In the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a Visionary Landscape Architect Creates His Own Eden
Landscape architect Thomas Woltz has a enthusiasm for the clarity and proportion of Italian Renaissance architecture. That Woltz life in a gabled Queen Anne Victorian comes as an ironic shock, even to him. “Palladio did not use spindles and gingerbread,” he notes, dryly. But his residence, jointly with the backyard he has established there around the earlier two a long time, is a unified study in satisfying contrasts. The impact is at as soon as disciplined and spontaneous, respectful and irreverent. A lot like the person himself.
Woltz purchased the dwelling, in a little Virginia city in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in 1999. His restoration honors what he calls the “historic intent” of the framework. “I made a decision to respect the Victorian volumes,” he notes. “I was not likely to take away walls to produce an open up prepare.” For two a long time, the place was a construction site as it acquired a copper roof, a mansard porch roof, and plumbing and electrical—all new.
In the hands of a a lot less erudite and playful designer, such attentiveness to historical past may well produce a rigid monotony of fashion. But Woltz loves to devise temporal dialogues—not only between previous and present, but also amongst diverse pasts. As a young gentleman, he put in five decades working towards architecture and instructing in Venice. He lived around the Palazzo Fortuny, which he often frequented. “I was immersed in a earth of the Islamic affect of southern Spain, Italian textiles, home furniture, and Venetian Gothic architecture,” says Woltz, who began accumulating antique Fortuny materials and mild fixtures.
Some of the home furnishings in Woltz’s dwelling tells his very own family’s historical past. Amongst the items handed down about five generations is the grandfather clock in the residing space. It was commissioned by General William Lenoir of North Carolina, Woltz’s good-excellent-good-grandfather, to celebrate the close of the Innovative War. Other parts are garden-sale finds, witnesses to mysterious histories. Still other objects have been gathered on his frequent travels abroad and from pals who are artwork and antiques dealers, among the them Kenny Ball, David L’Eglise, and Simon L’Hopiteau.
It’s a tranquil refuge for a person who has made his name executing general public get the job done at a radically distinctive scale. Woltz is an indefatigable advocate for significant general public spaces and genuine landscapes. Each and every 12 months, extra than 30 million people today around the globe make use of parks made by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, the firm he joined in 1998 and has led as proprietor and principal because 2013.
Woltz is presently overseeing the generation of a new park in Houston that is nearly 2 times the sizing of New York’s Central Park. He always commences by exploring the history of a place—an method that has designed him a all-natural alternative for this kind of historic properties as Monticello, Winterthur, and Olana.
When he acquired his Queen Anne, it was surrounded by very little but a 50 percent-acre of grass and two trees. Going for walks by way of the backyard garden right now, you move via a collection of embracing outside “rooms” created by Woltz, who is his individual complete-time gardener. In front of the property, an 8-foot-tall round hedge built of European hornbeams and bordered by fritillaries, wild tulips, and ferns makes a private space in an urban front garden.
Just outside of is a small terrace encompassed by five hornbeams that, around the class of 20 yrs, Woltz has sheared into dwelling columns. Stone actions framed with viburnum and hydrangea lead into the colorful perennial backyard garden, in which bluestone-lined beds define a tidy sq. of garden, then descend to the bowling-green terrace, which kinds a lengthy cross axis. The ultimate back garden is laid out in an ellipse that spans the entire width of the home and is household to flowering shrubs indigenous to China, Japan, and Virginia.
Satisfying as it is to the eye and the spirit, Woltz’s yard also operates hard. “It was never envisioned as a showplace,” he notes. Rather, it is a residing laboratory in which he tests the spacing of plants for hedges, fresh new combinations of bulbs and perennials, and different pruning solutions and regimes. Every single year he pulls some of the crops and distributes them to pals, producing room for new trials in plantings and layout.
For one of his birthdays, Woltz hosted attendees at a lengthy desk on the bowling inexperienced under a massive chandelier designed from a staghorn sumac that had presented up the ghost. He had wrapped the sumac in hundreds of sensitive LEDs and suspended it upside down above the meal desk from a strong sycamore. It was a attribute gesture for Woltz, reminding individuals gathered that nature, even in dying, illuminates lifetime.
This tale initially appeared in the Summer 2022 concern of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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