Shifting Paradigms: A Long Island Subdivision


Designer: Reed Hilderbrand LLC; Watertown, MA

In a subdivision created from a former potato field on Eastern Long Island, this project rethinks traditional suburban site planning strategies and challenges expectations of the suburban lawn. Reversing convention, the design locates building volumes and major program elements at the edges of the site and moves the main house to the rear of the property. The removed siting of the house provides a sense of destination beyond a series of thresholds in the landscape and becomes a threshold itself to an expansive view over active crop fields to the dunes beyond. The other result is the creation of a large interiorized landscape where robust meadow is objectified within a mown edge and the experience of the site from the public way is not of an open view to the house, but of a rich landscape in keeping with its agricultural context that de-accentuates the presence of the building. The meadow, the simple lines of hybrid poplar and Rose of Sharon, and the regular groves of trees elevate robust elements of the agricultural vernacular — the hayfield, the hedgerow, and the orchard — to expressive garden elements. The entire site becomes a contemporary parterre with clearly organized patterns of vegetation that engender a graphic clarity and a spatial continuity to the site layout. In this contemporary take on suburban living, vernacular landscape elements that accept and even celebrate a rough and imperfect character, require limited inputs of irrigation and fertilization, and need little specialized maintenance create a truly sustainable landscape while not making sustainability the project’s central message.