by linda hayes | June 21, 2012 | Lifestyle
A stone-wrapped saline lap pool by Aspen’s Bluegreen echoes the serene surroundings
“Water is the voice of the garden.” With that simple thought, Kirk Alexander sums up one of the foremost trends in landscape architecture in and around Aspen—water features. “The sound of water is everything,” he explains. “What you’re trying to achieve is idealized nature, fantasy, and bringing those elements that are memorable from nature into your own garden.”
Alexander, a Carbondale-based landscape architect by trade and an artist-sculptor by instinct, believes that when it comes to incorporating water into a garden, anything goes. “A garden is an open place of expression,” he says. “You can create a waterfall with boulders, or build a natural watercourse or pond. You can build fountains or birdbaths from simple sculptural pieces. There’s no real controlling factor other than budget, and keeping it believable.”
Brian Judge, who recently brought to Aspen his architecture and planning firm, Judge + Associates, took the concept of water as a natural sound element to extremes. His clients wanted to engage their sloping home-site in a creative way. “The home was fashioned after the great architecture of national parks, with massive stonework and oversize timber,” he says. “The underlying premise of the architecture was to create light interaction and noise.”
Light was achieved by pulling sections of the house up out of the site, which allowed for additional windows; noise by the creation of a dramatic, 75-foot-long, moss rock streamway, complete with an eight-foot-tall waterfall that rushes loudly between the sections and under a series of bridges. Impressive enough on its own, the streamway also provides access to the owners’ subterranean wine cellar. “It’s an artistic, function-based water feature,” he says. “You walk on stepping stones in the stream-bed and under the waterfall, which is programmed to turn off when the door of the home opens and back on after entering the wine room. It’s quite experiential.”
Valerie Yaw, principal of Aspen’s Bluegreen, was faced with the opposite challenge when engaged to design landscaping for a home on an especially steep site. Working closely with the home’s builders to shape the architectural form into four levels, Yaw’s team created a series of tiered gardens within the natural context of the site. The centerpiece of the lowest garden is a stone-wrapped saline lap pool with an infinity edge, evocative of an ancient water collection basin. “The tiered gardens, while of a distinctly contemporary aesthetic, find focus and finality at the infinity-edge pool,” Yaw says. “The reflections of the rugged landscape within the mirrored surface are a perfect complement to the pockets of plants that soften the pool’s strong lines.” Beyond the pool, a 20-foot, sharply edged waterfall runnel is set into limestone walls. The water connects upper dining terraces to lower entertaining terraces, and the resulting aeration supports a symbiotic environment of plants and fish in the basins.
Whether for fantasy or function, water features speak to the beauty of our natural environment, and bring it all home in style.