Best Gardens: Green Elevation

Best Gardens: Green Elevation

February 12, 2008
Photo by: D.A. Horchner

The irony in building a home on a steep hillside is the difficulty in carving out the footprint of the structure without damaging the natural beauty that inspired the construction. But when landscape architect Richard Shaw of Aspen-based Design Workshop approached this project in the Rocky Mountains near Woody Creek, Colorado, working closely with Poss Architecture + Planning, he knew there was a way to minimize the impact while maximizing the views and assets of the surroundings.

Creating a perimeter of thick walls defined the building space and protected nature outside that boundary. The rich palette of plants in the local aspen forest was then brought up to the walls and into garden areas. Taking this process to the next level, the plant mixes used, developed specifically for this project, were attuned even to altitude and orientation.

Connecting indoors and outdoors was the guiding force in the design of both house and garden. Says Shaw, "The landscape was not a slave to the architecture," and the design was a collaborative effort between landscape architect and architect. From inside, designed and natural landscapes, intimate spaces and breathtaking vistas, can be seen from every room and at every level. Even outside, strategic gaps in garden walls frame views. Indoor living areas are on a level with outdoor living areas and garden spaces, making for easy transition. At the heart is a courtyard for entertaining, with a central pool and a garden space of lawn and perennials that is also a green roof over service areas. A tenting option for the terrace means the party can go on even with frequent afternoon showers.

Another of Shaw's goals was to explore the "states of water and how it can move." Emerging as mist from a granite slab in the entry courtyard, cascading from walls like snowmelt, traveling along runnels, reflecting the scenery in still pools, water becomes, visually and thematically, a connective tool, linking created and natural habitats. For more information, call 970-925-8354 or see