James Rose, a landscape architect, chose a neighborhood in a far northern part of the Garden State to build his nature/nurture opus in 1953. Ridgewood, New Jersey, originally a village, became an upscale suburban enclave in the early 20th century.
Situated on a relatively tiny corner parcel is Rose’s experimental vision, an intermingling of manmade and nature, structure and plant life – all looking as if they have grown together into one new hybrid species of manufactured materials and native ones – a kind of RoboPlot.
So hidden, on first viewing the property from the street, we thought it was an abandoned site since it appeared overgrown and indistinct as a recognizable house and yard, especially in comparison to the coiffed neighboring lots: the usual suspects of small-scale British-style country estates on half-acre lots. The thing is, the other properties are the ones out of place; it’s just that they are the majority.
Rose was influenced by Asian design, and the openness of the house to the garden makes you think that you are in Oahu rather than New Jersey, the overall effect of his efforts is a bit surreal and theatrical with a blurring of the edges of where nature begins and built environment ends, because the two are so inextricably linked in this domicile.
It’s such a pleasant surprise, a gift in an otherwise cookie-cutter environment; the small lush estate has a playful seriousness, a fascinating use of building materials and the magician’s hand when it comes to a happy merging of architecture and landscape. His sense of space and how to use it is impressive because, after walking in and out of the house and garden, you feel that it is a much larger place than it really is. And his pipe-dream-made-solid does achieve a true and improbable balance. Hip hip hooray!