Landscape architecture is often an under appreciated profession.
At its best, design appears one with a building, melding into a visually enticing marriage of structure and setting. Near the top of buyers’ “Must Have” lists today is a garden that feels like part of the house…an additional room for family and friends to enjoy.
Landscape architect Anna Hoffman understands this impetus to transform outdoor spaces into living spaces. We’re both members of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Southern California Chapter, which brings together like-minded professionals who share a common passion for classical architecture, art, building and design. Her recent talk for the organization inspired me to delve into her outstanding practice now centered in Southern California.
She’s been practicing professionally for 18 years: beginning in San Francisco in high-end residential design and then living and working abroad for five years. Her international assignments took her across five continents where she worked on more than 30 luxury hotel and resort projects.
Hoffman’s extensive experience makes her an expert on the coastal, desert, semi-tropical and Mediterranean plant palettes. However, as she explains, her designs cover all elements outside a building, whether commercial or residential, from the entrance and site layout to gates, pools, water features, patios, shade structures, plantings and more. Basically her scope is everything within the property line, including working with the architect to locate the building in the best location on the site.
How do you define the role of the landscape architect?
As landscape architects, we are crafting the experience of a place from beginning-to-end. We are choreographers of that journey, setting views, focus and organizing the master plan. We focus on the big picture, making everything work. The objective is to maximize the efficiency and the beauty of your experience. It always is the landscape shot that sells the destination or house: it’s the pool, entry experience or something gorgeous. The entry experience is the first thing you see as you arrive, it’s the statement. The exterior is the first sensory experience that makes you want to go somewhere.
Good design changes your experience. Even if indoors, the view should be pulling that garden in, part of experience of being indoors is that you want to feel connected to place you are at, no matter where you are. Our objective is to find that uniqueness that is indicative of the place or create it.
How does your hospitality design background translate into your residential designs?
My larger residential projects tend to be more hospitality influenced. There’s room to take an observer on a journey from arrival to other experiences. I consider: How does a residence accommodate more people, and the variation of events that occur there, such as larger parties or charity events? Residential design objectives are similar to hospitality: where is the user experience and how to discreetly separate functional household and the guest experience.
What is new or trending in residential landscape architecture?
Interesting things like elevator parking in garages, innovative pool design (pool covers that come out of bottom); there’s much better integration of new technology with audio/visual devices like TVs and speakers with, controlled from an iPhone and iPad.
Other trends are on a smaller scale: the inclusion of patterns and colorful encaustic cement tiles [composed of varied colored clay] that are a reaction to a decade of monochromatic beiges that permeated interiors and exteriors. There’s a renewed sense of pattern and use of Moroccan tile and Islamic tile patterns, which is of great interest to me. It always bodes well to be true to the architecture: you want to avoid a mismatch.
What kind of plantings thrive in Southern California’s Mediterranean-like climate?
We have in Southern California 20 out of the 24 Sunset zones, so there is a lot of variation. While it’s generally Mediterranean—with long, dry summers and short, wet winters –we can grow plants from many regions in the world and plants (like bougainvillea) not originally from California, do well. There is a lot of variation: every property has shade or another microclimate variation.
Landscapes requiring low water use do not have to be sparse, dry or ugly. A landscape can still be green and lush. I’m a big fan of not doing gravel and succulents that you see everywhere; in some ways, they are creating heat islands.
How do homeowners maximize the beauty of their property even if it’s not a multi-acre estate?
Create a focus to the garden or a focal point and create garden rooms. By chopping the landscape into separate spaces, an exterior feels more interesting, rather than one giant space. In California, we have the opportunity to fully experience the outdoors, and achieve that true indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
Find more information on Anna Hoffman Landscape Architecture at ahoffmandesigns.com.