Winner of the 2015 ASLA-NCC Top Residential Design Award, this stunning outdoor space successfully brings together an age-old Zen atmosphere, strikingly modern angles and shapes, and a mix of complementing materials in a creative garden design. Located in the back yard of a townhouse built in the 1964 in Berkeley, California, this outdoor area provides an isolated space for relaxation away from the busy city while at the top it offers breathtaking views across the bay, with the Sutro Tower and San Francisco visible in the distance. The 5 Elements Design studio completed the project in collaboration with the YR Architecture + Design firm. The garden was built around the existing three Japanese maple trees and a winding ramp made of concrete walls and steel accents was used instead of stairs. This hidden path is defined by geometric shapes that add visual impact and perfectly contrast the organic plant life while also providing access to terraced planting areas. Aromatic ground cover, climbing pants, trees, and lush vegetation bring a sense of peacefulness, enhanced by the calm surface of the pool. At the bottom of the garden, a patio made of white granite can be accessed through the home’s living room, and offers an ideal leisure area for the owners and their guests. The more private top patio can be used as a sunbathing spot, a place for relaxation with a book, or to admire San Francisco at dusk. Dark brown wood, gray concrete, and white granite are used in a perfect balance of materials and textures. A water-jet cut steel screen boasting a weathered surface provides a dual function as a future bamboo planter and as a screen giving privacy from the neighbors’ yard. At night, a warm orange light adds another visual dimension and brings the garden to life as the night falls. Photography by Joe Fletcher.

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