Handling Hard Surfaces

hard4This contemporary American version of a classic French chateau includes garage wings on either side of the main house. What a beautiful architectural detail- visually treating the garages as living space. This gives the house a very European flavor. The design challenge was providing enough space to turn cars into the garages, and guest parking, without the landscape looking like a commercial parking lot.

hard2The wing walls, finished in large columns add another hard architectural feature to the mix.  As there is no hiding so many hard surfaces of this size, why not celebrate them?  Selecting a primary material for the drive and drive court came first.  The clients decided they liked concrete aggregate as a surface.  Though their first choice was gravel, they had legitimate concerns about snowplow damage.  Good looking concrete aggregate requires a very skilled contractor; be sure you see samples of work before you sign up.

hard3The concrete aggregate in the drive court was comprised of four sections, based on the turning radius into the garage, and the reverse radius corresponding to the surface needed to back out of the garage.  This picture illustrates the aggregate surface I thought necessary  to back out gracefully.  Four quadrants made it easy to sawcut the aggregate every 100 square feet or so.  Large surfaces of concrete require expansion joints, so if there is to be any cracking, the cracking occurs in these joints.  The area immediately to the right of the freshly poured concrete in this picture was surfaced in decomposed granite. This change of material is a subtle one, in terms of its texture and color, but definitely a change. This created four curved shapes on the ground, in contrast to the rectilinear shapes of the house.  They also repeat the curved roof over the front porch.


Once the drive and drivecourt were finished, it becomes clear that the presentation of the house from the street looks more green than one would have expected.  Rectangles of boxwood, and large mugho pines on standard planted in wood boxes are framed by a pair of London planes, inset from each pillar.  The plane trees were mulched in decomposed granite.hard7

The last remaining element-a medallion for the center.  I had the idea the shape would represent in a very schematic way, the four points of a compass.  The blue granite has a highly textured surface, and breaks up the expanse of paving effectively.

hard8Each stone was individually set in mortar, as the thickness of each stone varied a good deal.  Natural stone takes so much longer to set, as it is never completely or predictably the same thickness from stone to stone.

hard9The roughness of this stone seemed to ask for a frame.   To cut limestone to fit perfectly here would have been very problematic.  So we poured a border of mortar, finished to resemble the limestone on the house.

hard11The finished drivecourt is an interested study in shapes and textures, as well as a utilitarian solution for parking.

hardlastThe decomposed granite was brought outside the wing walls, to better visually integrate the drive and drivecourt.  I think the end result is not  just austere, but beautifully austere.