Project: Coastal cliff garden
Managing erosion was a large part of this seaside design in Chile
Storm water management is an increasing issue around the world, but when C Stuart Moore, of CSM Design, was called to visit a property near Santo Domingo, Chile, in 2010, he was surprised at the degree of erosion he discovered. “The plot is part of a 300-hectare residential development, backed by cliffs with views out over a golf course and coastline. But storm water from all the roofs and roads within the development was being channelled off the cliff through two concrete pipes of 1m diameter, causing it to discharge with force.” His challenge was to repair the damage while creating an environmentally sensitive yet stylish contemporary garden.
The landowners behind the wider residential development wanted to create a contemporary Mediterranean-style home on the site. “The location is important because it links the existing development to a future planned community, a working farm and golf course,” says Moore. “Our brief was to provide an element of privacy and embrace the stunning views out over the ocean, keeping all lines and forms simple and elegant to enhance the architecture of the newly built house.”
The site was extensively shaped and graded, creating a concealed route for golf buggies and farm access, with further earthworks designed to help divert coastal breezes and create beneficial microclimates. In the course of excavation, many significant pieces of stone were uncovered, and reused in various ways. Overall, the vision was to blend the natural landscape and the crafted garden with a sympathetic and seamless transition.
Before, storm water channelled off the cliff and hit the ground 40m below with such force that it had eroded the site, washing away native vegetation. “Specialist engineers were involved initially, but we were able to adapt their designs to create a more natural appearance,” says Moore. “We created a new pond basin to eliminate turbulent forces, allow for natural sedimentation and reduce water velocity, then directed the flow through a series of drops into a newly formed coastal wetland.
“We initiated the planting with cuttings and transplants from similar run-off zones, then let time and nature take control. To avoid further disturbance, this wetland is now spanned by a meandering boardwalk.” Dunes were reconstructed using spoil from the ponds, capped with sand and revegetated, mimicking vegetation types and densities from similar environments, collected locally and replanted within hours during the normal wet winter season.
The geology of the site had a significant impact on the whole project, starting with a central sandstone formation extending toward the ocean, which forms the centrepiece for the house and elevates the main living floor to embrace views over the garden and ocean. The client requested some formal contemporary elements, including an outdoor entertaining terrace (or ‘quincho’), sweeping lawn and ornamental beds, but restoration of the natural environment was an equal priority. The majority of paths, driveways and terraces were created from a permeable combination of pebbles, wood and compacted soil. Green roofs cover both lower and upper levels.