American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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A rendered masterplan noting the location of specific elements within the northern half of the ranch.

A rendered site plan for the main ranch house. The siting of the building was carefully looked at, so as not to encroach on any native areas more than was necessary. A re-established native prairie encompasses the house site, while an existing, wooded edge protects the back side of the house. The house was sited at the woods’ edge, an important environment for bird wildlife, the study of which is a hobby of the owner.
The main house was carefully sited along the edge of native woods. The adjacent prairie was cleared of invasive, non-natives, and over-seeded with native grass and wildflower seed, successfully re-establishing the native prairie. A buffalo grass parking area was installed with an underlayment of grass pave material to support visitor parking at the main house. This understated visitor parking is denoted by rusted steel bollards. A crushed granite path matching the indigenous stone leads visitors directly to the front door (photo: Tom Jenkins).
The architecture of the house, reminiscent of agrarian buildings due to its chosen materials, properly rests in the re-established native landscape. Its sleek appearance contrasts nicely with the texture of the prairie grass (photo: Tom Jenkins).
A soft buffalo lawn is enclosed between the back of the house and the adjacent woods, providing a perfect space for grandchildren to play within view of the house (photo: Tom Jenkins).

Reyrosa Ranch, Waxahachie, TX
MESA Design Group, Dallas, TX

"The landscape anchors the house to the site. . .very clear and disciplined strategy. . .minimalist landscape intervention, but maximum impact on the character of the entire composition. . . the landscape architecture informs the whole."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

The Rancher’s house at Reyrosa Ranch in rural Ellis County Texas had been originally conceived as a secondary structure, a gatehouse to a much larger architectural project designed for the client by Mockbee/Coker and the Rural Studio out of Auburn, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee. The original idea was a large ranch house employing regional rural materials developed in a sculptural way on the Texas blackland prairie.

The project scope was changed after the budget for the project was reduced significantly, the original architect passed away and the schedule was extended further out than the client had desired. Therefore, the client decided to convert the Rancher’s house, originally a modest structure but still an inspired design, which was under construction into the primary ranch house. They decided to add a wing, and put full commitment into the quality of the completion and site execution of the project to make it as good as or better than the originally conceived grander structure. During this process, the landscape architect was hired to look at the architectural design, site and program for the completion of the project.

This role inevitably worked into one fulfilling the client’s desires for the site and the house and molding a new concept. The landscape architect extended the house pedestrian and visual access to the site in all four directions from the main body of the house, thus connecting the house with the landscape in a more meaningful way.

These extensions took the form of two water troughs constructed out of raw concrete, that extend the occupant’s view either into the woods or the horizon to the south. These troughs also act as birdbaths as they overflow dripping into shallow edge pools. The clients are avid bird enthusiasts and enjoy the functionality of the structures to further their recreation passion. The third extension takes the form of a pedestrian bridge, which extends eastward from the house into the treetops as the grade falls away, again a vantage for bird watching. Finally, the last extension is westward from the house toward a grass parking area, built with a soil stabilization system, but hidden by the native buffalo turf. This extension bridges over a low area next to the house and extends a utilitarian line of rusted bollards toward the arrival parking. These act as a stopping point for the cars and signal a subtle entry sequence into the house.

The siting of the additional wing to the house resulted in the landscape architect having the client remove a construction pad and letting the new wing light into the grade as if nothing had ever been disturbed in the natural contour of the descending grade toward a swale in the rear of the property. All the vegetation, which was added, was an extension of the existing prairie landscape with a few cedar elms rising out of buffalo and native bluestem. The resulting effect is that building descended onto the prairie with virtually no disturbance to the grade or existing landscape, save the small panel of Buffalo lawn for the grandchildren immediately behind the house.

The native landscape restoration extends further afield to a reconstructed pond, new foreman’s house, and a new entry to the ranch. A trail ties the structures and the recreational areas together areas together and gives the client ultimate satisfaction in the sophisticated beauty of the native prairie which has revegetated in a miraculously short time frame.

Finally, the landscape architect has encouraged the owner to consider a system of new ranch roads which extend out from the house over hundreds of acres which change the road layout from one of previous legal orthogonal lines to one that transcends former legalities and works with the topography, vegetation and geology. Thus, at the end of the day, the concept, which has been executed at the house, may transform a recreational ranch to one that treasures the natural environment.


Inspired by the geometries of the house, two concrete troughs were added to the house in elongated forms. The troughs, reminiscent of watering tanks for livestock, serve as sculptural elements which have another use as utilitarian items. Their shallow depth and overflow spilling onto a shallow concrete basin provides a bath and watering function for birds (photo: Tom Jenkins).
An elevated bridge, constructed of a steel frame and Almondrillo wood decking, links the main and guest houses. The restored prairie provides a soothing view while enjoying the warmth of the guesthouse outdoor fireplace on a cool evening (photo: Tom Jenkins).
An elevated boardwalk leads from the guest quarters to a bird-watching platform. The fabricated steel construction and Almondrillo wood decking make for a sturdy structure allowing large groups to watch birds across the treetops or gaze at distant vistas on the horizon (photo: Tom Jenkins).
The boardwalk is accessed by a self-rising and lowering drawbridge, made of aluminum tread planks and operated by balanced counterweights. The drawbridge serves as a gate to block off the boardwalk when not in use. A simple pull of a cord engages the balanced counterweights to slowly raise or lower the drawbridge (photo: Tom Jenkins).
A construction drawing showing the design and fabrication of the bird-watching boardwalk and self operating drawbridge. Stairs at the end of the boardwalk lead to the ground below, and a ‘fireman’s pole’ provides an alternative and fun method for grandkids to reach the ground.
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