Our clients are increasingly focused on how their property relates the indoors to what’s outside. As a result, our team introduces ideas for outdoor living early in the design process to maximize the site’s potential. Today, Patrick discusses his unique take on designing outdoor spaces after almost 47 years of practicing architecture.
How do you approach a project where the client has asked for outdoor living spaces?
It all starts with the house. As I design, I’m thinking about the relationship of the house to the outdoors and the spaces that transition from interior to exterior. I’m very cognizant of the fact that I’m not developing an outdoor experience independent of the house—it’s all connected, and that nuance is very important.
My Master’s degree is in urban design and town planning, and everything that I learned academically for a larger scale I now, apply on a smaller scale, to a house. One of my first urban design projects was revitalizing Faneuil Hall when I was part of the team at Benjamin Thompson & Associates in 1976. This dealt with indoor/outdoor in a totally different regard. What I learned working on that commercial space is actually relevant to my residential work today.
First, I learned to blend the indoors and outdoors completely to make the transition almost disappear. At Faneuil Hall, we did garage doors that raise to open the retail spaces into pedestrian corridors. Similarly, today, I now do nano doors on cabanas to open those structures to backyard activity. In addition, at Faneuil Hall, we very consciously used the same paving material inside and outside. I still use that trick today in our outdoor living spaces—you’ll notice we typically run bluestone as hardscape and flooring all the way through without a change of grade.
Second, I learned the importance of moments of delight. At Faneuil Hall, we intentionally programmed those elements throughout the outdoor spaces, like a circular granite scenario where a juggler might stand, or a space where you might find street performers. Today, I’m incorporating those moments of delight in my residential design—I might now place a moment in a motor court for sculpture, or insert a quiet hidden courtyard behind the bustle of a party barn’s fireplace, or maybe tuck a pitch and putt right near the homeowner’s office. These whimsical ingredients are all considered as I design.
Another lesson I learned from Faneuil Hall was to think about outdoor living as a year-round experience. When we planned that space, it wasn’t just for summer glory, it was for 365 days a year, seven days a week, day and night programming. As a result, as I plan my clients’ homes, when I think about outdoor living spaces, I’m thinking not only about that pool in the summer, but the placement of the pool and the fireplace relevant to the entrance into the home—how that transition works in the summer, and how it might also work in a snowstorm, or the fall. All of this is with the goal of my clients enjoying their outdoor living spaces all year long.
How do you see the role of the landscape architect and the role of the architect working together on a project?
On my projects, I like to do the first cut design and lead on the hardscape because it’s so integral to the design of the house. I’m consciously locating structures on a site, and carefully thinking about my clients’ views—often I’ll create a view corridor from the interior out to the water, or to an outdoor living space. Once that’s set, if a landscape architect is part of the team, we bring them in to enhance the outdoor experience. Delineation of space can happen with structures and topography, and plant material can really enhance that whole experience as well. Especially when we’re working with a significant change in grade, a landscape architect can be a real asset in that regard.