Sanctuary Garden

Courtesy of Millicent Harvey
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Invited to re-imagine a carriage house in downtown New Haven, we chose to intensify the programmatic and habitat potential of an intricate site. The result is a private residence for an architect and art collector where a sanctuary garden’s trees and plantings filter and frame daily life.

Upon first visiting the site, we saw broad canopies of two oak trees silhouetted against the sky, above their asphalt surroundings. These existing trees framed an important early understanding of the space. We set about bounding the perimeter to amplify the power of an urban canopy. With the multiple stories of a New England forest in mind, we introduced sub-canopy trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcover, ephemerals, and vines.

Seeking to mitigate heat island effects, increase groundwater infiltration, and boost biodiversity, we joined environmental goals with the desire to create a nuanced urban retreat. Light filtering through a scrim of leaves, birds, and branches into new windows on the south and east facades of the building enchant and captivate, signaling success in our work. Because the residents love art, film, and music, each experience—whether opening the back door or stepping out of the car—needed to be arresting. Movement through the garden was choreographed to expand or contract a sense of space, with views from the windows imagined as film stills. Building off traditions of the walled garden, where ordered plantings and alignments create a sense of wonder and shelter, we made a home for extraordinary interactions and quiet recovery—where plants and animals, people and machines, ambiance and structure interplay throughout the day.


New Haven CT




<1 acre