Castro/Upper Market, San Francisco, California
This garden on States Street is currently my favorite, as it is typical of our own style at Reynolds-Sebastiani Design Services.The garden before was full of challenges and was for the most part not usable and abandoned. The client loves to throw lavish parties and wanted to capitalize on the huge (for San Francisco) lot. However, the elevation changes made that nearly impossible.
The upper garden was retained by an ancient crumbling retaining wall. Though level, this space was overgrown and didn't offer any usable surface to entertain. Access to the lower garden was provided only by a rotten deck and stairs that bridged the crumbling retaining wall. The lower garden was steeply pitched and eroding. The only way to traverse the overgrown lower section was an unsafe set of 'steps' made from loose cinder blocks.
Still, the most difficult issue to overcome was the poor access through the house. Access was only through the house and since the house was built into the hillside, there is a two story elevation change before even entering the garden. The internal stairs are both narrow and very steep. Once in the garden, there is an additional two story elevation change from the upper garden to the lower garden. This meant that everything, in and out, had to be carried by hand through what was effectively a 4 story elevation difference.
Andrei, the home owner, is a dear friend and gave us carte blanche where the design was concerned. Our inspiration came from Machu Picchu, where the ancient inhabitants dealt with the perils of living on the peak of a steep mountain top by terracing using stacked stone. We replaced the dangerous cinder steps with stacked stone steps to offer safe footing. We retained the hillside by using stacked stone features that give the illusion of natural stone outcroppings and geometric terraces. These stone features serve many functions; they offer seating, a place to set a drink, and access, while serving the practical consideration of erosion control To top it off, we added a dramatic soothing water feature that imitates the spillways and basins of the water management system at Machu Picchu.
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