The lucky couple who gets to live in Kun 2, a Richard Neutra house in the hills of Los Angeles, have it made. Views sweep across the entire city from the living and bedrooms, and now there’s an elegant work of residential landscape architecture to go with the home that also solves contemporary challenges. Lisa Gimmy, ASLA, a landscape architect who specializes in the design of Modern landscapes, actually improved the work of one of the premier Modern architects, said Noel Vernon, ASLA, Associate Dean and Professor of Landscape Architecture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, while introducing the Garden Dialogue event organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). Vernon said the new landscape, which was recently featured in the TCLF conference organized at the Museum of Modern Art, “builds on the indoor-outdoor relationship Neutra loved.”
The landscape architecture project came out of a landslide that covered six feet of one corner of the house and their car, said one of the owners. The couple quickly commissioned an engineer to create plans for a retaining wall but found it lacking. A 20-foot diagonal wall would have cut through the back of the property, messing with the careful lines Neutra spent so much time creating.
So Gimmy came in and devised a set of wall configurations with a civil and structural engineer to make the wall work better with the house. The result looked like it should always have been there. A tiered wall slowly steps down, providing a hidden space for recycling and compost bins, while also becoming home to new plants, including the alien Black Rose (or Zwartkop). Next to what must be one of the most attractive retaining walls, there are also spaces for two cars.
The retaining wall led to other projects. A regraded driveway offers a smoother ride on concrete set in a grid format. A new pathway in the rear of the house is set amid a bamboo garden and agave, which creates a “textural contrast.” A rolling wave-like mini-lawn made of Korean grass is a cap for a wall of granite boulders hand-carved by a local mason. There’s also a new deck leading out from the living room so elegant Neutra would have loved it, too.
Gimmy really studied Neutra’s work to see what he did with landscapes in his other projects, but then worked with clients and conditions of the site to forge her own new course that is still respectful of Neutra’s work. She wanted to make sure the landscape enhanced the amazing views. Her attention to detail results in a sense of comfort and pleasure as you walk around the site. For example, the deck in the front of the house would be scary if one looked over the edge down the steep hills. Her solution: a set of rosemary hedges that have grown up to “give us comfort being out there.”
TCLF has more Garden Dialogues coming along across the country this summer. At just $35 for an in-depth multi-hour tour with the owner and landscape architect, these are a steal. Also, check out their free and educational What’s Out There events coming to Washington, D.C. and New York.
Image credits: Deniz Durmuz