Fashion designer Elie Tahari hired MVVA to design two courtyards cut into a new windowless suburban office building intended to serve hundreds of employees. The gardens, measuring a total of 2,000 square feet, face each other across a glass-walled interior hall, bringing light, views of trees, and awareness of seasonal change into the 225,000-square-foot building and the daily life of the workplace.
“Rivers” of locally harvested black locust planks, cut flat to function as paths, lead through a composition of river birch, hellebores, ferns, moss, and river cobbles, visually connecting the two courtyards. While thickets of daffodils and ferns fill the sunny areas, the logs widen at the far ends of the spaces to create sitting terraces that suggest an abstraction of the forest floor.
The design emphasizes the tactile and sensuous qualities of its materials. Slight variations to the courtyard layouts create dramatic differences in exposure to sunlight, allowing for distinct microclimates to develop: one courtyard is sunny all year round and the other is nearly always in shade.