Reordering Old Quarry

GUILFORD, CT

Designer: Reed Hilderbrand LLC, USA

In this 1950s subdivision, most homeowners have buried the site’s history as a working quarry under a layer of suburban lawn. By contrast, this project celebrates, refines, and rearranges the remnant granite tailings and embraces the rough character of the emergent woodland. Suggesting that the quarry was something to be viewed but not fully occupied, the sculptor-turned-architect Tony Smith set this jewel of a house on steel columns. By 2006, decades of thinking of the quarry as outside the domestic realm had rendered the site physically and visually impenetrable, overrun by dense thickets of invasive exotics. Today, the landscape is the result of editing as much as making. The renovation primarily utilizes refuse stone found on site, turning and working the granite just enough to create level, steady paths. The remnant borrow pit was mostly cleared of vegetation and its edges clarified to accentuate its depth and reveal inundation by monthly high tides. Years of hand weeding and organic maintenance have conquered the invasives, allowing a vestigial seedbed of scrappy natives to take hold. Replacing Norway maples, a new crop of well-adapted trees was planted in pockets of sandy soils suited to periodic tidal inundation. A rainwater harvesting and reverse osmosis system provide irrigation to manage the intense swings in soil moisture endemic to this condition. The targeted adjustments of the found condition, the light-handed reworking of the site stone, and judicious shifts in soil and planting are key to the project’s balance between celebrating the site’s dynamic nature and sustaining a functioning domestic landscape.