Plains | Prairie | Plateau: A Retreat at the Edge

Honor Award

Residential Design

San Antonio, Texas, USA
Carbo Landscape Architecture

"This stunning residential project draws inspiration from the oak savannas, prairies, and plains of Southeast Texas. Throughout the five acres of the site, a variety of experiences have been created to bring nature to the forefront. An elevated walkway leads through a canopy of large oaks; a pool and spa reflect the sky; green roofs help hide small structures; an entry set amid native grasses, sedges, and ferns welcomes visitors; paved areas softened with natural elements facilitate drainage; and a variety of outdoor living spaces serve as evocative garden rooms. Sustainable and subtle, this home offers an immersive escape where nature takes the lead."

- 2019 Awards Jury

Project Credits

  • Jeffrey Carbo, FASLA, CARBO Landscape Architecture (Principal in Charge)
  • Mike Lanaux, FASLA, CARBO Landscape Architecture (Project Manager)
  • Roy Braswell AIA, Architects
  • Contractor: David Mauze / Mauze
  • Construction – Project Manager: Grady Sexton, Mauzé Construction
  • Landscape Contractor: Ryan Schultz/ Schultz and Co.
  • Landscape – Irrigation sub: Newsome Irrigation
  • Pool Construction: Brad Sharpe – Brad Sharpe Pools
  • Lighting: Terry Lasseigne – Illuminations by Greenlee
  • Client/Owner Representatives: David Von Mosch, Mark Cuellar, Parnak Charkhchi

Project Statement

Embracing Ecological Diversity

This residence is located just northwest of downtown San Antonio, Texas, in an unincorporated and undeveloped area known as Hill Country Village. Defined predominantly by larger residential parcels, Hill Country Village is home to many who work in San Antonio, and is an escape to a more rural Texas lifestyle. Our client purchased this home shortly after its initial construction. Our planning and construction efforts occurred over two and a half years. The planning goal for the residence was to amplify and exaggerate all things natural and native within this incredibly diverse ecological area of Southeast Texas. Preservation zones for wildlife with walking trails, use of mostly natives, and artful subtle interventions, so as to not distract from what is significant in realizing our ambitions for the client – a retreat to the simple pleasures of nature within the context of sustainable and artful simplicity. The site includes many subtle eco-tones which closely resemble the oak savannahs, prairies, and plains of Southeast Texas. We aspired to fully embrace it's diversity in our approach, with opportunities for experiential moments that would make this residential landscape sustainable, meaningful, and memorable.

Project Narrative

A Retreat to Nature and Sky

Our client requested an overall master plan for the siting of a new garage with new vehicular drive circulation and guest parking. Requests also included maintenance and management strategies for proposed preserved areas of the 5-acre site, and the addition of multiple garden rooms immediate to the residence.

The masterplan included an overall organized walking path system, the addition of a kitchen terrace garden room, multiple outdoor living spaces, with a new pool and spa.

Our mission was to marry the existing architectural precedents with that of our vision for the overall master plan, which was simple, quiet, and ecologically focused elements that supported our desire to have all feel as a retreat – a reprieve from urbanity, and an escape to nature, vegetation, wildlife, and the horizon.

The entry is intended to serve as a decompression zone -- the foyer to nature, with large masses of native grasses, sedges, ferns anchoring native scrub oaks. New construction was nested within existing large trees, and paved areas are softened by artful elements to facilitate drainage and percolation. Extensive efforts were made to preserve existing trees, with many large natives also imported and planted to envelope new construction

The Scrub Oak Savannah is home to many deer, rabbits, birds, and other wildlife. This area allows viewing without causing wildlife damage to the more fully developed garden rooms adjacent to the residence, with transparent fencing and plants securing the detailed garden rooms. An entry courtyard and canopy walk were developed around significant large oaks, facilitating accessible circulation to and around the residence and the garden rooms on the site's ridge at the rear. Tree canopies are viewed from within, further exaggerating and heightening the differences of this site's ecology and topography.

