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Discovery at the Realm
Using Water to Bring a Community Together

Landscape Architecture by LandDesign
Photos: Denise Retallack


Located on the outskirts of Dallas, Discovery at the Realm is a 400+ unit apartment complex in the master planned community of Castle Hills. Landscape architecture firm LandDesign planned and designed the community, including all the civil engineering and the 0.95-acre manmade lake at its center.

Discovery at the Realm is envisioned as the first of many phases of the mixed-use center to Castle Hills, a master planned community of more than 2,000 acres in Lewisville, Texas. Combined with a prominent location in the community, the project was poised to set an important precedent. From the beginning,omega replica watches uk the developer wanted something different - not just your typical apartment complex - but a place with a greater sense of community and authenticity to stand the test of time. Of course amenities were important, but walkability was paramount - with over 400 units spread between three buildings, there had to be a good reason for residents to get out of their cars, and their buildings, and be a part of the community.

As the landscape architect and civil engineer consultants on this project, LandDesign was responsible for master planning as well as detailed design for the entire exterior of the project. As initial site plans evolved, ideas began to coalesce around a central water body that would function as part of the site's stormwater management as well as a gathering place. To work with the site's varied topography it would have to be stepped - the perfect opportunity to introduce a waterfall, creating white noise and adding a vertical visual terminus to the arrival sequence.


Walkability was a priority. The promenade surrounding the lake connects the area's amenities, including fire features, outdoor living spaces, and grilling areas in the building courtyards. The lake is surrounded by 25 mature elms planted in engineered pits.

That varied topography also meant that amenities - of which there are many - needed to be spread throughout the site. An urban-feeling promenade evolved as an opportunity to stitch these spaces together with a common design language that reflected the contemporary feel of the architecture with authentic Texas materials. The promenade encourages activity and community, connecting the on-site club that serves craft beer and wine, a sparkling resort-style pool and pavilion, unique courtyards, grilling stations, a dog park, fire pits, lounge areas and a 24-hour fitness center. Along the way, a variety of seating options were created, from stepped lawn panels to boulder-hewn fire pits - all organized around the central lake.

A variety of pedestrian linkages were created to connect the various amenities, from meandering trails to the urban-feeling lakeside promenade, all designed with pedestrian comfort in mind. Mature trees were used strategically throughout the project, creating shade and lending a sense of immediate permanence. Outdoor spaces were sited and designed to take advantage of natural protection from wind and sun provided by the buildings.


Measuring in at 65' long, the waterfall in the lake was made from Hackett stone. The nearly 350 tons of stone used wasn't quite enough to stabilize soils, so underground concrete piers, slabs and walls support the system. Depending on stormwater needs, the water level in the lower lake fluctuates.

Eventually, waterfalls became a sub-theme of the project and extended into the pool area to connect an upper lap pool and lower lounge pool. The waterfall steps that resulted are one of the most popular spots on a hot Texas afternoon. Other project features picked up on the theme as well, including small fountains in the raised courtyards as well as runnel features, narrow channels in the ground that connect the downspouts from one building to a central rain garden.

Of course, the steps created throughout the site needed to be carefully balanced with gentle slopes on the adjacent walks and plaza spaces. Another primary challenge was devising ways to work with the expansive clay soils in the project area. While the project used nearly 350 tons of Hackett stone, that wasn't enough to stabilize the soils and prevent future heaving or settling of the waterfall. Instead, a concrete structural system of piers, slabs and walls had to be designed to keep the waterfall in place and maintaining the proper levels for the stormwater system. LandDesign remained involved throughout the construction process and worked closely with the contractors placing the boulders along the 65' weir.


The complex has two pools: one for swimming laps and the other for lounging. The pools are connected by this set of waterfall steps, theming the two main water features to one another.

The thoughtful planning and design of this project proves that a traditional suburban apartment setting can be anything but just that.

"There's something special that happens when you get a group of designers and visionaries together to create a living space that challenges the status quo," said Rhett Crocker, CEO and President of LandDesign.

Future phases currently being designed include more multi-family units as well as an office tower and retail.

Project Team
Landscape Architecture + Civil Engineering: LandDesign
Design Architect: 505Design
Architect of Record: BB+M Architecture
Site Structural Engineer: Urban Structure
Water Feature Consultant: Greenscape Pump Systems Incorporated
General Contractor: Andres Construction
Water Feature Contractor: Wilson Contractor Services Inc.
Landscape Contractor (General Site): Infinity Lawnscape
Landscape Contractor (Courtyards): Ruppert Landscape
Pool Contractor: Fun'n'Sun Pools
Rockwork Contractor: Austin Masonry
Lighting Design: JK Lighting
Developer: Bright Realty

Trash Receptacles: Maglin
Pavers: Pavestone
Pet waste stations: Pet Pick-ups
Large Trees: Deep Fork Tree Farm and others

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2017.

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December 17, 2018, 12:29 am PST

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