la casa residence
multiple phases 2016 - 2021
This project was conceived and constructed for a family in South Austin in 2016. The clients moved from San Antonio and left behind a mature garden space. Post-construction, their new single-family spec home sat on a corner lot that was a sloping, heavily sodded blank slate. They wanted their entire property to be unified in one design language and to maximize the use of the three small outdoor spaces: a front, side, and backyard. The landscape design proposal we created for the 3,865 square-foot outdoor space focuses on function, resilience, and sustainability.
While those characteristics are unique to the site, there is a trend in Austin to leave very little outdoor space as they fill the lot to the impervious cover limit. In a neighborhood crowded with similar houses, nearby windows overlook yards, making privacy seemingly impossible. These small yards have very few square footage available to create usable space, so they remain undesigned—an afterthought—and are simply sodded with turfgrass. This urban density does not address the yearning we have for open space, where vegetation is sorely needed to soften the orthogonal, hard lines of the built environment. This niche of small-scale outdoor living spaces is often overlooked by landscape architects, and we feel our design elevates the profession by providing a level of detail, sophistication, and thoughtfulness usually reserved for larger high-end residences, commercial projects, or public green spaces.
The front yard includes a level terrace on the sloped site, providing the largest play area for the two young kids. In order to create a barrier from the street, the yard is edged with a planted bed. On the opposite side of the entry path, a raised planter with an ornamental tree provides a focal point for the kitchen window to create interest both inside and outside the home. The side yard outside of the fence retains its natural slope and is densely planted to slow the flow of water and help with erosion control via root balls once they become established.
The side yard is a suitable scale for entertaining or dining as a family. A steel and cedar arbor provides a structure to grow vines overhead and to give shade to the deck. The cedar slats establish a rhythmic continuation of the living room ceiling, guiding the eye from indoors to the exterior, further emphasizing the connection to the outside spaces. The most recent round of design and build included adding a pool and updating the fence and gates.
The backyard is used an extension off the main bedroom, generating a private space for relaxation in a lush garden oasis. A low site wall facilitates leveling the space and provides additional informal seating. A simple post and beam structure is a flexible framework to allow for the use of a hammock or net swing for the children. An irregular pattern of limestone pavers provides unprogrammed hardscape for seating and barefoot play space. Since the outdoor space is shared with vehicles under a carport, a partition of hedge variety of bamboo in a raised planter makes it feel less utilitarian and more ensconced by vegetation.