Minimal lawns define the kitchen and keeping room terrace – a more private zone for daily use and play for children and grandchildren. In these areas, minimal paving, retention of oaks, and subtle sounds of water were a priority – while also providing a dense and native evergreen backdrop. Nature is contained in graduated geometric forms which extend from preserved areas to lawn.

The rear garden of the main residence contains outdoor living areas, guest house, pool and multiple seating and gathering destinations. The pool is intended to be immersed in the garden and tree canopies, where reflections and views to the horizon from the ridge would dominate.

Native stone paving, lawn, and reflective surfaces define the horizontal, while trees and their canopies punctuate living spaces strategically to provide shaded respites. Landscapes intentionally amplify textural contrast of grasses and succulents, while also screening and camouflaging needed fencing and enclosures for security and safety. Equipment rooms at lower levels were designed with green roofs to minimize the visual impact of adjacent roofs near the pool. The canopy walk from the garage to the outdoor rooms and rear gardens provide differing views into trees, while providing easy access from front to rear of the residence, as there is a 6 ft. elevation differential from the arrival court to the pool.

This ambitious adventure was completed within 18 months. Our firm provided all design, construction documents, observation and administration over the duration of construction through completion in early 2018.

Currently, we are working to expand the more recently acquired native areas. We believe our planning goal of prioritizing nature and ecology served this client and residence well. Our belief is that nature should be dominant, and interventions subtle.


Product Sources: FURNITURE

  • McGuire Furniture Chaise Lounges

Product Sources : DRAINAGE/EROSION

  • NDS strip drains and French drains


  • Green Screen, Iron Age steel grates Planters by Slick Rock

Product Sources: IRRIGATION

  • Rainbird system.


  • DNA Steel Custom ironwork fencing / Custom IPE Decking by Lumberlink


Product Sources: STRUCTURES

  • Persyn Engineering


  • Custom copper fountain - Forged Oak Artisans. Plaster by Pebble Technology. Pumps by Zodiac.


  • Greenscape - Green Roof solutions, Green Screen Fencing.

Product Sources: SOILS

  • New Earth Products

Product Sources: HARDSCAPE

  • Leuters stone paving by Champion Stone

Product Sources: LIGHTING

  • Bevolo copper gas lanterns
  • Bobé Fire and Water - Torches
  • Greenlee Lighting – Landscape Lighting

Product Sources: OTHER

  • Custom firepits by Cozy Outdoor Escapes, Tiki Torches Outdoor Fire and Patio.

Product Sources: HARDSCAPE

  • Coldspring - Granite
  • Architectural Cast Stone - Precast Phase 2
  • Wausau Tile - Precast Phase 3

Plant List

  • American Beautyberry
  • Anacacho Orchid Tree
  • Autumn Fern
  • Bamboo Muhly
  • Berkley Sedge
  • Bi-Color Iris
  • Boston Ivy
  • Cedar Sage
  • Coral Bean
  • Century Plant Blue Agave
  • Creeping Rosemary
  • Desert Museum Palo Verde
  • Dwarf Burford Holly
  • Dwarf Turks Cap
  • Firecracker Fern
  • Giant Hesperaloe
  • Lindheimers Muhly
  • Live Oak
  • Mangnolia
  • Mexican Bush Sage
  • Mexican Feathergrass
  • Olive
  • Paleleaf Yucca
  • Palisades Zoysia
  • Pink Texas Skullcap
  • Pride of Barbados
  • Pride of Houston Yaupon Holly
  • Red Buckeye
  • Red Yucca
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Sago Palm
  • Sandankwa Viburnum
  • Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Texas Dwarf Palmetto
  • Texas Mountain Laurel
  • Texas Nolina
  • Texas River Fern
  • Texas Sage
  • Texas Sotol
  • Trumpet Vine