Outside of Cochrane, AB, nestled into the foothills is the home of my friends Jan and Dave. When they purchased the property Jan and Dave planned and built their home to compliment the natural landscape rather than to alter it. What a wise choice, as the result is a home totally in harmony with the existing flora and fauna. It is a perfect example of what can exist when the left hand of man and the right hand of nature work together for a greater good, maintaining a natural ecosystem that existed long before they arrived, disturbing as little as possible.
What appears random in nature is truly a complex system of adaptation whose beauty is nearly impossible for man to re-create. There is a certain wildness we as designers can come close to, but not manifest until years of allowing nature to take its course and naturalize the area. Nature dictates without ego, man does not, and therein lies the difference. Nature procreates without preference to a favorite colour, flower or tree. What is native will survive without man’s interference. It is that which makes the ordinary, extraordinary.
Instead of grading and bulldozing the area surrounding the house, existing trees were left and as much as possible and the home was built into the existing conditions. It is a serene setting, full of character, a lovely place to be.
Dave has cleared a path that loops around the property where he created little havens like hidden gems, a picnic table with a view here and a nook where campfires roar on cool evenings there. I napped on that picnic table one day and have enjoyed more that once a convivial circle around the fire, enjoying the serenity they have maintained and share so generously with their friends.
Down the hillside is a raised vegetable garden, essential in the foothills region with its short growing season. For those of you who may not know, a raised bed has warmer soil which extends the growing period, highly recommended for zone 2-3 vegetable gardening.
Heading back up to the house is a perfect example of how a retaining wall can be a tribute to function as well as form, necessary but in complete harmony with the surroundings.
I am always inspired to do things just a little bit differently after I visit, and this is a good thing. I hope you will be inspired to take a more natural point of view as well.