A Subdivision in the Sand


Designer: Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, PC; New York, NY.

This house is located in a shoreline subdivision four hundred feet from the ocean, on a quarter acre parcel, where crowded houses vie for a glimpse of the sea while ignoring the natural landscape all around them. The community is located at the eastern end of Long Island. Originally, this was part of a fragile secondary dune covered in bayberry, beach plum, pine and beach grass. Today, neighboring properties all but disregard these natural assets by planting lawns and “exotics”. Our approach recognized these assets and their ecological value, planting native materials that establish a dense root system and natural wind barrier to help prevent dune erosion. We maximized the recharging of ground water by minimizing impermeable surfaces, replacing existing brick and concrete patios with cedar pallets resting on sleepers set directly into the sand. The tight-grained cedar weathers naturally without treatment, eliminating chemicals leaching into the sand. These pallets hug the house and extend like fingers onto the dune. By planting between them each extension becomes an oasis –at once different from and completely integrated into this dune landscape. These native plants thrive with a minimum of care. And using them strategically helped us frame views to open spaces and screen the garden from neighbors. Sometimes there can be poetry in the practical. For us, the project is an essay designed to create a feeling of symbiosis that brings us physically and emotionally closer to the fragile ecosystem of the dune landscape. It says: we are partners with nature.