Perched on the banks of the Magothy River, a wide tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, Broadwater is a celebration of water, art, and life. From vessels of water, to weathered steel sculptural representations, to subtle stormwater management features, water unifies every element of the design. Once an out-of-place Spanish style house with lawn as it’s only vegetation, the design of Broadwater was inspired by the ½ acre site’s expansive river views and the client’s love of art and sculpture. A contemporary glass house now sits on a bluestone plinth allowing the family to always be immersed in the gardens. With no gutters and a metal roof, water can be seen and heard in a full sensory experience.
In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we love water for its emotive, aesthetic, and functional qualities, it is calming, beautiful, and restful. The movement of water is powerful and poetic. It’s ability to reflect light and nature evokes the spiritual. We value water, it sustains ecosystems, and we endeavor to clean and purify water through design. The Chesapeake Bay has 11,684 miles of shoreline, more than the entire US west coast. It is supported by a watershed that encompasses more than 64,000 square miles, including parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Due to its location, shape, and shallow depth, the Bay contains a staggering diversity of organisms. In recent years, the discipline of landscape architecture has directed much of its focus to the resiliency of larger coastal landscapes, but challenges also exist in the multitude of private properties that define much of the Chesapeake coastline. We have the potential to create a positive influence on the Bay, one project at a time by focusing on design’s impact on water. Broadwater illustrates that through experience, observation and curiosity, we can improve the connectedness of habitats, ecologies and natural systems.
The design is grounded in the idea that we see water through the reflection of light and cannot contain water without a vessel. Broadwater celebrates the containers, ranging from a long band of water stretching across the front of the house, to a negative-edge pool, to the larger Magothy River and Bay beyond. Each vessel highlights the consideration of scale and theatrical effect of water and light in the garden. The attention to water begins at the entry. Initiated by a stainless steel gate, the garden descends down a driveway to the parking court. Water is collected along the driveway in horizontal bands of black Mexican gravel, ultimately flowing into a shallow channel. Before entering the home, one crosses an irregular stone slab, a counterpoint to the clean lines of the architecture. The glass house rests on a level plinth. Carved into the plinth, the pool acts as a plate of glass and a mirror to reflect the beauty of house and sky. Proceeding through the house, the garden terraces to the river’s edge. The River creates the mood in the garden: fog on a cool spring morning; a lively boating scene; fast-moving clouds mid-afternoon; and hazy skies on a warm summer evening. The River is the stage for the lives lived in the garden.
Sculptures designed by the landscape architects articulate a connection to water and create destinations. Set in the entry garden, the steel nautilus was designed as an element to be viewed from the children’s bunk room above, and as a unique space for play. The nautilus shape recalls a circular “eddy” in a river current. Along the water’s edge, a weathered steel screen calculates the bending and refraction of light on water. The screen creates a backdrop for social gatherings around a bluestone fire pit.
The garden acts as a large natural sponge while projecting a sophisticated coastal aesthetic. During storm events, the sound of the rainwater crashing on the black pebble drains edging the house is a sensory experience. Water is collected through swales, drains and channels, passing through the garden, beneath a lawn bridge, and soaking into a series of rain gardens before releasing into the Magothy River. Large plantings filter water and bind sediments, improving overall water quality. The planting at Broadwater is intentionally restrained, enhancing the serenity of place and heightening the impact of water. Large bands of native Chesapeake grasses and perennials, including panicum, spartina, eragrostis, and hibiscus, envelop the waterfront edge in a way that blurs the margin between land and water. Plants were selected to declare space in the garden, acting as architectural elements but respecting and reflecting the native tidewater palette.
In the Chesapeake Bay region water is all around us, enhancing the quality of our lives. In one small garden on the Magothy River, we value, preserve, and cherish water so that homeowner and nature can coexist in harmony.
Entrant office name: Campion Hruby Landscape Architects
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved in the design of the garden (if any):
Project location (State or Country): Maryland
Design year: 2012
Year Built: 2015
Photo Credit: David Burroughs