Bridgehampton, New York
The site of this proposed house, although scenic, required significant remediation. A four-acre expanse of former agricultural land, it suffered from a history of chemical and pesticide application and was a source of toxic, silt-laden runoff that impinged on the adjacent tidal pond. The architectural firm A+I and LDG collaborated closely to address these problems and create a handsome residence that is well rooted in the surrounding habitat.
To deal with storm water runoff, LDG focused on embracing the watershed and turning it into an asset. Rather than diverting the water to the edges of the property so that it would run around the house, the design team decided to grade the land so that runoff collected in a central bioswale that would run through and under the house. Planted with native vegetation, the bioswale became the central feature of the landscape, creating dramatic views and experiences and connecting the house and its landscape visually with the wetland that surrounds the tidal pond.
The effectiveness of a bioswale lies in infiltrating runoff into the soil where soil microorganisms can attack and break down pollutants, thus cleansing the water. The absorptive capacity of this bioswale was enhanced by excavating its channel down through the existing clay sub soil and then lining it with clean sand topped with an eighteen-inch deep layer of a planting mix created by amending topsoil with sand and compost. The bottom of the resulting bioswale was planted with a ribbon of native Pennsylvania sedge, with the sides clothed in native grasses such as little bluestem, native shrubs, and small, multi-trunked trees. The visual effect of this planting is that of a wild, green “river” even when the weather and the bioswale are dry.
Any runoff that isn’t absorbed by the bioswale empties into a 100-foot-deep buffer of vegetation planted along the edge of the tidal pond.
Stormwater runoff was also minimized by keeping surfaces within the landscape absorptive. Even the parking area was paved with a permeable surface of blocks inset into turf so that the rainwater would soak in rather than run off. Similarly, the path to the house is set with pavers interplanted with steppable groundcovers such as mazus. The path rises as the landscape descends so that by the time the final bridge to the front door is reached, the visitor is up among the tops of the compact, multi-trunked trees, enjoying an uninterrupted view.