The Fairfield project is an example of new infrastructure creating opportunity to improve and restore the natural systems of a site and its surrounding context. The project site was highlighted by a dilapidated home that was falling into the Atlantic Ocean; the result of a receding shoreline. The landscape was comprised of overgrown ornamental and invasive planting types, which had outcompeted the native plant species. The new design relies in a minimalist approach to development, that harmonizes with the natural systems of the site. Walls and terraces of limestone rise out of the grade, with a completely native planting palate blurring the lines between structure and site. The result is a project that feels appropriate in its natural setting.
National and local agencies introduced numerous parameters for developing the property. Most significant was a FEMA requirement to raise the new residence roughly 10’ above existing grade, protecting it from future storm events. To bridge this disconnect between building and site, the concept arose to reestablish a large dune landform to the South of the new residence, physically protecting and connecting the house and landscape. This new dunescape was created by shaping 5,000 cubic yards of local reclaimed beach sand into sinuous and undulating forms that reference the naturally created dunes, which had previously existed. A sea of American beach grass was used to stabilize the sand, and low masses of native Beach plum and Bayberry were layered in, providing deeper root structure to strengthen the dune. Recognizing the environmental significance of this undertaking, a similar restoration effort was implemented along the freshwater edge of Fairfield Pond, situated North of the site. Carefully preserving native plant communities, and habitat; soil and debris were removed by hand. A new diverse matrix of a native wetland plants including High bush blueberry, inkberry, switch grass and spartina grass were used to reestablish the wetland edge and upland buffer between the house and pond.
Understanding the significant impact of restoring these natural systems, a conscious decision was made to use only native plants for the entire project, even in areas were ornamental planting would be permissible. Wild field collected specimens of native Shadblow, Bayberry and Winterberry were located, serving as prominent features in the design. Carex pensylvanica was creatively reimagined as a tailored groundcover, used in place of ornamental alternatives. By electing to showcase these native plant options, the landscape became a sustainable part of the larger environmental context; improving water quality, creating habitat, bio-diversity and reducing water and energy consumption.