Project Category: Residential
Project Name: Casey
Key Pagoda Garden
Project Location: Casey Key, Florida
Date of Completion: December 2012
Landscape Architect: Michael A. Gilkey, Jr. - Michael A.
Owner: Mr. and
Landscape Contractor: Michael A.
Casey Key Pagoda Garden is nestled on 1.2 acres overlooking Blackburn Bay on
Casey Key, an exclusive Gulf Coast barrier island with a single narrow roadway.
Across the street from the Garden is the Gulfview home of the owners, world
travelers with a desire for a retreat suitable for private use as well as large
to renovation, views were obstructed from the home to the Bay. The site was unkempt
and overgrown, and contained a fountain, existing bamboo, and an unruly rose
garden. The owners initially requested a traditional
Chinese garden, a formal rose garden, a koi pond, and a cistern for irrigation.
The program evolved to include Chinese pavilions, Moongates, a Conservatory and
an edible garden. The landscape architect designed all elements of the project,
engaging in constant structural guidance from the building contractor. Together,
through true collaboration, they pushed the envelope of design as well as
construction methodology, assembling a team of subcontractors and artisans that
informed their process.
design intent was to appropriately site the three major destinations—the Rose
Garden, the Conservatory, and the Chinese Garden—while making the garden feel
contiguous with the home, despite the narrow roadway dividing the two. The
Pedestrian Terrace and Rose Garden, inspired by the owners’ trips to Italy and
France, were informed by the axes and viewpoints of the home. Strong sight
lines and a cohesive material selection make the house and garden feel like one
property. The transition from the Rose Garden to the Conservatory is created
through the Arbor and Edible Garden, incorporating herbs, vegetables, and fruit
and nut trees (over a third of the more than 200 plant species on the property
are edible or medicinal).
The Conservatory, which houses not only tropical
plants but exquisite custom artwork and intimate gatherings, hides a 40,000
gallon cistern below that collects the rainwater from the home and uses it to
irrigate the site. Behind the Conservatory lies the Bamboo Garden, where eight
species of bamboo envelop an intimate, secluded space including a meditation
deck, a focal "Scholar’s Rock,” and a gentle water feature.
the user crosses that threshold of the traditional Moongate, inscribed with the
dedication "Mother’s Garden,” the home, the Conservatory, and the Rose Garden
begin to disappear. The Chinese Garden was inspired by the eastern design concept
of creating different scenes or vignettes. While the elements were informed by
history and tradition, the design is a modern interpretation of an ancient
methodology, insisting on a cohesion and consciousness of Southwest Florida conditions
and context. The rocks throughout the garden were selected and handset to
create points of focus and frame the water elements without obstructing views.
As the rocks in traditional Chinese gardens are eroded over centuries and
therefore highly valued, finding the right rocks for this project was an
important task; the answer was found in the alluvial forces of the Mississippi
River on limestone. One perfectly shaped rock formed a bridge from the
pavilions to the custom concrete walkway behind a focal waterfall. This walkway
was top-dressed with river bed aggregate that was hand-tossed into the concrete
by the landscape architect, the building contractor, and the owners. Three
pavilions, inspired by tradition but designed and built by innovation, anchor
the Chinese Garden and are connected by tile walkways flanked with limestone
seatwalls on all sides.
appear to be built of wood, but were constructed by poured-in-place concrete in
order to withstand Gulf winds and weather. They are finished with rich wood
detailing, traditional cobalt blue roof tiles, and symbolic figures and
finials. Beneath the pavilions is a Koi Pond on one side and a Refugium on the
other, giving the structures the appearance of floating. The natural waste from
the fish feeds the collection of lilies, lotus, and other aquatic plants in the
Refugium. A matching Moongate takes one out of the Chinese Garden and onto a
deck overlooking the Bay, and to the dock where the family’s boat is anchored.
the garden is comprised of many unique moments, cohesion is achieved through
the use of the same palette of materials in varying applications. Limestone,
shellstone, concrete and aggregate are used in different sizes and scales to
give a different sense of place to each experience within the garden. Wood
elements reference each other in the Arbor, the Conservatory, the Bamboo Garden
and the pavilions. Flowering trees are placed throughout the entire site at
careful focal points to give a backdrop reminiscent of cherry blossoms. This
project epitomized the design-build process, and could not have been possible
without true collaboration from concept through construction between the
landscape architect, the building contractor, and the owners.