Outward reflections, natural pool design

Issue 25 Words: Beth Askham Photography: Claire Takacs

In this suburban home’s garden, landscape designer Philip Johnson was asked to create beauty with a natural pool design and a space that would surround the occupants.

The whole garden is built to mimic natural systems. Ponds are allowed to empty when rain is scarce and to overfill when it is abundant. Frogs and insects are welcome guests in the natural pool and reed bed filtration system.

“We wanted areas that would really slow people down and connect them back with the environment,” he says.

In Melbourne’s beachside suburb of East Brighton, house and garden have evolved together to create the Liquidambar home. Deciduous plants shade the house in summer, ponds help to cool breezes before they enter the building and windows look onto small waterfalls and secret garden spaces.

The perfect fit between the landscape and house of this suburban new build is the result of a collaboration between architect, owner and landscape designer. Zen Architects had the garden in mind from the outset, ensuring each inside space had its own relationship with an outside one. The owners also wanted to keep and feature a liquidambar, a tree renowned for its spectacular autumn foliage, growing at the back of the block and a tulip tree at the front.

“Working with Zen Architects and the owner from such an early stage in the design process got such a great outcome – it’s my favourite way to work,” says sustainable landscape designer Phillip Johnson.

He began by building a vertical garden, growing Australian natives in the northern courtyard. Dry-loving plants grow at the top of the wall and plants adapted to moisture grow at the bottom. Underneath the wall sits a small billabong fed by the water and nutrients from above. Philip says a reason he loves the billabong is that the water level rises and falls depending on how much rain there has been.

When it rains water runs through the backyard ponds before overflowing into an underground 30,000-litre tank. Most of the materials in the garden are permeable so that water either soaks in or is collected, taking the pressure off local stormwater drains. Rainwater is plumbed to all toilets, the laundry and reticulated through the veggie garden. It’s also used in the green wall and the natural swimming pool.

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Cover of Issue 25
You can read more about Outward reflections, natural pool design in Issue 25 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Sanctuary: modern green homes is Australia’s premier magazine dedicated to sustainable home design. More...

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