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Lake Marion Private Retreat

The design of the eight acres of land surrounding the Lake Marion residence is an environmental playground constructed with minimal impact. The entirety of the Lake Marion estate covers twenty-two acres, including the land, wetlands, and lake shoreline. Strictly regulated by local codes, the lake and wetlands were protected from any impact to their function within the area. The surrounding eight acres of originally degraded land was overgrown with invasive evergreens and shrubs, devaluing the ecological diversity of the site. The clients were committed to restoring the landscape to its native splendor, requesting that the entire area be accessible. The house sits in the originally developed land, allowing the landscape architect to balance the rest of the site with restoration plans, minimize the impact of the work and design, and provide circulation to enjoy the diverse landscape. This then led to significant restoration efforts, an extensive system of linear paths, and art installations constructed from natural, reclaimed materials.

In collaboration with Wetland Habitat Restorations, numerous management and design strategies were explored and implemented over a three-year period to improve diversity to the distinct biome of the property. Within the oak savanna that covers most of the peninsula, junipers, and lesser quality trees were removed to enhance the canopies for the oak trees and maintain visual porosity to the surrounding wetland and lake. A custom shortgrass prairie mix was seeded to restore the short, compact and showy understory and forbs. In the maple-basswood forest in the upland, buckthorns and honeysuckle shrubs were removed, and shade-loving groundcovers of sedges, wild ginger, and fern species were planted. Hybrid cattails, reed canary grass, and other invasive species were removed along the wetland areas to restore uniform textures of the native shoreline plants.

With an interconnecting path system, nearly a mile long in length, the clients, their children and friends can explore and enjoy the entire 22 acres: crossing wetlands, traversing the oak savanna, navigating the maple basswood forest, and accessing the lake. The paths are carefully laid out in straight lines, avoiding mature trees and minimizing disturbance to natural habitats. The linear paths extend as far as possible without interruption, exaggerating topographical changes innate to the ecological zones. The transitions amplify the zones with the resultant heart of the project becoming the congregation of the straight lines.

The areas of convergence were constructed as spaces for gathering and contemplation. Each space uniquely addresses a different function and geometrical resolve with a native garden specific to the biome it rests within: a Zen raking meditation garden, a floating hammock garden, a recessed fire pit, a sculptural mound, and recreational areas. At these junctures the path warps into walls, recessed seating areas, and benches.

A minimal material palette was developed for the path and converging areas. Cast-in-place concrete is used for the path on the land. Wherever a path meets a body of water, the material transitions to a raised wooden boardwalk. A consistent 42” width was maintained for the intimate and contemplative nature of the experience and is wide enough for two people to enjoy.

The landscape architect worked closely with the city to mitigate the impact of the path in and along the wetland edge, and improve the performance of an additional 200,000 square feet of the site immediately adjacent to the path and wetland buffer.

Designed by the landscape architect and constructed by the Wetland Habitat Restoration consultants. They hand-picked the machine cut branches and arranged them as art installations throughout the site. The branches were gathered from the removed trees and were designed as arts lines and path extensions, furthering the view into the forest. Different parts of the trees were used including 42” long sticks, logs and thinner branches with varying lengths. The installations subtly highlight the seasonal changes, celebrating the snow and ice with the deepest contrast. Over time the reclaimed wood will dissolve into the soil, through a process of rebirth.

The design returned the site to its native landscape and revealed the areas diversity through movement and contemplation.

Entrant office name: Coen+Partners
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Website: www.coenpartners.com
Other design firms involved in the design of the garden (if any):
Project location (State or Country): Minnesota, USA
Design year: 2016-2017
Year Built: 2017

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