On a private beachfront site of crystalline white sand, DWY was charged with creating a sanctuary – a place where the homeowner could live in harmony with the natural surroundings and their inherent spiritual qualities. The client loved the contemporary design of the existing home and the property’s 200’ of shoreline. However, years of deferred landscape maintenance from the previous owner had resulted in a site overgrown with invasive species and a limited palette of poorly placed plant material, all in a state of decline. This, along with undefined circulation and parking – tucked in random slots between invasive trees – set the stage for the landscape architect. The enclave of the Sanderling Club, developed in the 1950s in the tradition of the Sarasota School of Architecture, is home to several mid-century modern structures, including Paul Rudolph’s beach cabanas. The overarching goal at Aquadisia was to synthesize the existing home and the context through a series of landscape gestures that underscore the spirit of place.
The implementation of the landscape design was preceded by the removal of all invasive exotics, allowing the four-foot module of the architecture to unfold into the property. Design elements sited in this grid include a private drive; guest entry drive and motor court; elevated plaza with a Parsons bench, reflecting pool, and glass cube; pedestrian walk and new mailbox; labyrinth garden; grove of royal palms; ground-level massage room and gallery; water garden; sunken guest spa; expanded second-level deck with private spa; and a new spiral stair to an existing crow’s nest. To complement the clarity of water, used throughout to tie each aspect of the project together, a minimal palette of glass, shell-top concrete, and wood was employed.
The Sanderling Club design guidelines stipulate that each property must have a landscape screen to maintain an atmosphere of quiet seclusion. In response, DWY developed a screen of wind- and salt-tolerant bamboo with subtle breaks at the entry drives and pedestrian walkway.
Upon arrival in the guest motor court, a linear reflecting pool directs the visitor’s gaze to a 12’ glass cube and the main entry of the home beyond. Walking through this threshold, between the marble Foo dogs that stand guard, the visitor experiences a moment of pause, acclimating to the quiet of the site. The cube – part architecture, part sculpture – has no structural armature and the low-iron glass panels appear to float at the western terminus of the reflecting pool. At the opposite end, from a 20’ clear-span Parsons bench, the visitor can take in the expansive landscape.
Below the elevated house, two new spaces were conceived by the landscape architect – a gallery and a massage room. These “found spaces” were transformed from leftover space into delicate glass volumes, carrying the vocabulary of the cube into to the house and grounding the architecture. Both of these new spaces accommodate valuable grade-level programming and the client’s daily routines. To define each space floor-to-ceiling glass was fitted into a stainless steel shoe below the new shell-top concrete floors. This detail allows the hardscape material – used in the region for decades as a “coastal terrazzo” – to carry seamlessly from the outside in. From the gallery, a panoramic view wraps from the motor court to the east around to the Gulf of Mexico to the west. To tie this space in to the existing circulation of the house, a four-foot wide portion of the existing grade level wall was removed. Similarly, the second “found space” of the massage room was tied into the structure by modifying the existing elevator. The cab was retrofitted to create a direct connection between the master suite above and the new massage room. The view through the continuous glass walls carries to the labyrinth to the northeast. This tranquil meditation garden is concealed within a screen of dwarf Buddha belly bamboo. Along the edge of these new spaces a water garden wraps around and feeds into a guest spa, paired with a fire pit with a glass-clad water wall. From within the spa, the visitor is immersed in the landscape and the material experience of the site.
Emerging on the west side of the water garden, a new exterior stair ascends to the expanded second-level deck – a generous space for entertaining and taking in the horizon. The low-iron glass railing, detailed in a similar manner as the glass structures below, allows unobstructed views from the deck and the spa outside the master suite. Providing a separation between the main deck and this private spa, a new spiral staircase connects to the crow’s nest above. The “Aquadisia” logo was water-etched into each tread and a curved cast-glass railing continues the motif of material clarity up to the apex of the site.
Honoring the spirit of the place, a program of built and natural elements provides a sanctuary for the client to practice her daily rituals.
Entrant office name: DWY Landscape Architects
Role of the entrant in the project: Prime Consultant – Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved in the design of the garden (if any):
David K Lowe Interior Design
Project location (State or Country):
Design year: 2011
Year Built: 2013