Landscape design is an essential element of any building, but when a project has “gardens” in the name, the outdoors better be out of this world. That’s why when Collecdev set out to assemble the team for Westwood Gardens, a new project in Richmond Hill, we turned to Land Art Design to oversee the outdoor space.
For more than two decades, Jackie VanderVelde and her team have been creating visionary and imaginative spaces in the public realm. We sat down with Jackie and two of her senior designers, Audric Montuno and Joaquin Sevillano, to see what they’ve dreamed up for the Hill.
A lot of people think of landscape design as selecting plants and flowers for a garden space, but there’s a lot more to it than that, can you explain?
JV: Landscape design addresses all of the outdoor programming, basically everything outside the building space. Of course we do the softscaping, which is the plant material, but there’s a lot more hardscaping involved than people realize. (editor’s note: hardscaping is a term that refers to the structure of the design including pathways, planters, seating, etc.)
We’ve heard there’s a magical story behind the inspiration for Westwood Gardens, can you tell us a little more about that?
JV: There’s a lot of layering in the design of the building from an architectural perspective, and that reminded us of a pearl, how a pearl forms layers within its shell to create something beautiful. We were really drawn to that idea and when we came across a poem called The Pearl, we knew it would be the inspiration for our design.
AS: The Pearl is a medieval poem that tells the story of a man who falls asleep in a garden and dreams of a brilliant river, across which stands his long-lost daughter, his precious pearl. For us, the pearl represents something that’s beautiful but also sophisticated and elegant. It’s alluring because of its subtle glow. It’s not flashy, it has a beauty that radiates from within. We took that as our inspiration to create a space that feels authentic and elegant and offers a layered, more deeply-rooted aesthetic.
For the design of Westwood Gardens we’ve translated the various parts of that poem into physical spaces. There is the Dreamer’s Court, a bold entry with a large roundabout where a patterned courtyard radiates out from a central island full of greenery. This is the space representing the garden where the man has fallen asleep. It’s magical and lush, a sanctuary to welcome people in from the street.
Next there’s the River Passage, a light-filled meandering path between the East and West towers, acting as a bridge to the south space, the Pearl Garden. There are gleaming metal columns around groups of sculptural boulders, mimicking the sparkling surface of a stream, both day and night. The boulders gradually give way to stepping stones, layered like oyster shells, round planters filled with leafy trees, and tons of flowering plants. It’s a really dreamy landscape.
It sounds incredible!
AS: And that’s just on the ground floor. We’ve also designed a rooftop garden on the eighth floor of the east building. We worked closely with Collecdev to understand the feeling they wanted to achieve in the space, which was an intimate place where residents can feel as if they’re in their own private backyard. We do have some areas that feel more suited to group gatherings, but then we’ve included a lot of niches, corners, and nooks where people can enjoy some privacy.
JM: The spaces are designed like rooms and the walls themselves are either flowering shrubs or evergreens that will provide interest all year round. There are also flowing grasses in the open areas to capture the wind so everywhere plantings are either used to delineate structure or to animate the space.
The rooftop is really multi-layered. The design is symmetrical and divided by a dramatic central corridor that leads to a fireside lounge, where flowering vines will trail up stainless steel cables under a pergola hung with geometric chandeliers.
Sounds like a gorgeous place to hang out.
AS: Well Collecdev really wanted to ensure that there was a balance of soft spaces – lounge areas where people could relax and hang out – and more active areas designed for outdoor barbeques and gatherings. There’s also a party room in the back that enjoys a lot of privacy but also some really great views.
JM: The whole thing is a fine balance between creating refuges for people and creating social spaces. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the space without ever feeling crowded.
What’s the design aesthetic for the space?
JM: The outdoor spaces have been designed to replicate the richness found in the rest of the building. It’s contemporary with a focus on materiality. We were really inspired by the building’s almost mid-century grid pattern along the façade as well as the sumptuous materials being used for the interiors. We’ve tried to mirror that outdoors.
We’ve used natural stone for walls and planters. Bronze inlays that highlight certain elements. Residential detailing on a larger scale, with materials designed to make you feel right at home.
AS: There’s a richness balanced with lightness. There are a lot of textures, colours, and materials layered throughout. We have darker colours accented with blonde wood. We have fireplaces and a glass feature walls. Like a pearl, it’s sophisticated and elegant and designed to stand the test of time.
Describe the landscape design at Westwood Gardens in 10 words or less.
JV: A heightened sense of drama within a serene space.