WILLOW STREET GARDEN
Brooklyn, NY (2010–2011)
Behind a five-story row house in a dense, residential Brooklyn neighborhood, a garden creates an escape within the city and suggests the feeling of wandering in nature. The tiny existing space was darkened by bordering houses and enclosed on two sides by an unstable 12-foot brick wall, and there was no privacy from the adjacent row houses.
During construction, the designers discovered a large 19th-century rain cistern, abandoned and under plywood below grade. All of the stormwater runoff from the garden and from the brownstone’s roof is now routed into the cistern and gradually seeps into the water table. Engineered stabilizing columns preserve the historic brick wall.
The garden's protected urban microclimate is warmer than the surrounding city in the cooler months and supports plants like camellias and crape myrtles, which are typically not hardy enough for New York's winters. The tree canopy provides privacy, cools the garden terrace and house in the summer, and creates a habitat for birds.
Mica schist paving reflects sunlight back into the garden. Planting is layered to create a forced perspective that enlarges the perceived space. Moving away from the traditional notion of a backyard as space for recreation and outdoor cooking, the design creates a space for relaxed meditation.