American Society of Landscape Architects

  2004 ASLA Professional Awards

Design Award of Merit

Feral Geometry: A Narrative of Modern Materials on the Bank of Turtle Creek, Dallas, TX
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., New York, NY

This garden on Turtle Creek is a model for the union of modern landscape design aesthetics and environmental sensitivity. Weaving new landscape elements into the site's natural systems and intense native vegetation, the garden mediates two strong contextual elements: the sophisticated glass, limestone, concrete house, and the unpredictable site condition of a steep, richly vegetated slope descending into Turtle Creek. The client desired a walking garden that was simultaneously contemplative and modern, and that included a birdbath to satisfy a passion for bird watching. The project fosters intimate exploration of the site's varied conditions and creates significant new views within the site and beyond--all while respecting the existing topography and vegetation.


This staircase of passivated stainless steel links the back kitchen terrace with the midslope path. Supported by sonotubes at key points, it minimizes environmental disturbance and "floats" ethereally above a lush and mostly native plant palette. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

The fountain area is composed of a series of concrete retaining walls that vary in height; the walls are connected to a large cantilevering concrete water basin that also functions as a birdbath. The heft of the concrete walls is offset by the riotous plantings of Texas elderberry, coralberry, and wax myrtles as well as black granite slabs that appear to hover above the water. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

The steel stairs (at bottom) also introduce the modern aesthetic of the house to the site while affirming an independent formal voice for the landscape interventions. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

Exposed aggregate steps are spaced at irregular intervals to respect and adjust to the existing topography and large trees, as well as foster awareness of the body's relationship to the changing surroundings. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

An overhead view of the south stairs reveals the deference of the stairway to the topography. The landscape architect pruned around specimen trees, removing the tertiary branches to create a visual corridor downslope and allow more sunlight to reach the ground cover layer. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

The concrete logs are not intended as a berm to forestall an imminent flood, but allow the water to flow up the hillside; despite their massiveness and stability during flood conditions, the concrete logs seem to hover above the dense plantings. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

Concrete logs along the waters edge echo the meandering steel lawn planks; they invite exploration of the often unstable area along the water's edge, especially immediately after the floodwater subsides. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

At the south end of the property, another set of exposed aggregate steps were laid out on site with each riser at irregular intervals to preserve the natural slope and respect existing trees. (Photo: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.)

These exposed aggregate steps descend from the new lawn to the fountain area. In the distance, at the top of the slope, a new concrete wall at the edge of the lawn is visible. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

Stainless steel planks on the southern edge of the lawn were laid out on site; their staggered placement prefaces a contemplative and deliberate walking pace for the rest of the garden. (Photo: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.)

The planks create the side garden entry to the garden; they are set on low sonotubes so their crisp forms appear to hover above the grass. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

A series of lawn steps extend from the house, a site of transition from interior to an exterior area of horizontal expansion. A new concrete wall (far left) was created by the landscape architect to define the "architectural" lawn space, but by sloping its top in accord with the drop of the land, the wall slips into the landscape and avoids an unnecessarily severe barrier alongside the midslope paths. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)

A detail of the stainless steel planks reveals a careful consideration of modern materials and textures—aesthetically and contextually—with regard to the siteÍs vegetation. (Photo: Carolyn Brown)



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