Neither Indoor, Nor Outdoor, But Both

by Dave on October 15, 2009

by Eric Wall, RLA, ASLA

This week we would like to veer off the beaten path and instead of talking about living “green”, talk about living IN THE green.  Here in the coastal Delaware region, opportunities abound for outdoor recreation and appreciation.   Let’s take this one step further…what better way to experience the great outdoors than to create, entertain, and live in an outdoor room.  As the title suggests, outdoor and indoor spaces can take on the characteristics of each other, thereby immersing one into another world where the threshold between the outside and the inside is blurred.

An outdoor room has been a popular design element and buzz word in recent years, but the concept is hardly new.  In fact, the above title is a portion of a theory practiced by prominent landscape architect and author in the 20th century, James C. Rose.  Rose broke through many mainstream ideas and traditions by implementing his theory of “neither landscape, nor architecture, but both; neither indoors, nor outdoors, but both.”   By helping to blur the distinction between the outside and the inside, James C. Rose fostered enlightenment in landscape design that has grown without boundaries since its inception.  Rose’s designs clearly express his idea of blurring the line between outdoor and indoor space as well as his belief that modern design must be flexible enough to allow for changes in the environment, and in the lives of its users.   He believed that as nature evolves and changes over time, so must the design, as it is a reflection of nature and its processes.

Fast forward to today and we see that outdoor living and entertaining is a common occurrence throughout the country.  Outdoor kitchens, outdoor showers and spas, outdoor fireplaces, trellises, arbors, pergolas, and
other architectural features can be
combined with landscape elements in infinite ways to help bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.  In addition to the aforementioned architectural accoutrements, new ideas continue to bloom with every growing season.  Green roofs and living walls are just a couple examples gaining popularity in the landscape and architecture realms.

Living walls are perhaps one of the newest and most intriguing design elements hitting the marketplace, especially for the individual home owner.  Commercially, living walls have gained a foothold in design throughout Europe, especially in this green era of living.  In the United States however, you are more likely to see a living wall utilized in site design and storm water
management rather than in architecture.   Retaining walls, reclaimed
NEITHER INDOOR NOR OUTDOOR, BUT BOTH
(Continued from page 13)
stream banks, and even storm water detention basins are perfect opportunities to introduce a living wall that provides stability, functionality, and beauty to otherwise boring and pragmatic engineering solutions.  But hold on to your succulents, because the tides are a-changing.  With the introduction of modular systems, living walls are becoming easier to install and maintain in architectural designs, and can actually provide benefits to any building where they are growing.  For example, similar to green roofs, living walls can help regulate temperatures, ameliorate storm water runoff, and provide insulating benefits such as noise reduction.   And if an entire living wall does not suit your taste or budget, there are even portable living walls that double as art pieces and can provide a small oasis of green to any space where it is hung.

In the advent of our environmental stewardship, we think that James C. Rose would approve of the small steps that each of us takes toward living green as well as living IN THE green.  Even introducing a small green area to a room by incorporating a living wall art piece would exemplify his idea: that nature evolves and as the piece grows and changes through the seasons, the space that is occupying is also evolving, a reflection of nature and its ever-changing beauty.

So with that being written, we encourage you to try new things, incorporate architectural elements outside of your home and introduce landscape elements inside your home.  Blur the line between the outdoors and indoors, and experience all that nature and design has to offer in a perfect union of the two.

This column first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, July 30, 2009.

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