupines in the summer... now it is the New Year of 2010! So...Happy New Year!

I spent a few days in the woods taking in the quiet surrounds and the snow covered landscape. On New Year's morning, I woke up to this lovely sight...

This is apparently a Barred Owl! Stands about 40 to 50 cm tall and wing spans stretch out to about 110 to 120 cm in length. It is a marvel for me to understand how such a large bird can land on a 3/8th inch diameter re-bar and perch there for a few minutes. When I first took his picture I was not sure what type of owl it was. When I got home I was able to identify him and as I read on, I discovered he has probably been living in the area for a number of years and he is the equivalent to having a neighborhood cat living in the yard!

Anyway, the next picture is showing what Nature does arrangement of hills in the distance and placement of trees....followed by a nice winding road.

Believe it or not, these roads are much easier to drive on than a snow covered road in the city mixed with road salt! The sand mixes in with the snow and combines with cold air to make the tires actually grip to the snow... and it is pollution free!

This last picture is an American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

A baby Beech...or sapling coming up from a maturing forest in the background. These trees develop a smooth bark with a very long and straight trunk. They have an interesting form and in winter they hold their leaves as you see in the picture. The larger trees can add a nice look to a bare winter backdrop of trees.