Rarely has there been a more unprepossessing lot for an extensive residential landscaping project: a scrubby two-acre parcel shaped like a pie slice and dominated by a steep hill bordering a busy and loud thoroughfare in Austin, Texas. When designer Rick Scheen went to examine it for the first time, large culvert pipes stuck up through the ground in a ditch, trash was strewn everywhere, “and there were some really bad views of tear-down houses,” he recalls.
A map of the garden. Image courtesy of Babylonstoren.
Babylonstoren means “Tower of Babel” in Dutch, and the eight acres of gardens at this restored 18th-century Cape Dutch farmstead and hotel in South Africa’s Drakenstein Valley are, like their namesake, both monumental and tantalizingly unfinished. And yet, a walk through the grounds may help visitors do what that skyscraper of legend could not: touch heaven.
In a crowded Japanese cityscape, glass boxes by ON Design Partners are stacked like the urban towers that surround them. Inside, discrete plantings provide a connection to nature and fresh vegetables for nearby restaurants.
I didn't make the Dream Space with a specific design in mind; I followed basic principles of weight, architecture, and natural form, and this is what developed. About 13 feet in diameter and 7.5 feet high, it's made of thin, weather-resistant pine. Each piece is one long strip, anchored at the base and spread equal distance from the next. The lengths of wood curve like that on their own, supporting each other, and coming together in a way that makes the structure durable. We just guide them with aluminum rivets and brackets. The resulting form is not a dome, it's not a turret.