Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Creating an Oasis

Garden design contest centers on One Monument Avenue.

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“We expect both garden areas to be very popular,” says Russell Lawson, the marketing consultant for the apartment complex. “The West Avenue Garden will be convenient to the parking area and is handicap-accessible, and the interior courtyard is really the only outside space protected from street noise.”

The West Avenue Garden faces West Avenue with one apartment opening directly into the courtyard. Lawson says there will be handicap parking available, as well as covered storage for residents and possibly a few tables and chairs on the patio. The interior courtyard is accessible through a gated entryway or one of the two apartments that open onto the courtyard, as well as through the entrance in the building. The building’s historical smokestack rises through the center of the courtyard and is being incorporated into the garden’s design.

“The smokestack is part of the history of the building,” says Lawson. “It’s one of the things that make this area so unique. When you stand in this courtyard, you are surrounded by settings from all eras.”

The inner courtyard also has another unique aspect: It was designed by Renee Stramel, a landscape design student at George Washington University, whose plan was selected from 11 others. Lawson says the developers of the apartment, Ken Zaslav and Tom Horton, solicited designs from area students to give them a way to use the things they learn in class. Stramel, who has been studying landscape design at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and graduated in August, submitted a design that created “an oasis — a pool of green set within the classic red brick,” according to her description of her design. Her plan called for the use of many plants, including Vinca, Osmanthus, ‘AnnaBelle,’ Ligustrum and Solomon’s seal. Her design called for a line of trees to mask the base of the smokestack and flowering plants to protect those whose apartments open onto the courtyard from prying eyes on higher floors.

Unfortunately, Lawson says, budget and time restraints will keep the developers and contractors, KBS Inc, from using all of Stramel’s ideas. Instead, they have for the time being laid brick in the interior courtyard, leaving room for several free-standing trees and a small pond at the base of the smokestack. Tables and benches will be added once all the construction is complete. This will create a secluded, quiet patio to be enjoyed by residents and the renters of the 30,000 square feet of retail space included in the building.

“Maybe, later on, we’ll develop a more landscaped look,” he says. “When the apartments are turned into condominiums, the Homeowners’ Association will probably want to do something more to the areas.”

Stramel’s garden oasis is not the only spectacular spot in the building. The building also offers private rooftop terraces to those living in apartment 4A and the penthouse. These terraces overlook the inner courtyard and offer amazing views of Monument Avenue and the city. There also will be a rooftop garden available to apartment residents, which Lawson says will be a great place for apartment dwellers to relax after a long day. The public terrace will feature potted plants, tables and wooden screens to create a feeling of privacy and peacefulness.

When the building renovations are completed about October, the renters will find themselves living in the lap of luxury. And right outside their doors will be a surprisingly green refuge from the bustle of everyday city life. These apartment-dwellers will find that living on the third floor doesn’t mean living without the great outdoors. HS

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