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At WestEnd, a condo courtyard of a different stripe

November 1, 2010 |  7:14 am


The goal was to design a garden that would entice residents of WestEnd, a new condo complex in Marina del Rey, to gather with neighbors and cultivate a sense of community. The challenge was the site, a courtyard of sun-baked concrete above a subterranean parking garage.

WestEnd-Striped-PotsWestEnd-Vinyl-Floorjpg But having no ground in which to plant posed no problem for landscape architect Mark Tessier. The Santa Monica designer turned the 15,000-square-foot space into an intimate outdoor living room -- several of them, actually. This week, his urban oasis earned a design award from the local chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

"I knew this courtyard would have to provide amenities that residents wouldn't have in their own units or that they wouldn't necessarily be able to afford even if they did," Tessier said. "So I wanted it to be well-appointed and allow them to feel surrounded by landscape rather than just being adjacent to it."

Tessier painted the first-floor walls dark gray as a dramatic yet neutral backdrop. He filled the courtyard with lush groves of trees in large containers. Rows of water gum, an evergreen Australian native, offer welcome shade and fragrant yellow blooms in spring. Their black-and-white striped fiberglass pots stand 5 feet tall, looking like something Alice encountered in Wonderland.

Giant timber bamboo is mulched with smooth stones and shoots past tall, color-blocked murals, where Tessier intended the rustling canes and foliage to be as much a part of the upper floors as the lower ones. Ginkgo trees inject more seasonal change with fan-shaped leaves that drop in a golden carpet in fall.

Concrete platforms covered in black and white Bolon woven vinyl break up the flat expanse, doubling as steps and benches and defining four outdoor living rooms.

The elevated conversation areas are furnished with designs from Richard Schultz and Janus et Cie. The metal pieces are powdercoated in bright blue, yellow and white, with plump Sunbrella cushions to mix and match.

"The chairs are always somewhere different when I come back," Tessier said on a recent visit, noting that a few seats encircled the fire pit while others had been pulled up to the fountains, shimmering with blue and yellow glass tiles. "I love to see how the furniture moves around. It means people really are using the garden."

-- Emily Young

Keep reading for another view of the courtyard and Schultz furniture ...




Photo credits: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times


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