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The Talk of the Town: A Restrained Landscape for a Modernist Estate in Hastings-on-Hudson

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The Talk of the Town: A Restrained Landscape for a Modernist Estate in Hastings-on-Hudson

October 9, 2017

Not everyone in the arty, affluent village of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York was thrilled to hear the news when billionaire financier David E. Shaw bought three properties, demolished the houses on them, and built as a replacement a 38,000-square-foot, $75-million estate for his family.

“Deeply saddened,” one long-time resident told the New York Times in 2014 after construction got underway. “Out of character with what Hastings is all about,” said another.

Three years later, the neighbors may still be puzzling over the “wrinkled” concrete house that architect Steven Holl designed to sit on the top of a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. But we hope they agree that the 4.5-acre property’s new garden is spectacular. Created by landscape architect Edmund Hollander to showcase magnificent specimen trees and  sweeping cliffside views, it won an Honor prize in this year’s American Society of Landscape Architects Awards contest. Let’s take a closer look:

Photography by Charles Mayer courtesy of ASLA.

Spared the wrecking ball, a willow oak tree (Quercus phellos) and fern leaf beech tree (Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia) are &#8
Above: Spared the wrecking ball, a willow oak tree (Quercus phellos) and fern leaf beech tree (Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia) are “stately specimens” that border a path of irregularly shaped pavers.

“The angled concrete residence sits atop the precipice of a bluff, maximizing views to frame fissured rock faces in the distance,” notes Hollander, adding that stately trees on the property “were carefully protected throughout construction in a strategic effort to preserve the spirit of place and anchor a sense of human scale surrounding the home.”

Basalt pavers in polygon shapes are set into turf, creating a permeable walkway.
Above: Basalt pavers in polygon shapes are set into turf, creating a permeable walkway.

Site Plan

In addition to a 38,000-square-foot main house, the cliffside site has a tennis court and pool house, a 3,9-square-foot underground garage, and a guest house.
Above: In addition to a 38,000-square-foot main house, the cliffside site has a tennis court and pool house, a 3,179-square-foot underground garage, and a guest house.
The basalt path weaves through a grove of ginkgo trees and down a sloping lawn, ending at the pool house. (No two pavers are identical in size or shape.)
Above: The basalt path weaves through a grove of ginkgo trees and down a sloping lawn, ending at the pool house. (No two pavers are identical in size or shape.)

The landscape society jury said:, ” Consider how the stone in the path is cut to abstract the falling gingko leaves, giving an Asian feel.”

Among the specimen trees preserved during construction were three ginkgos. Additional ginkgos were planted in the grove: &#8
Above: Among the specimen trees preserved during construction were three ginkgos. Additional ginkgos were planted in the grove: “Ginkgos were also selected for an extraordinary quality—much like the cliffs that rise in the distance, they’re the only living fossil from 200 million years ago still in existence,” notes the architect.
Placed at irregular distances and angles, basalt risers and turf treads form a stairway and &#8
Above: Placed at irregular distances and angles, basalt risers and turf treads form a stairway and “zig-zag through the ginkgo grove and down a turf slope to the pool house,” says the landscape architect.
On a textured concrete retaining wall, five wisteria vines salvaged from the property&#8
Above: On a textured concrete retaining wall, five wisteria vines salvaged from the property’s previous gardens now grow against trellises.
&#8
Above: “No two stones are like,” notes the landscape architect.
&#8
Above: “Linear basalt risers set with ends that tie into the turf slope as if they’re pinning and stabilizing the hillside – protecting it from the forces of attrition,” notes the landscape architect.
The view from inside the pool house frames a view of deciduous trees turning a fiery yellow and orange in autumn.
Above: The view from inside the pool house frames a view of deciduous trees turning a fiery yellow and orange in autumn.
The estate&#8
Above: The estate’s property tax bill? More than $1,000,000 a year.

N.B.: See more American Society of Landscape Architects winners:

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