AIA, New York Chapter Award
This project features the house that influential architect Marcel Breuer built for himself in New Canaan in 1951. Breuer’s house was opportunely rescued in 2005 from demolition by a private client who commissioned architect Toshiko Mori to renovate the house and design a new cantilevered two-story addition and a dramatic glass-clad connector stair between the two structures.
The elegant landscape design for this 3-acre site was carefully conceived to respect the vocabulary and architectural character of the Breuer fabric and the qualities of the new additions. Open courtyards created by the building configuration, boldly patterned stone walls which direct views, circulation and imply enclosure were all elements that are characteristic of the Breuer domestic landscape. The site design embraces this landscape lexicon and utilizes it to create interconnected gardens that provide a variety of discrete experiences for the owner’s daily activities.
The existing irregular bluestone paving was preserved where intact, and replicated where additional paving was required. All of the deteriorating stone site walls were disassembled and when reconstructed were adjusted in alignment to allow for better access and connections. All stone for the walls was repurposed from site-salvaged demolition. A new stone stair was sensitively inserted between an existing and a new stone wall, which leads to the pool and pool house. New paving is typically exposed aggregate concrete with wide planted joints which express the repeated dimensional module of the house, reduce the extent of paved surfaces and provide increased permeability for storm water runoff. The sloping topography, heavily impacted by the construction, was re-graded to make useable activity lawn areas for the family.
The courtyard spaces include:
The Entry Garden with a specimen Stewartia tree dramatically positioned against a blank wall with under planting of native ferns. Against the opposite wall is a sheared Beech hedge. The paving joints are planted with creeping Thyme.
The Stair Garden surrounds both sides of the glass-clad stair which connects the original house to both levels of the addition. Loebner Magnolia and Star Magnolia are planted on both sides of the connector stair, casting shadows and silhouettes against the translucent glass and insinuate the garden into the interior of the house.
The Pool House Courtyard features shade loving plants such as Sweetbay Magnolia, Gunnera, Horsetail and Sedges. The reconstructed stone retaining wall has planted pockets filled with Spleenwort and Sedums. An overflowing bluestone basin, sized to cool bottles of wine, provides a refreshing background sound of splashing water. The wide joints in the bluestone paving are planted with mosses.
All storm water was managed on-site, channeled through open grass swales and adjacent vegetated drainage ways. Although almost rural in character, the surrounding area is a densely developed suburban landscape and the neighbor’s houses are close by in all directions. Subtle additions of White Pine, Hemlock and Spruce provide privacy and screen views of adjacent properties and roadways. Sightlines were determined by standing in the glass-walled bedrooms and directing the planting operations outside.