Courtyard Garden, Bristol
The Garden Brief
A small pocket of space in the city. The existing garden was a cold, hard, granite paved space. An awkward low wall divided the space with a path on one side and further paving on the other. Overall the space felt uninviting and had a shady dingy atmosphere. This is the front garden to our client’s home. The current sense of arrival, however, was direct, a bit bleak and very hard and grey.
The design aim was to transform the space into a welcoming garden which stepped you away from the busy world behind. A luscious entrance to a tranquil home. French doors from the client’s studio also opened out onto the space. Part of the brief was to create an inviting from the studio and to feel enticed into the garden. The client wanted to be able to step out barefoot and practice their pilates in the courtyard.
Overall the aim of the garden was to was to capture a feeling of sanctuary, warmth and calm. Pratical considerations were to maximise the space, sunlight and rationalise the mismatch of levels to create a usable space to escape into.
Photography courtesey of Artur Tixiliski
The Garden Design
This garden provided an opportunity to explore a playful and enjoyable dialogue between movement and pause, focused view lines and moments of expansion. This conversation was enjoyed through both the design form and realised in material features.
The first use of the garden is as the front path and entrance to the property, the second is a tranquil courtyard. Exploring the conversation and balance between these two key and different paced elements brought the garden to life and created a unique space. The path vista draws you into the space. The Shou Sugi Ban post features frame and focuses the view. They obscure the wider view, drawing you in with intrigue. The view is punctuated by the posts. At this moment of punctuation a dynamic sweeping curve cuts across the path and opens up the garden up. You are drawn into the main courtyard with the feature panel breaking up the long wall at the end of the curve. This moment of breath and expansion are then contrasted and balanced by the inviting continued focused vista to a welcoming enclose at the front door.
This play and overall sense of balance in asymmetry and rhythm were really enjoyable to explore in design and see come to life in this build.
For the main courtyard space we used thermo-treated timber decking for a warm and pleasant material under bare-feet. An inviting surface to draw the client out from the house and encourage them to practice their yoga and pilates on the deck surface.
We re-used some of the exiting granite paving in a softer and more contemporary way to keep costs and the carbon footprint down. Firstly we rethought the granite material and cut it up to create the stepping stone path. Secondly we planted sagina moss and spread small gravel in-between the stepping stones to soften the path.
The planting is immersive and luscious with an exotic twist to build upon the feeling of creating another world.
The vista of this garden is ever-changing in the seasons and developing as the garden settles. Seeing this come to life and develop has been really enjoyable as the garden has knitted together and the planting has established. The Shou Sugi Ban posts and feature panel along this vista are key to this design and its enjoyment. I loved seeing these created and then the impact they have on the space; punctuating and framing the view.
The garden provides an immersive sanctuary for our clients where previously there was a damp, dull and grey granite entrance area to the house. Now the clients can step through their front gate and be transported to another world, away from everyday bustle. The space welcomes them home. Opening the door from the pavement is like opening the door into a secret garden. An enjoyable moment of discovery.
The new layout of the space and the rationalising of levels creates a balanced and usable space. The clients can sit out and enjoy the sunshine in what use to feel like a shady and uninviting space. The client frequently practices her yoga on the deck and opens the studio double doors to bring the garden inside. The space is no longer an unused area at the front of the house, but a place to discover. A courtyard to disappear into for a moment of tranquility amongst exotic inspired luscious planting. A space full of texture and atmosphere with barefoot on the warm deck, grasses rustling in the breeze and the gentle water feature cascading in the background. The garden is now a tranquil haven providing a well needed connection with nature in a city setting.
I designed this garden whilst working in the Artisan Landscapes design team, who built the garden