we dream of neoplastic trees

We have a few calls out for landscape architects (with few calls back; hmmm...). Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about what we would like for the hardscape part of the landscape. Given the walls (the privacy wall out front, the art wall inside, the inset wall on the front, and the north wall that extends to the outdoors), I’m thinking walls should be a theme of sorts for the landscape.

The walls described above remind me, however loosely, of the site plan for the brick country house Mies van der Rohe designed in 1924. This design is iconic in architectural circles because the plan, in and of itself, is a work of abstract art. The walls are ”exploded” in the sense they don’t connect to define space. Long walls drift away from the house giving the plan a sense of infinity.

o Mies, you so neoplastic!

Those that know a hell of a lot more than I do suggest that Mies’s brick country house was strongly influenced by the Dutch art movement call de Stijl (pronounced duh stile [which sounds like something Snookie would say…]), which means ”The Style” (and is also referred to as ”neoplasticism”). The de Stiljers, active between 1917 and 1931, liked to reduce reality to abstract representations of (often) unconnected vertical and horizontal lines, rectangles and squares, and primary and non (black, gray, and white) colors. The painter Piet Mondrian (color blocking!) is probably the most famous neoplasticist (who later had a falling out with another founder of de Stijl [Theo van Doesburg] over the use of diagonal lines).

Mondrian. Neoplasticist. "Composition with Yellow" (1930)

Doesburg's version of neoplasticism: "Russian Dancing" (1918)

In 1924 Doesburg went diagonal (Elementarism). Mondrian was not amused. 

The movement included several architects, including Gerrit Rietveld, Robert van't Hoff, and J.J.P. Oud. Rietvold used de Stijl principles to build the famous Rietveld Schröder House between 1923 and 1924 (apparently the only house to employ all of de Stijl principles in structure).

Rietveld Schröder House
 Mies continued to be influenced by neoplasticism, clearly evident at the Barcelona Pavilion.

Paper or neoplastic?

So how does this fit with our house? Again, think of those walls (but let’s forget about that primary color bidness...). I’m thinking of adding more disconnected walls following the grid of the house to define yard space. I’m thinking about a shorter one at the head of the parking spot that doesn’t start exactly at the corner (to keep it conceptually and visually separated from the plane of the drive [and to keep the bride from taking it out when backing out from the carport...]) that extends out from the end of the paved parking spot. Another, even shorter one, could be oriented east-west, lined up with the first story-window in the second story volume.

In the rear of the property, walls could be placed to provide security, privacy, sound isolation, and circulation (pathways and where to go) and define space.

Below is what I’ve come up with (cost considerations cast aside for the moment: Solid walls are expensive!) with a (gentle) deconstruction (with selected house walls). 

Now to find a neoplastic landscape architect!

Bonus blog post! Mondrian’s tenets of neoplasticism

- Coloration must be in the primary colors of red, blue and yellow or the noncolors of black, gray and white.
- Surfaces must rectangular planes or prisms.
- Aesthetic balance must be achieved and this is done through the use of opposition.
- Compositional elements must be straight lines or rectangular areas.
- Symmetry is to be avoided.
- Balance and rhythm are enhanced by relationships of proportion and location.

Bonus deep thought about neoplasticism! 

If the kids down the block form a band heavily influence by the Plasmatics, are they neoPlasmatics?


  1. Ooh, you should totally do this. And it shouldn't cost much -- just have someone lay the footing, and the rest is totally DIYable.

  2. Oh, and yay for bees!

    Are you sure your deed restrictions allow chickens? (Ours don't...and we weren't allowed to have a detached garage...and they required us to spend at least $14k on construction...ours were oddly restrictive, indeed.)

  3. We do like that concrete block planter business. Big Red Sun has nice version, and we saw a neat version during a Cool House Tour several years ago over yonder in East Austin.

    Our deed restrictions are fortunately silent on livestock. My understanding of deed restrictions is that a neighbor or neighborhood association would have to sue to enforce them (but even that seems iffy because the original agreement was between the developer and the initial buyer, so unless the agreement included a neighborhood entity as a party, it might be that only the original developer and perhaps a former [or later?] owner could sue).

    I question whether deed restrictions put in place more than 50 years ago could be enforced. In our lot search, we saw some deed restrictions that would break federal laws in these modern times. I know the NA has fought with the city over whether or not it's the city's job to enforce deed restrictions (this over duplex development and lot splitting). It's not the city's job, IMH(L)O. However, I am not an attorney: just a mere (future) chicken farmer...

  4. Man, you use live in the ritzy part of the hood: Our minimum build is $4,000, six grand for a two-story!

  5. Not that I'm a lawyer or anything, but deed restrictions "run with the land," so all subsequent buyers "step into the shoes of" the original owners, agreeing to be bound by them and having the right to enforce them against others in the subdivision. You're right that enforcement isn't the city's responsibility (and for the most part, I don't think they would have standing anyway), but a single neighbor or a group of neighbors could, in theory, TAKE US DOWN for having livestock. As for the patently unconstitutional ones, those aren't enforceable. I was bracing for the offensive stuff as I reviewed ours, but found nothing like that...just weird stuff like a requirement to use at least 50% masonry siding and a prohibition on two-story houses.