3555-3557 Beethoven Avenue

This garden design is an homage to Gregory Ain, the architect, and Garret Eckbo, the landscape designer, for the historical preservation tract across street. The owner and tenants of this multi-dwelling unit property are extremely proud of having the garden support itself without irrigation for 10 years!!  

This was once a semi-abandoned building with a large half-dead grassy, unused front yard open to Beethoven Avenue and three apartments accessed by concrete walkways with no private yards. Architectural designer Gabriela Frers remodeled it in 2002.

The designer is a firm believer in green architecture and green landscaping. Her goal was to transform each apartment into a private oasis with its own yard, maximize the inside and outside areas and have zero debris carted away into landfills. All the existing concrete was cut up into pavers that now form the side yard walkways, the stairs into each apartment and the large elevated private concrete patios. Two large impermeable 100% concrete side yards are gone, replaced by permeable gravel as a ground cover in each patio and walk way. This allows for nature’s automatic irrigation system to work during rainy times and let the water be collected and preserved below the pavers.

Landfill from the concrete debris that could not be reused supports each elevated patio. The patios are designed to allow the rainwater to seep down into the ground through the 2” wide separation between pavers and by sloping in the right direction.

Each private yard and elevated patio has recycled concrete steps leading down to a surrounding yard planted with aromatic evergreen vines and California native plants to enjoy throughout the year and assure privacy form the neighbors.       
The front garden is the anchor for the other yards, repeating the gravel ground cover and the shared landscaping theme of the the apartments. French doors lead to an elevated patio that replaces a large dead grassy area and blank front blank wall. A vine overhangs and the gravel yard has two levels, seating areas, a water feature and a fire bowl. Bamboo functions as an organic sound barrier, separating the front yard from the busy street, and also provides privacy. Each individual bamboo is planted within a 30 gallon plastic garbage pail so that it does NOT propagate randomly.

California natives, succulents, rosemary, thyme and blooming garlic line the walkways, offering a scented walk into each apartment. Everyone enjoys the soothing water feature in the front garden, since this is the entry walk to all the apartments. Wonderfully fragrant night blooming jasmine and a graphic fence screen treatment eliminate any visual or sensory issues with the recycle bins.

The garden throughout the building is self sustaining, with NO built-in irrigation system.  All of the water to sustain these gardens is derived from rain water and morning dew. The gravel absorbs the water and creates an impervious barrier; instead of quickly evaporating, the water seeps into the ground freely and is retained by the layer of gravel. A French draining system underground collects excess rain water and transports it to the street through a system of underground pipes to avoid flooding and stagnant water pooling during the rainy season.

Photographs of the original building will help you fully appreciate the wonderful changes.