The Carriage House Garden

AMHERST, MA

Designer: Joseph S.R. Volpe

The Carriage House represents the transformation of a 100-year-old barn into a living unit and a contemporary garden. Employing the economy of means the design process recycled architectural and landscape spaces expressing growth and change over time. On the steep small (under ¼ acre) site the grade drops 22 feet. In the three-story Carriage House, direct inside/outside connections are maintained through glass sliders that in size replace the barn doors. Upper and lower rooms open onto gardens defined by earthen forms, articulated by sculpted drainage ways, retaining walls (wood timber, basalt and schist from local quarries), gravel floors, a “postage stamp” of moss/grass, and rich cover of local and other plants. The terraced landscape connects garden stairs and tall trellis to define the choreographic sequence of the stroll garden. This line of human experience moves around all sides of the Carriage House, to the upper and lower entrances, terraces, and parking bays. The landscape concept engages drainage as garden art. Surface water flows and is absorbed as a spatial expression. Water is redirected through a swale that is sculpted as a serpentine channel defined by muscular earth forms, overlaid with hand-size smooth round glacial stone and leads to the South Terrace. The water percolates beneath the gravel surface. The North Terrace overlooks a retention basin at the lowest point of the garden. From the windows and through the doors of the shelter one contemplates the garden: the human activities that course through gathering nodes, connecting corridors and gateways; the landscape edges of floor, wall, and ceiling; the media of earth, water, stone, wood, and vegetation that defines the space and time of this place; the spatial organization that recycles the structures of the landscape as spatial experience, confident in the cycle of change — the human engagement of garden.