Pasadena, California: On a recent trip to Los Angeles, we were so glad we listened to the energy of California pull us towards Pasadena and take us away from our conference to explore the wonders of Pasadena’s architecture and landscape architecture. What a place! Art and nature converge when in the hands of the masterful architects Charles and Henry Greene (Greene&Greene). The Greene brothers created houses that fostered a sense of nature at every glance. Views from windows and doors capture the breezes, step onto sleeping porches, capture the garden, the mountains. Stained glass captures light during the day. The Greene brothers strove for a fresh approach, they were not copying old work. They intentionally began all over again with a fresh look at building materials and nature. The natural beauty of stone, wood and plaster was not to be disguised but celebrated. They made common materials beautiful. Simple materials and clear cut ideals equaled a magical outcome.
While the American Arts and Crafts movement informed and inspired the Greene Brothers, it also brought about a renewed interest in the garden as it related to the home. The Gambles knew that they wanted a house that was reflective of nature, and one that brought the outdoors inside and was an integral part of the outdoor environment. They selected a site in a neighborhood of Pasadena known as ‘Little Switzerland’ and the house was sited for the cooling breezes, and views to the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Seventeen woods were used throughout the house and in furnishings and all echo a reverence for nature in bloom and in its organic moving and twisting forms.
It is in the vein of the Art&Crafts movement that we began an early interest in relating the garden to the home. The garden is the great opportunity. Bringing the outdoors in and the indoors out is useful from a spatial perspective and it is what makes the garden accessible both functionally and visually. Terraces off the house should be easy to navigate, so we keep thresholds at 3”-6”. In designing pergolas, we have talked about framework often. Framework is the architecture of the garden. In bringing the outdoors in, you open up opportunities to frame views, create rooms, introduce patterns and color in relatable and comfortable ways.
The Greene brothers appreciated nature in all its varied forms. Visiting the Gamble House was not only inspiring, it reminded us of why we became Landscape Architects. We too love the art of nature, are influenced by Asian and European traditions, seek new ways to use common materials. In listening to our clients and hearing about their interests and influences, we grow and expand, incorporating new ways of using common materials. We are thankful to the Gamble family for deciding not to sell their uncommonly beautiful property and instead to fund its operation and establish a trust in perpetuity.