Detached houses with gardens bordered by wire fences, sheds, fields, fruit trees, and colorful flower beds. A quiet village in a dramatically shaped valley, where the morning light alternates with the afternoon shadow. Such is a typical Czech village set in the picturesque region of a rolling valley of the Moravian Karst.
A newly built family house remained like a pearl in the middle of a plot scarred by the construction process. The steep slope on the south side of a deeply cut valley makes the otherwise ordinary land quite an extreme habitat. The slope required a complicated foundation for the house and the heavy machinery did as much damage to the plot as it could. Fortunately, the lower part of the plot remained undisturbed and home to several fruit trees.
A small prismatic wood-paneled house rises high on seven steel columns above the slope. Thanks to the sensitive terrain setting, the house enjoys the views of the valley, while when viewed from the street it does not protrude in any way. The house looks out onto the garden and communicates beautifully with its surroundings. It offers fantastic places to stay – three terraces. The main terrace on the east side of the house faces the village in the valley and the crowns of the forest on the opposite slope. The south terrace between the steel columns that support the house is cleverly shaded by the very mass of the building and offers a more intimate view of the orchard. The third terrace is hidden inside the building. The existing orchard, at the bottom of the plot, had a good basis for a new garden. Our mission as landscape architects was to sew these two different worlds – world of the modern house and its new family with the world of the existing land and its old orchard.
The answer was meant to be simple; a path that winds through the garden like a thread and tailor the two pieces of land together. It starts at the top, at the entrance to the plot immediately from the front door, jumps down the stepping stones around the house, runs across the grassy meadow from edge to edge, all the way down the slope. Thus, with a bold elegant curve, we get from the upper gate along the house through the orchard in a meandering manner.
We ‘sculpted’ the garden in situ – in such a complex topography, it feels much better to route the paths and choose places right on the spot than over the paper in warmth of the studio. Field modeling helped us to create a small plane for the residential lawn right next to the house and with a terrain wall in the lower part of the plot we opened space for a larger grassy area. The rest of the garden remains sloping and inclined, and users of the garden will, willingly or unwillingly, remain in shape and fit with every visit to the orchard.
When we start designing a garden in such an amazing environment, half of the work is already done – we don’t have to shield the place from the neighbors, we don’t obscure unwanted views – but we open our surroundings as much as possible and only frame the best view. We created several corners to rest. The zig-zag path lined with stone pedals leads through the meadow under the house from the terraces, to a patch for deck chairs on the side of the house, meets a small sitting under the treetops, and continues to a fireplace at the lower lawn.
As for vegetation, we tried not to protrude from the ubiquitous village harmony. Composition of the assortment is rich, but chosen carefully from native species that do not require any special care or winter-hibernation. When choosing plants, we also took into account the function of strengthening the slope with the root system, so that the garden is protected from landslides and effects of water erosion. In addition to the orchard, fireplace and small places to stay, the garden is also equipped with a modest herb and vegetable section. In connection with fruiting trees, the garden is not only handsome, but also completely edible.
From the unhappy situation after the house construction, we managed to gain a pleasant place to be. The garden still offers a large elevation difference and a walk through the site that is almost an alpine hike, but it also draws from this extreme – enjoys the biggest benefit, amazing views of the neighborhood. The house ended up surrounded by local species and under the fruiting trees we can already see a meadow full of flowers, moisture and life.
The owners of the house are free-thinkers and their garden can live with them – it is designed as easy-going as possible, from materials and species that are easy to maintain. So when the hosts don’t have the time or desire to take care, the garden will patiently wait for them. Like its owners, this garden respects current trends and is in no hurry.
Architecture offices involved in the design: Tomáš Beránek (the house)
Project location: Řícmanice, Czech Republic
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2019