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Planting Diversity

Page Duke Landscape Architecture takes a holistic approach to projects large and small.

By Lynne Lavelle

Since its founding in 1998, Page Duke Landscape Architecture has seen many new developments within its field. The Nashville, TN-based firm's design philosophy, however, remains constant: whether an expansive public space or an intimate secret garden, the goal is to create a seamless integration of the built environment and its surroundings. Founding principal Ben Page and partner Gavin Duke are deeply influenced by their childhood experiences; Page by his grandparents' and great-grandparents' farm, and Duke by the rural Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, where he was raised. The firm's broad focus on residential gardens, equine-management facilities, hunting-plantation management and master-planning reflect these rural roots for a clientele throughout the Southeast and Atlantic Seaboard, from Florida to New York.

Ben Page graduated from the University of Georgia in 1973 with honors in landscape architecture. He started his practice, Ben Page Associates, in 1983, and has since been a recipient of various historic preservation awards, including the 2009 Aurora Award and a 2002 Metro Nashville Historical Commission's Preservation Award.

Gavin Duke studied landscape architecture at the University of Arkansas, graduating in 1987, but had educated himself beforehand on the historical and contextual elements of landscape design by traveling the world. His experiences in England, France and Italy proved particularly valuable to his chosen career path, and he joined Ben Page Associates in 1987. The two formed Page Duke in 1998; the firm has since grown to a staff of 10.

To each project, Page Duke brings patience and foresight, creating designs that are sustainable for the future. "We have seen an amazing amount of horticultural advancements and hardscape material changes," says Duke. "Through travel, experience and practice, we have become aware of how the process of creating a garden over several years is a 'process.' Meaning it takes time for some of the vision to take its full potential, and then possibly see changes that need to occur due to age and time."

In that vein, the firm uses regional materials and local plantings wherever possible, and is motivated by environmental and budgetary concerns, as well as stylistic appropriateness. "The goal of all our projects is to thoroughly reflect the client's dreams for their particular project in a way that is ecologically and financially responsible, paying particular attention to regional materials," says Page.

At Howe Garden, within Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville, TN, the firm made use of native vegetation and a rain garden to manage rain water runoff and flooding in that area. "The rain garden not only filters the water of pollutants, but it is also designed to return the cleansed water back into the ground water table," says Page. And at the low-maintenance Delano Park in Decatur, AL, the garden and playground were designed with wheelchair access to provide a place for children with disabilities to actively experience nature. "Rocks and materials used were local and carefully selected," says Page. "All plant communities were chosen for their natural ability to sustain themselves in the region. Grasses, wild flowers and native plants conserve water, reduce water-related expenses and greatly reduce the cost of landscape management."

From sight lines, outdoor rooms in connection to the egress to the outside, and complementing existing structures, architecture influences Page Duke's designs in every way. "We strongly agree that the landscape and site should fully tie into the architecture – Italian with Italian, Mediterranean with Mediterranean and so on," says Duke. "From Modern architecture to Classical architecture, there is a language that portrays a look and feel appropriate to the place." For an Italianate garden in Nashville, TN, Duke created several distinct, but connected, outdoor experiences: The rear garden is used for entertaining, and is enclosed with plantings for privacy on an urban lot, while the sounds of wall-mask fountains soothe and evoke an elegant landscape. Parking is hidden out of sight, and links to the main house via a covered walk. "The design program was to create a garden that sets a platform for the architecture to sit on, with plant massing to anchor it visually to the land," says Duke.

Similarly, the clients' goals for a lakeside property in Memphis, TN, were to formally scale the front arrival court, and for a parking court to obscure cars. Duke created several garden rooms for the rear outside entertaining areas, with garden layers that descend to the lake. The side property includes a pool and pool house, as a sunny getaway from the main house, against the water in the distance. Major design elements include a garden folly and scroll lawn with sculpture. "We are hypersensitive to the seamless integration of architectural styles in all aspects of our site planning process," says Page. "The specific architecture of the house, being traditional, formal, informal or contemporary, informs the aesthetics of the landscape imaginary adjacent to the building. This integration of architecture and site specific solutions has always been the hallmark of our office."

A successful collaboration between an engaged and knowledgeable client, their architect, Page Duke and a local horticulturist took a 1940s English Tudor Revival property in Birmingham, AL, from "grandmotherly to dynamic and elegantly family friendly." The house was completely renovated for a young couple with three children, for whom engaging outdoor spaces were a must. "A pool, plus lots of interactive outdoor terraces, intimate garden spaces, and a huge porch all became part of our landscape master plan," says Page. "A totally re-imagined vehicular and pedestrian circulation system accommodated the active family's lifestyle."

While every Page Duke project reflects the client's short- and long-term aspirations for their property, a complete re-think presents a rare creative opportunity for both firm and client. In the historic Garden District of New Orleans, LA, Page completely redesigned a courtyard behind a late-Victorian home, which had been virtually destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The ground-up renovation allowed the owner to create the blooming private space they had always wanted, complete with courtyard rooms and pathways through lush plantings. "The number one goal was the addition of several outdoor spaces to complement the contiguous indoor spaces," says Page, "thus providing for a much more fluid indoor/outdoor relationship. We also expressed New Orleans' exotic, tropical environment with a complex horticultural palette of regional and local plants."

With a folio that runs the gamut from intricate residential gardens to master-planning expansive hunting preserves, there is no such thing as a typical Page Duke client. "We relish the intimate courtyard gardens as well as the 1730 plantation restoration with a magnificent 250-year-old live oak allée on 6,000 acres," says Page. "I find the diversity of these projects enormously satisfying and intellectually stimulating."

"We have evolved from the perception of landscape architecture as simply the decoration of outdoor spaces to something that encompasses environmental concerns, artistic sensibilities, historical perspective and collaboration with other professions. It is a whole new dynamic profession that affects quality of life as a whole."  

 

 

 
 

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