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Canadian Eclectic
A British Columbia residence intertwines influences from a Mondrian painting, an English manor garden, and Canadian resorts.
By Catherine MacDonald

From the beginning, landscape architect Ron Rule knew the project in Vancouver’s Southlands neighborhood would be a bit different. The owner, a businessman in his late 50s, challenged Rule and another designer to come up with drawings of concepts for an outdoor sculpture gallery as part of a residential garden with a resort “feel.” With 25 years of experience in practice concentrating on high-end gardens in the Vancouver area and in Washington state and a dedication to garden history, Rule approached the design with a set of ideas bridging an early-twentieth-century English garden and a tropical resort.

Photo by: Martin Tessler

Looking for an overall hook with which to sell his garden concept, Rule came upon a photo of Piet Mondrian’s 1914 painting Blue Facade. It was derived from Mondrian’s sketches of Paris building facades that included traces of demolished elements. Rule decided to use a similar composition—an interlocking sequence of spaces and angles, but composed on the ground plane with lawn edges, low walls, and arrangements of hedges. This had tremendous appeal for the client, an art collector. Rule outdid the competing designer, and the three-acre garden was completed in 2002 after two years of design and construction.

Early in the process, Rule developed an appreciation for the property. The interior of the late 1970s rancher had been extensively renovated, but the exterior facades and massing of the house were still well scaled, so Rule knew the garden wouldn’t have to compete with a dominating house. The residence has good at-grade connections and is ideally located on the site, allowing the garden to flow around the residence and the larger patio areas to be sited on the south side.

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