Beth Hardee is a Landscape Designer for Town and Gardens, Ltd. and recently completed a project that involved adding garden spaces to the terrace and interior atrium areas of a penthouse on Fifth Avenue in New York, NY. From the initial design phase the project took a little less than a year to complete, and Glacier Blue® Devonian Sandstone was used for the tile flooring, stair treads, window ledges, and atrium.
Although Beth has always had an interest in landscape architecture, her background is in the fine arts, which she finds useful in her work as a landscape designer. She attended the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston before moving to New York to become an artist. Once in NY, she began studying at The New York Botanical Garden's School of Professional Horticulture, taking landscape design courses and then their horticulture program. She worked on her own for a while with clients who needed garden maintenance as well as design and enhancements, and then eventually began working for Town & Gardens nearly a decade ago.
"I started off as a painter and moved into sculpture. Then I moved into more installation type work and worked with some public artists. I think that made the transition. I was really interested in public art and creating a space which, I think, brought me logically into landscape design because that's really about creating a space. I've done a little bit of everything. I started doing some botanical artwork in mostly watercolor and pencils. I'm looking for opportunities to use an artistic piece into the landscape."
In her work at Town and Gardens, Hardee explains, "Our process starts with the wishes and desires of the client and is driven by achieving that look. Our style includes involving the client with the process, the drawings, samples, models of course, but beyond that, the understandings of what is driving the choices aesthetics, safety, site conditions, budget, regulations etc. The client always then makes the right choices and we are very supportive of helping them. We want the client to say that yes they invested in their garden space and that they love it! We build very good relationships with our clients through the whole design process while trying to select just the right elements needed for the function and style of the space. The understanding of what the client is looking for often changes and evolves from the initial meeting and through the design process as we are able to show them all the interesting opportunities that we see for the project and as we are able to explore more deeply what is most important to them in utilizing the space. Most clients will begin to get very excited about the design once you show them an unusual twist on a style that they enjoy."
In this particular project, the client didn't have a clear idea of what he wanted early in the design process. "He was just really interested in plants and having a really lush, green space. He needed a place for some storage so we did a cabinet there to allow for that, and a little bit later on in the design process he also mentioned a need for an entertaining space. He just really wanted to have a real garden feel and lots of plantings, and also he likes to garden on his own as well, and he has. Every time I go there he's planting on his own and doing things."
"The space is pretty much a long, narrow terrace, it's not a big space. We used mostly deciduous and flowering plants because he really wanted a lot of flowers, but we usually also make sure there are evergreens there so that there's something to look out on in the middle of winter. A lot of New York apartments really look out onto the terrace from inside the apartment, but this one doesn't. A lot of people don't utilize the terrace in the winter in the city when it's just too cold, but if you can see out from inside, you can really enjoy it. This apartment doesn't really look out that much on the terrace so it wasn't as critical that it have as much winter interests as we usually need to put on a terrace. But that terrace overlooks Central Park, so on one end there is a really beautiful view of the park. The long end overlooks another apartment building where a lot of the residents also have pretty gardens on their balconies and terraces, so he enjoys that view as well because he can look over at the greenery. Sometimes you have a terrace that looks onto something that's not attractive and you may want to do some screening. If the view is nice you maybe want to frame it somehow, and if it's not so nice you maybe want to screen it out."
Glacier Blue® Devonian Sandstone was chosen for the project because "it is just a very practical material, for maintenance, for aesthetic appeal, and the client really liked the stone, and so that helped us make the choice. A lot of times it's a starting point, especially for the pavers on the pedestal system which levels all the pavers onto the terrace. Sometimes pre-cast pavers are just not really the look that the client wants and they want more the look of natural stone and the rich colors that the natural stone can give. That we really thought would work on this project."
On the penthouse terrace, 550 square feet of stone was used for the terrace paving with tiles measuring 18 x 18 x 2". In the atrium interior, 230 square feet of stone was used with tiles measuring 18 x 18 x 1/2". Forty-four pieces of interior treads were used, measuring 18 x 18 x 1"-1 1/4", and all of the stone used has a honed finish.
"We are always looking for new and unusual ways to use interesting materials. We have used stone for all sorts of paving applications, edging for garden beds and walkways, counter tops for outdoor kitchens and cabinets, facing for water features, veneers for walls, and we have built stone retaining walls for raised planter beds. The planters for the penthouse project are fiberglass, which is really nice because it's lightweight and weight is a big deal since certain materials are just too heavy to use on buildings and you would not get approval to use them. But fiberglass is nice because it's very lightweight but it can look very natural like a stone or terracotta, you can get it in just about any color. It can be textured or you can have it in a smooth finish. And the ones we used in the penthouse are a standard one we use because the gray works so well. The client did like how well it went with the stone."
When asked if there were any challenges with the project, Hardee explains, "This is typical in the city, but there is so much construction on the buildings. It's usually when we've just installed a project then we'll find out that the building needs to do some sort of construction work or refacing of the bricks, and this happened right in the middle of the project as we were getting ready to install. The building went under construction, so it stalled things and made us need to change a few things. So that was a challenge. Also, usually you have to get approval from the board, but this building was fairly easy. Some of the buildings can be pretty tough and send you through a rigorous process of getting approval for your design, but this building wasn't too bad. We prepared a submission to show them all the weight calculations and exactly what we'd be attaching to the building and what we would be doing to get their approval so that we could do the work. That was a bit of a process."
"There are many challenges in urban landscape design, but logistics are probably the biggest. Getting plants, soil, and heavy building materials up to a rooftop or back into brownstone garden always has unique challenges."
Right now there is a very strong interest in green roof and green building. "We are working on very innovative projects and treatments with include geothermal wells, water retention, and other LEEDS driven features." Hardee's favorite type of project to do is, "any project that utilizes interesting and unusual concepts and materials to create a dynamic space."
"Each and every project we do brings so much in the way of beauty and interest to our environment and makes more of our urban outside spaces inviting to spend time in. We have created green spaces for public parks, cooperate plazas, commercial building fronts and college campuses which are utilized and enjoyed by people all over the city. Even the seemingly private rooftop garden can be enjoyed by the neighboring residents who look down from other high rise apartments. Whether it is creating a beautiful garden in a previously neglected space, adding ambient lighting to create beauty at night, creating seasonal displays with greenery and color in winter, or adding the sound and beauty of water, any space in the city can be transformed."