The site has been changing the last couple of weeks as fill dirt arrived and grading is taking place. The large holes, lumps, and bumps from construction are disappearing and it is more evident how the site will function. When all the major construction is done, the landscaping will be one of the last elements in place.
The landscape design is the work of Heartsprings Design. www.heartspringsdesign.com Chris Hart-Henderson, owner and Ani Cahill, designer have been with the project from the time the lot was purchased. Chris was brought on board to help guide the early design process: the location of the house for views, vegetation, and orientation, what vegetation had inherent, long-term value, what should stay, what needed to go. The landscape plan with the original house plans was part of the package ready to go to the city of Bend for approval. Then Barb and Tom discovered the Living Building Challenge. Those plans were not feasible to meet the LBC goal. There was a difficult decision to pull the plans and start again. The first phase had been a big learning and awareness building period. Chris was excited to embrace the challenge of redesigning around a new physical space, as well as the challenge of the LBC.
Heartsprings Design has a history of using hardy, locally proven, long-blooming, native and drought tolerant plants that effectively conserve water and minimize the need for irrigation. These landscapes thrive in the unique high desert terrain of central Oregon. The constraints of the LBC present some additional challenges for designing the landscape at Desert Rain. Ani said the limitation of water is the most challenging; ‘how to create an atmosphere with virtually no water?’ Desert Rain does have a 35,000 gallon cistern and will be collecting rainwater from the roofs of all the structures on site. All of that collected water will be stored and used for domestic purposes only. None of that water is available for irrigation. With average, annual precipitation in Bend at 10 to 12”, there is little available water for the vegetation. A storage system for grey water is in the design and approval process. There will also be a wetland area on site. The available water from those systems may be used on the landscape plantings. Will that water be enough?
Another requirement of LBC is that 35% of the landscape must be edible. Growing edibles in the high desert climate is tough in the best of conditions. Chris said, ‘the limitations of trying to grow on a rock outcropping with poor soil and scarce water will be tricky’. In addition to the apple trees that are well established on the site, Chris and Ani decided to go with plants that provide more of an indigenous culture diet. Service berry, elderberry, currants, wild strawberries, rose hips, Oregon grape and choke cherry will help meet the LBC requirement of edibles and hopefully, will adapt to the marginal conditions on the site. The landscape design includes raising up planting areas with native lava rock and reclaimed rock from the site. Good quality soil will fill these beds to provide a better growing base. There will be some small raised beds for vegetables and herbs.
The hardscaping and the plantings will have a dramatic impact on the appearance of the site. Desert Breeze, the Accessible Dwelling Unit will have a private courtyard. Desert Rain, the main house will have several private patio and courtyard areas. One of the patios will be using the concrete remnants of an old sidewalk from the original houses. There will be accessible pathways to many areas on the property. There is a ‘secret terrace’ below the house that provides a private and quiet sanctuary. Al Tozer, designer of the structures described the project as a ‘marriage of the inside and outside’. Chris said from an artistic standpoint, she loves that coordination of the architecture of the home and the integration of the indoor and outdoor spaces. An example is the curved, ‘miro’ wall that begins on the outside of the west end of the house, continues through the house, out the east end of the house and will be reflected by an exterior courtyard wall. That kind of detail brings continuity and beauty to the project.
When I spoke with Ani last week she said Heartsprings Design frequently works within the constraints of CCandRs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) on their landscape projects. Desert Rain is a similar process. Coordinating the elements of local materials, native rock, native plant material, drought tolerant plant material, poor soil, and little water with the additional criteria of the LBC, has taken that process up several levels. The landscape plans indicate that Chris and Ani have embraced the challenge. We’ll be anxiously waiting for the rock, pavers, steps, walls, pathways, and plantings to be installed – the final transformation from construction site to home.