Give Me Shelter: Overhead Structures and How They Relate to the Larger Architecture of the Site

By Markle, Elinor | Landscape & Irrigation, November-December 2009 | Go to article overview
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Give Me Shelter: Overhead Structures and How They Relate to the Larger Architecture of the Site


Markle, Elinor, Landscape & Irrigation


Arbors, gazebos, pavilions, pergolas--each has its own connotation, its own image in our mind's eye. t try to explain to a client and you might find yourself wondering if it is worth the effort it takes to sort them out. All four are forms of shelter, physical and physiological. Each provides protection from the weather or climate, provides an emotional sense of security, and sets a landmark within the larger landscape. All of these types of overhead structures perform similar and related essential design functions. They enclose passageways, announce entry, direct pedestrian circulation and mark a destination or an activity space.

I looked at the differences of function and made my own distinctions. An arbor is a structure meant to create shade by means of two or more columns supporting an open roof, usually covered by vines. It is frequently used as a statement of entry, as over a gate or a gap in a fence or wall. Sometimes it is provided with a bench-type seat, which expands its use to that of a destination.

Gazebos are made with solid roofs, and sides that enclose it in a light manner with railings or lattice work. Often the roof framing represents the octagon or hexagon shape. These seem to be derived from a romantic and medieval era of architecture, or translated from the more recent Victorian themes.

Pavilions are solid-roof structures with open sides, or sometimes with a guard rail on one or two sides, and do not depend on the octagonal or hexagonal shape. Generally, they are designed to be accessible from many directions, whereas the gazebo has one entrance/exit.

A pergola is an arbor that did not know when to quit, a structure meant to create shade by means of eight or more columns supporting an open roof, sometimes covered by vines, but not always. These structures may be very long, directing and shading pedestrians for hundreds of feet.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pointedly romantic

The basic structure in Photo 1 was a pool house, a necessary feature for storing mechanical equipment and the attendant necessities for maintaining a swimming pool. Built of pleasant proportions that adequately mirror the obvious architectural features of the home of which it is a part, the pool house was required to be close to the pool. When this estate was a private residence, it served as a bathhouse and changing room, as well as a focal point of view from the loggia alongside the main house. Over time, these grounds were turned into a public place, and the hardscape surrounding the pool was removed, since it was no longer desirable to have general access there.

Without the dynamic presence of people at pool's edge, the view of the original pool house was not interesting enough to hold our attention. In addition, even with lavish plantings of great specimen plants of many sorts, it was not screened enough to prevent the appearance of its lonesome hovering over this corner of the swimming pool. The solution to having the banal function insinuating itself into the poolside scene was to add an aesthetic element to the building. This the owner did by the addition of a secluded seating area. Intimate in scale, it reanimates the view from the house.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The roof pitch of the gazebo is reminiscent of a fairytale castle or Victorian garret room, which gives this space the feeling of mystic knowledge and romance.

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Give Me Shelter: Overhead Structures and How They Relate to the Larger Architecture of the Site
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