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Cliff Ridge Estate

Originally developed in the 1930’s, this Tudor style home was set within one of Boston’s fast-growing suburban neighborhoods. As is common in Boston’s older suburbs, this neighborhood has seen change in recent years with many of the original homes being razed and properties subdivided to make way for newer larger homes, which meet the needs of today’s contemporary families. Traditional style homes continue to be the vernacular in the neighborhood and this property significantly contributes to the established neighborhood character. But, as of its period, both the landscape and residence were outdated and not in accord with the lifestyle of a modern family. The existing home was segmented into small dark rooms with low ceilings. There was little connection between the homes interior and the landscape, and substantial grade change at the rear yard resulted in the existing landscape being fragmented into two separated areas: an upper area along the back of the house, and a lower lawn and tennis court in disrepair. Having admired the property for years, the clients finally had the opportunity to purchase the 2.45 acre estate in 2013. The estate’s new owners demonstrated an interest in preserving the rich historic character of the property, while developing an open, family oriented home and landscape that would meet the needs of their modern family. They were also interested in taking advantage of parts of the property that were under-utilized and strengthening the connections between the spaces to produce a landscape and home well-suited for large gatherings of friends and family.

In conceiving the transformation of the property, the clients expressed a desire to incorporate a pavilion with a fireplace and changing room, swimming pool, generous dining terrace, grill, event space, sports lawn, enhanced privacy plantings, and a renovated driveway and foundation planting. The design team worked closely to develop a concept of breaking down the walls, which had divided the interior rooms of the house and pavilion from the landscape. It was a primary goal of the design team to embrace the landscape as an extension of the architectural space, thereby enhancing the spatial experience and unifying the property. Unifying the interior and exterior spaces was accomplished by introducing glass walls that extend the interior rooms to a series of cascading outdoor rooms that gently descend the site. The glass walls along the length of the house and the open pavilion create a strong connection between the interior and exterior spaces. Majestic oak trees create a ceiling over the dinning terrace and event space, facilitating the creation of a variety of spatial experiences. Each level of the cascading landscape becomes more open as it descends the site. The terraces culminate in an infinity waterfall at the pool, enhancing the visual connection between the house, terraces and lower lawn. Clean elegant lines of the modern design are softened with restrained planting, and open lawn stairs provide edges for the spaces while maintaining a strong connection between them. Linear hardscape and cascading outdoor rooms draw the user through the garden while maximizing the connection across the site. And the use of traditional materials, textures, and colors create a seamless blending of the modern renovations with the existing residence. Construction details were developed that uniquely addressed the site specific conditions of ledge and mature vegetation. Preservation of the oak grove not only informed the design, but also required the implementation of a plan which focused on tree health during construction and responded to post-construction impacts. From the perforated footing design of paving which promotes aeration and porosity, to amended soils and de-compaction treatments, the construction methods were largely driven by tree preservation. Working with a structural engineer, a strategy was developed to anchor the terraces and structures directly into the bedrock ledge just under the surface, while a sophisticated drainage system captures and recharges the perched groundwater and surface runoff.

The significance of this project is its sensitivity to the historic nature of the site while successfully melding two contrasting design styles to create a modern landscape renovation that sits comfortably within a traditional neighborhood. By breaking down the barriers between the interior and exterior this design expands the usable living space without compromising a 1930’s neighborhood landmark that may have otherwise been torn down to make way for a new larger home.

Entrant office name: Dan Gordon Landscape Architects
Role of the entrant in the project: Lead Designer
Website: http://dangordon.com/landscapes/cliff-ridge-estate
Other design firms involved in the design of the garden (if any): LDA Architects collaborated on the design of the pavilion.
Project location (State or Country): Massachusetts, USA
Design year: 2013
Year Built: 2015

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