During the practice of Tai Chi, there is a meditative, relaxed, and highly alert state which is referred to as “Song.” Back in December of 2017, the TLC Gardens team began working with Rocky Mountain Tai Chi to design a very special outdoor environment in Hygiene, Colorado, fondly named after this concept.
Song Ranch has been meticulously designed and constructed to serve two particular purposes: A residence as well as a studio for the teaching and practice of Tai Chi. In the first weeks of design, our team sat down to dialogue with the homeowners, and began to learn about some of the basic philosophies of Tai Chi. Some of these concepts, such as flow, balance, path of least resistance, became the building blocks which informed the geometry and architecture of the landscape. Our team began setting goals to: enhance flow patterns by providing a “journey” through the site, delineate clear boundaries between public and private space, and create quiet, balanced and inspiring living/education spaces to suit the dynamic needs of our clients. The wholistic design has provided solutions to many of the sites preexisting maintenance issues, and has also allowed for the easy integration of other beautiful features, such as phone-controlled, color changing landscape lighting.
This site has two main user groups, each with their own divergent and overlapping needs. After establishing that there was a clear need for separation of flow patterns at the site’s entrance, TLC Gardens envisioned a meditative journey through the landscape, providing both users groups with privacy and sanctuary. Students arrive at a primary parking area, just beyond the front entrance to the site (#19 in plan). It is here where they are invited to leave their vehicles, and begin their own, separate journey through the gardens, to the studio.
As one passes through the cedar arbor, they begin to follow a meandering path, between a series of carefully formed berms. The sculpted land and layers of native grasses and perennials not only mirror the surrounding rural landscape, but importantly create screening between this path, and the home, maintaining the resident’s privacy.
These landforms frame the destination for arriving students, elegantly creating clear direction and flow in the landscape.
Each berm is planted with an array of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and even a few small trees, each serving it’s own acute function. Feather Reed, Blonde Ambition, Boulder Blue Fescue, Little Blue Stem, Northwind Switch, and Japanese Variegated Sedge all make appearances here, bringing a high variety of sharp textures, and cool colors into the landscape. These linear, rigid structures are contrasted by soft and delicate low-growing perennials, such as Antennaria Pussytoes and Stachys Lamb’s Ears.
This path approaches the communal studio space on the North end of the property. As one arrives, they are greeted with changing fauna, in the form of perennial-focused gardens. Stonecrop Sedums and Terracotta Yarrows provide structure, while other perennials such as Penstemon and Alchemilla bring in delicate textures and bright colors.
These colorful plants, along with many more in the inner and outer gardens, reflect the vibrant energy cultivated here at Rocky Mountain Tai Chi, providing a powerful, natural backdrop during lessons.
Bounding the flagstone patio are three new structures, built to enforce the studio’s feeling of place. A cedar constructed “Shade Shack” sits across the Rocky Mountain Tai Chi’s indoor studio, providing space for sitting, and storage for gardening supplies (#17 on Plan). On the West sits a massive granite boulder wall and water feature (#4 + #5 on plan). These Granite boulders weigh up to 8 tons and create a deeply grounded sense of place within the native scenery. A custom water feature was installed to integrate meditative soundscaping and mirror the natural sound of an adjacent creek.
Finally, oriented East-West in order to frame the rising and setting of the moon, a custom built, raw steel and cedar Moon Gate forms and frames the studio space within. This element serves as a focal point during outdoor Tai Chi practice, bringing sculptural beauty and movement into the landscape. Two more large granite boulder stand shoulder to shoulder with the Moon Gate, reenforcing it’s grounded energy, while the blue and orange tones in the rusting steel are mirrored in the stone.
Our clients’ goals of creating: a sense of arrival, inviting spaces, continuity and cohesiveness between existing elements, improved site access and expanded living space, are all achieved in this landscape. The built structures, together with layers of naturalized plantings form an immersive, serene place where one can live, work, learn, practice, and escape outside! Below we can see this space in use, courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Tai Chi Facebook page.
Projects like this hold a special place in our team’s heart. It is always amazing to see a landscape turn from concept to reality, but the most rewarding feeling comes from watching these spaces come to life, to see them welcomed into the world with love and appreciation. We are honored to be a part of the Rocky Mountain Tai Chi story, and we look forward to creating more outdoor environments to help people Escape Outside!