The Todd Group takes great pride in our ability to team up with professionals in our industry and produce amazing results that bring clients’ visions to life. This was the case with Urban Oasis. Esteemed landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. (MVVA) brought The Todd Group in as the landscape contractor to give this dank, fishbowl-like backyard of a Brooklyn brownstone a modern makeover. The result is a tranquil urban oasis that lives twice its actual size.
The first design challenge for MVVA was the 12-foot brick walls that enclosed the yard on two sides and the lack of sunlight caused by the five-story row house and its bordering homes. The shade required that we embrace new ideas to create a welcoming, haven-like space, and the lack of backyard access meant that all materials, including plants and trees, had to be carried through the home. This influenced MVVA’s choice of materials and the size of all plants.
During construction, our team discovered a large, 19th-century rain cistern that had been abandoned under plywood below grade. It was a hazard and problematic to our site plan, so we filled the 13-foot structure with gravel and formed a functional storm water runoff for the brownstone’s roof and the garden. Through the cistern, water now gradually seeps into the water table instead of the city’s already-overloaded storm system.
The design goal with Urban Oasis was to conceive a quiet space where the homeowners could escape from city life for a bit of morning coffee or yoga or with a glass of wine after work. We installed a gently curved path of scattered mica-schist pavers that draws visitors from the home’s stairs and into the yard. Moving toward the central patio space, the path was lined with a variety of dense, green shrubs, groundcover, and perennials, including Japanese Skimmia, green aucuba, and fragrant Sweet Box. Boston Ivy and climbing hydrangea adorn the brick walls, creating a calming effect.
Environmental sustainability was important to the homeowners, so all materials were sourced within 300 miles of the home. In addition, The Todd Group’s irrigation team installed a drip instead of spray system that conserves water. To keep the outdoor space and the home’s interior cool, several Natchez Crape Myrtle and Eastern Arborvitae trees were planted. This sweeping canopy offers privacy from neighboring homes and establishes a habitat for birds.
The Todd Group thrives when working under unique circumstances, and this undertaking was no exception. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates was recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects with an Honor Award in the residential category. We are very proud to have joined our talented colleagues at MVVA on this distinctive project.