A private garden in Buenos Aires combines local nature and international design models

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By  CONTACT _Con-3B45F21B34 \c \s \l Jimena Martignoni
This large garden located north of Buenos Aires city has been modeled over more than twenty years. Essentially, the garden takes and recreates two landscape styles: the geometrical and axial designs based on the iconic Italian villas of the 16th century, and the tropical garden, humid and shady, whose configuration is liberated from all formal clauses.

This responds to two quite significant conditions: the owner’s favorite garden in Europe, which he had visited before starting the project, was the Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Italy; on the other hand, the site was a quite steep piece of land that dropped away toward the coast of the Plate River, or Río de la Plata.
The molding of the land, with the object of this differentiation, was a key action in this project. Based on the nature of the slopes, the designer did important earth work, removing it at some spots and incorporating it at some others, to finally craft the diverse surfaces and ambiences he had originally envisioned. The formal spaces appear at the upper areas of the site, coinciding with the level of the house and the access street, and the wilder spaces are laid out at the bottom, closer to the river.


Buenos Aires

The main access to the house is where the reference to the Villa Lante can be best appreciated. When entering the compound from the street, and after leaving, on the left, a yard where a massive group of pots with cacti and succulent species are picturesquely exhibited, the first image that is made out is a parterre composition, which marks the main access to the garden. Before getting to this point, partially roofed logia connect to the house; in this manner, the garden becomes a privileged space, more important than the building architecture.
Conversely, what appears as a background, in deep contrast to this geometrical first welcoming layout, is a cluster of large trees and some palms that seem to establish the first dialogue between styles. Most of these trees, some of which existed at the site when the designer started to work on the project, have a stunning blooming: jacarandas, silk folk tree and trumpet tree combine with a few large conifers.
Other clear references to the Villa garden are the negotiation of the elevation changes with stately stairs and large landing platforms and terraces, flanked by large plant containers and sculptures; the incorporation of symmetrical parterres which mark the beginning or the ending of an itinerary; the repetition of topiary design and the presence of focal points such as fountains, pools or other sculptural elements.

While going down the stairs and brick terraces that are developed on the left side of the garden, the large trees get visually incorporated into the landscape, conquering it with their crowns, their branches or only part of them. On the edges of these stairs, also appear shade species, ferns and large leaved plants, which integrate with the original planting of the humid ravine such as bamboo, palms, banana tree, ivy and groundcovers.
At the lowest part of the site, from where the terraces and overlapping spaces can be fully appreciated, a cluster of calla lilies and other herbaceous occupy a flat central area. The sequential design of the green slopes is sometimes outlined with formal compositions and others with the combination of green edges and large steps.
An informal wooden long stair leads to the upper part of the garden, completing the circuit. This stair is developed along a quite steep part of the original slopes and among many palms and tropical species; once at the level of the house again, the river can be made out in the distance.

Right after these last tropical looking spaces the garden presents another semi closed formal area that hides the swimming pool. Pergolas, benches and a stone deck define the edges, which gently slope down to the first welcoming plane of the garden.

Some concealed spaces of the garden are reserved for a private nursery, plants growing and care, tasks that the owner decide to carry out on-site years ago.
Although in the beginning the planting plan was not exclusively native (many of the introduced plants were brought from far places, especially South Africa, Colombia and the United States), today most of the species, which are still being incorporated are from local environments and regions.

Designer: Edmundo Tonconogy
Location: Buenos Aires, near the river coast
Size: 8.000 m2
Date: ongoing project started more than 20 years ago
Photography: Courtesy of Facundo de Zuviría

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