Featured as one of Architectural Record’s “Houses of 1964,” this residence capitalized on the best of modernist design: horizontality, simple materials, framed views, and intuitive circulation around a main open space—programmed equally for entertaining large groups and for cozy contemplation. The house and landscape were originally built in 1964 for a socialite who desired a showcase property tailored to entertaining large groups of people.
The original landscape created an oasis from the bustle of the city, driven by “a series of receding ‘garden’ walls” that create several “quiet courtyards, accessible from various rooms, [that] give the house an air of seclusion”.1
Our client had recently purchased the home and carried out a complete renovation of the interior and the landscape. We desired to be as faithful to the original design and era as possible.
Our site strategies were driven by our assessment of the impact of time paired with missed opportunities of the original design.
The elms that framed the front of the property were removed due to disease. The lack of trees and layers made the house feel exposed in the oversized auto-court.
We re-established a layered entry sequence through extending the façade’s horizontal lines with a level-planted zone from the front door to the sidewalk, and reintroducing vertical lines through an allee of trees and understory plantings.
Behind the gate, a garden is the threshold to the house. Boxwoods create structural lines that hold up through winter. Tulips fill in the rest of the bed for a spring display of color. Perennials of different textures and colors bloom in different seasons.
True to modernist themes, the original design created several courtyards to blur the line between “inside” and “outside”. However, the existing grade dropped away from the house at the north side, which disrupted circulation.
Informed by the house’s strong horizontal lines, we tangibly connected the house to the grounds with an elevated plinth that raises the grade at the back of the site from 36” below the finished floor elevation to being flush with the interior floor height. This strong visual connection between inside and out creates a natural and seamless circulation system through the courtyards without having to immediately navigate elevation.
Exterior areas and site lines beckon you outside. An upper patio extends from the living room, with views of the city skyline. Cantilevered stairs take people down to a formal seating area, with a water wall as a focal point where people can feel enclosed and immersed. Lines of hydrangea next to the water feature enclose the lawn space. Short sedum provides a texture change.
A private garden and patio is located off the master bedroom, bringing intimacy with seasonal changes of nature. This garden is enclosed and sheltered from the existing neighboring trees. Serviceberries are the backdrop of the garden. Layers of ferns, iris, and anemone offer different height and colors, while peony and snakeroot pop up in a random pattern.
An outdoor reading space is located next to the indoor library space. With layers of planting and a sculpture by Tracey Emin (commissioned for this project), the space is quiet for morning coffee and reading.
An outdoor dining area sits beneath the existing grove of honey locust trees, next to the indoor dining room. The tree canopies offer protection from the sunlight and their dappled shadows bring life to the courtyard. Concrete pavers match the interior terrazzo floors and granite aggregate. A Martin Puyear sculpture is located to be on-center with the entry portal in a bed of pachysandra and daffodil.
A vegetable garden is created next to the kitchen, fulfilling the client’s desire to grow healthy food.
Screening along property edges was carefully considered to control and frame views. The babble of a water wall in the Living Room garden provides an acoustical screen for traffic, while tall hedges on three sides of the property sufficiently screen neighboring yards. For the side yard, we designed an architectural fence that echoes the interior gallery wall in form, scale, and color (seen in the dining courtyard), and blends privacy with porosity. The detail of this fence is another example of how the new design creates a powerful link between architecture and landscape.
When the original designer’s mark is so strong, we reimagine the project with care through context. Taking inspiration from modernism’s bold gestures, we incorporated the dramatic sweeping horizontality of the raised plinth and planters, restored the entry sequence, and emphasized fluidity. The result is a project that brings joy to the current homeowner while honoring the original design of this iconic home.
1. Building Types Study: Record Houses of 1964, Architectural Record, Mid-May 1964
Project Location: Minneapolis, MN, United States of America
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2019