8 Great Examples of Outdoor Design

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
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Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's June 2015 issue.

When we laid out this issue celebrating the outdoors, it seemed as if winter would never leave New York City. Gazing at the lush greenery on each page was on one hand a much-needed balm and on the other, a kind of torture—the green expanses, sunny skies, verdant courtyards that one could traverse sans snow-boots or parka seemed a million miles away. 

Over the course of the last few decades, award-winning landscape architect Andrea Cochran has emerged as the one of the most important players on the West Coast.

Over the course of the last few decades, award-winning landscape architect Andrea Cochran has emerged as the one of the most important players on the West Coast.

There’s a haunting short story by Ray Bradbury called "All Summer in a Day," which takes place on a distant planet, where the sun only shines for one hour every seven years. The story centers around a group of schoolchildren that had heard of this momentous occasion all their lives but had yet to see it for themselves. The defining moment comes when the classmates lock one of their own in a coatroom—dooming her to miss the moment that the skies break. I first read that story as a child myself, and even now the injustice of it all chills me. To be cut off from nature is a terrible fate. Luckily—and on a more positive note!—this issue heralds the joy and freedom that embracing the outdoors can bring to our lives. 

Lawrence Halprin's pioneering efforts carving out urban spaces for all to enjoy still resonate and provide a framework for today and tomorrow’s generation of city planners and urban activists.

Lawrence Halprin's pioneering efforts carving out urban spaces for all to enjoy still resonate and provide a framework for today and tomorrow’s generation of city planners and urban activists.

We begin the issue with a package with a few bits and bobs, including a profile of the award-winning landscape architect Andrea Cochran, who over the course of the last few decades has emerged as the one of the most important players on the West Coast. We also take a look at the celebrated work of Lawrence Halprin, whose pioneering efforts carving out urban spaces for all to enjoy still resonate and provide a framework for today and tomorrow’s generation of city planners and urban activists. And we nod to the Barcelona-based company Kettal, a family-run operation that began manufacturing aluminum chairs in 1964 and now entices elite designers to create sought-after high design pieces. Speaking of furniture, we rounded up a few of our favorite alfresco accoutrements for the season ahead. And don’t miss our interview with Ed Beaulieu, a landscape professional who advocates vociferously on the subject of water conservation and the enduring merit of appropriate plantings, rainwater reclamation systems, and a well-placed water feature.

Architect Lyle Bradley spent years of weekends and evenings rehabbing an ailing row house in Boston, coaxing it into a smart home for his young family, complete with raised vegetable gardens, green roofs, and a series of wending pathways in the backyard.

Architect Lyle Bradley spent years of weekends and evenings rehabbing an ailing row house in Boston, coaxing it into a smart home for his young family, complete with raised vegetable gardens, green roofs, and a series of wending pathways in the backyard.

Elsewhere in the issue we zero in on interesting residential design that fully embraces the elements. In Boston, we herald the dedication through sweat equity expended by architect Lyle Bradley, who spent years of weekends and evenings rehabbing an ailing row house in Boston, coaxing it into a smart home for his young family, complete with raised vegetable gardens, green roofs, and a series of wending pathways in the backyard. Another example of people making the most of what’s already existing on their property is found in San Francisco, where a newly married couple bought a lot with three abandoned concrete structures and incorporated them into a progression of unique living spaces, from a half-shell outdoor dining area to a diminutive but meticulously groomed courtyard. From there we visit an unusually shaped structure in Sonoma, California, that features a teeming interior courtesy of generously sized skylights and a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. We are excited to share the work of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, who ingeniously used earthworks to create an undulating swath of green for students in Pennsylvania, eliminating the need for stairways and elevators as well as shaving quite a few zeros off the bottom line for their client, Haverford College. 

An unusually shaped structure in Sonoma, California features a teeming interior courtesy of generously sized skylights and a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows.

An unusually shaped structure in Sonoma, California features a teeming interior courtesy of generously sized skylights and a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows.

We aren’t just celebrating the green expanse—we also turn our attention to the water with two incredible residences: the first, a thoroughly modern "surf shack" off the coast of southwestern Sweden built for a family of avid water-sportsmen and the other, our cover story, which highlights a floating home in Copenhagen for a couple that just couldn’t bear to live on terra firma. We also included The Bridge House in McLean, Virginia, not only for its sensitive siting but also for the architects’ considered accommodation for three generations all living under one roof. Last but not least, we happened upon a singular home in Portland, Oregon, centered around a meditative atrium. For these residents, the connection to the outdoors was essential to their idea of home, and once that was clear, they found extremely talented architects, builders, and designers to realize their vision. 

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien ingeniously used earthworks to create an undulating swath of green for students in Pennsylvania, eliminating the need for stairways and elevators as well as shaving quite a few zeros off the bottom line for their client, Haverford College.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien ingeniously used earthworks to create an undulating swath of green for students in Pennsylvania, eliminating the need for stairways and elevators as well as shaving quite a few zeros off the bottom line for their client, Haverford College.

By the time this issue hits newsstands, spring will be in full force—in fact, summer will be just around the bend. Here’s to a fine season ahead, full of relaxing days in the sun.

A thoroughly modern "surf shack" off the coast of southwestern Sweden was built for a family of avid water-sportsmen.

A thoroughly modern "surf shack" off the coast of southwestern Sweden was built for a family of avid water-sportsmen.

Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief

A couple that just couldn’t bear to live on terra firma reside in this floating home in Copenhagen.

A couple that just couldn’t bear to live on terra firma reside in this floating home in Copenhagen.

For the residents of a singular home in Portland, Oregon, which is centered around a meditative atrium, the connection to the outdoors was essential to their idea of home.

For the residents of a singular home in Portland, Oregon, which is centered around a meditative atrium, the connection to the outdoors was essential to their idea of home.

Follow me on Twitter: @AmandaDameron