American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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Entry and drop-off road showing how views were choreographed to minimize visual impact of automobiles (photo: Alejandro Barragan).

Informal paths approach the feel of trails linking green-roofed buildings on the property (photo: Steven Koch).
Shallow basalt bedrock prevents infiltration, causing some areas to be easily saturated, requiring dependence on regional plant species (photo: Alejandro Barragan).
A view from the spa shows how the vertical profile of the building was reduced by being constructed partially below grade (photo: Steven Koch).
A stylized French drain is placed at the edge of the outdoor living area as it transitions into the natural contours of the site (photo: Alejandro Barragan).

Private Residence/Landscape Restoration, Rowena, OR
Koch Landscape Architecture, Portland, OR

"Brings substance in a lovely way. . . the plants connect. . . great transitions. . .excellent application of restraint on a site. . .built materials are beautifully simple. . .sequence of walkways get visitors from place to place, exhibiting the trajectory of the garden."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

This private residence is a three-acre landscape design and restoration project overlooking the scenic Columbia River Gorge near The Dalles, Oregon. Riverside sandy soils overlay massive formations of bedrock that are at times exposed and more typically lie 6 to 30 inches below the surface. Shallow basalt bedrock prevents infiltration causing some areas to be easily saturated and quickly parched. These site-specific conditions create a variety of planting conditions that rely heavily on the adaptability of regional species.

Climate conditions are equally varied. Frigid winters with temperatures near 0 degrees Fahrenheit and summers with sustained temperatures between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit and limited rainfall reduce the survival rate of plants other than native species that have evolved in the area.

Fluctuating river flows bring invasive plant species from up-stream urbanized locations, as do seasonally strong winds and migrating Canadian Geese that visit the site. <

Neighboring properties also harbor non-native invasive species that require vigilance to control. A seasonal regimen of site reconnaissance was instituted to combat non-native and invasive plant species including grass species that are very difficult to selectively eradicate.

The purpose of the project was to provide the clients, whose primary residence is in Seattle, Washington, with a landscape that demonstrates stewardship toward the native landscape and minimizes the visual intrusion of a new home in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Corridor, guest house and windsurfing board shed on the shores of the Columbia River. This goal was consistent with the philosophy of the landscape architect and the architect whose buildings respect the natural site by mitigating environmental and visual impact by accentuating the dramatic nature of a site. The vertical profile of the buildings was reduced by being partially buried below grade. The guesthouse and windsurfing board shed were designed with green roofs that mitigate their visual intrusion and provide insulation. Low maintenance was also a motivating factor for the clients who feel the natural landscape is the most effective strategy to reduce energy consumption and maintenance.

The clients, whose recreational focus is windsurfing, also enjoy entertaining guests and neighbors. They believe their landscape is a ‘seed’ project that may influence aesthetic tastes and land stewardship in contrast with landscapes that require intensive energy and resources to maintain in this region.

Milestone Nursery in Lyle, Washington just across the river was contracted to hand collect seed of native plants and grow them for this project. Plants that are native but too rare to be found for seed collection were imported from Natures Enhancement, Inc in Stevensville, Montana. Rainier Seed Company supplied native grasses. Native sagebrush was transplanted from overgrazed and disturbed sites and now flourishes in its new home.

The role of the landscape architect was to design and coordinate the construction of a landscape that enhances and restores the site’s natural characteristics and re-establishes its relationship to the regional landscape. Views within the site and to the dramatic context are framed by naturalistic plantings from multiple positions giving the landscape a unique visual dynamic. The modulation of the native landscape included: removal of invasive species, the use of contract grown native and rare species, revealing and re-creating bedrock outcrops, native plantings, drip irrigation, and sustainable methods of maintenance.

The landscape design subtly integrates local landscape forms into the functional aspects of the site. The flat plain of the decomposed granite terrace mimics the early morning currents of the river and accentuates the calming feel. The minimalistic solemnity of the terrace also provides a relaxing contrast to the white capped wave action of the summer afternoons. Separation and screening is accomplished by modest landforms and selection of native plant types. The entry to the site was choreographed to eliminate the presence of cars in the main landscape area and living areas while providing convenient drop off points. Orientation of the garage and the design of the road were coordinated with the architects. An active play area was developed in front of the guesthouse over the existing septic system. A riverside terrace created for relaxation and entertainment was constructed with decomposed granite and contained by natural and recreated bedrock outcroppings. Informal paths approach the feel of trails and are routed through planting areas to the various buildings and lead visitor to framed views. This project exceeded the client’s expectations to build with the landscape and to exhibit stewardship to nature and the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.


The decomposed granite terrace acts as a forecourt to the residence and provides a location to contemplate the spectacular scenery to the Gorge to the west, and across the river to the basalt cliffs of the Washington State shore (photo: Alejandro Barragan).
Plant materials were placed to frame a sequence of views throughout the property (photo: Alejandro Barragan).
Active spaces are carved out of the fields of grass. The boundaries between designed and natural are subtle (photo: Steven Koch).
The smooth plane of the Columbia River extends into the site at the terrace (photo: Alejandro Barragan).
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