Small backyard wins landscape award

Architectural Gardens of Lake Forest, Ill., has won an Excellence in Landscape Award transforming a featureless backyard into an urban-like outdoor living area.

AG's award-winning project was styled to bring the feeling of an urban rooftop garden to a standard suburban backyard.

Owner and designer Margaret Morrissette removed all traces of a typical suburban backyard -- lawn, deck, storage shed and paving brick. The re-design effectively screens out views of the neighbors' houses and garages and instead focuses on the space within, particularly the ground plane. The surrounding mature trees in the neighborhood are metaphorically like the skyscrapers of the famous Chicago skyline.

The small square yard was subdivided into distinct outdoor rooms for grilling and dining, a place for growing herbs (potted), a teen lounge and a comfortable area for entertaining guests around a large masonry fireplace. Structures and surfaces serve dual purposes; the tall fireplace serves as a privacy screen, large tubs of culinary herbs divide the grilling area from the dining area, the patio surface of natural stone adds beauty -- both unifying and sub-dividing the space according to use, as well as directing flow. Trees inserted between spaces act like architectural columns and help to balance the mass of paving stones.