Berkeley’s Babbling Brook
Roth/LaMotte Landscape Architecture
The water from the pond/stream area primarily pumps back up to the concrete basin at the base of the new building addition. With a turn of the valve, the upper fountain can be activated to continuous flow mode.
A project that started as an addition to a historic house in Berkeley’s California Hills led to the completion of a vision conceived half a century earlier. Bay Area landscape architect Lawrence Halprin originally designed the garden, evidenced by design plans drawn up in the mid-1960s for a simple stream and concrete pond on the site. Large stones were placed around the yard, but it was clear the original vision had never been fully realized. Roth/LaMotte Landscape Architecture was brought in to integrate the new addition into the yard, and perhaps carry the original design forward, since designer Gary Roth worked for Halprin during the last years of
The earliest design decision was to keep the basic footprint of the fountain, and reinvigorate it by connecting it to the house addition, while adding new plantings and circulation space. The fountain would be a way for the new addition to connect to the existing landscape, as if the house were a part of the geology of the site. The upper and lower reaches of the fountain take the roof water and bring it through the landscape in a structured and naturalistic manner. In this way many aspects of the flowing water are visible for the owners and their young children, while providing seasonal changes as the flows vary and the sounds and textures of the water roll over
The upper portion of the fountain collects rainwater from the roof, down a rain chain and into the cast-in-place concrete runnel with Xypex waterproofing. The runnel has a stone bottom and runs along a pea gravel path by the vegetable garden, down along a stone and decomposed granite path and into the more naturalistic, lower fountain. A ½-hp, 10 gpm pump pulls water through the gravel bed, allowing natural filters and beneficial bacteria to treat the water.
The fountain can be run in any of three ways and controlled easily by a ball valve. The first is strictly with rainwater, like a temporary stream. Second, the water can recirculate through the fountain with a simple turn of a valve. Third, after the rains taper off during the summer months, the auto fill for the fountain is run through an upper runnel so that the owners are made aware of the filling process. The runnel runs under a beautiful wooden bridge designed by Operation Architecture. Once the water reaches the “source” of the lower fountain, it enters into the more naturalistic of the two fountain pieces.
The fountain is framed by extensive plantings of native and drought-tolerant grasses, rushes and perennials, as well as several submergent and emergent aquatic plants. The adjacent native meadow is irrigated with a greywater system that is quite similar in technology to that of the fountain. Within a few months of completion on the fountain, small tadpoles were found swimming in the pond portion.
In receiving the rainwater, the lower fountain becomes the heart and lungs of the feature. It is the centerpiece of the redesigned yard space, accentuated by boulders and slabs salvaged from the site. Roth/LaMotte designed the specimen rocks into the fountain’s stream and banks. The source of the water at the lower fountain area is a concrete basin that was integrated into the design of the building addition. It merges with the steps and landscape and contains the water from the roof drain. Roof water descends a chain into a basket of river cobbles that match those of the lower stream. The basket also contains the recirculation element, and water bubbles back up through the basket into the system from the pond below.
The fountain became more than a focal point for this project, it became the connective tissue for the outdoor rooms, bringing the spaces to life and organizing more than just the flow of water. The fountain’s path was stitched intricately into the new addition and the old garden, tying the young family’s home together in a way that honors the home’s original design.