Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network
The Ralph Haver Archive

Allen Kalchik Designs a Desert Aquarium in Haver's Marlen Grove, 2005

By Mr. Natural and Alison King

Often referred to as the Modern Phoenix Flagship for its drastically positive transformation over the years, #5815 lives up to her nickname with a new look in landscaping -- one inspired by, of all things, an aquarium. The original landscape, while vastly improved by Ben & Melissa Allisonafter they purchased in 2002, did not suit new homeowner Mr. Natural's need for low-maintenance grounds in 2005:

Homeowner Mr. Natural reports: "The Arizona summer and subsequent monsoon ravaged my landscaping. Many of the plants in my yard died. I had some close calls with flooding during the heavy rains. I slowly realized that I better hire an architect. A few weeks later, I saw Allen's post on the board and contacted his company, Landscape Innovations.*To tell you the truth, I left all the particulars of the landscaping to Allen, so I defer to him to explain the specific choices. If I didn't like something, I told him so, otherwise my input was very basic. The conversation went something like this as we looked out the windows at the back yard: Me (gesturing and grunting): All those tropical plants are dying left and right. I need plants that are harder to kill. Allen (drawing and writing): Okay... Um, how will you be using the yard -- will you be entertaining out there? Me (gesturing more wildly): Well, no. You see, I like it inside. I like looking at the yard from in here, I won't be out there in it. Just pretend it's an aquarium -- make it look like that. I don't need a fire pit or a gazebo or anything. Scatter some rocks and plants around, maybe put the equivalent of a diving suit or an anchor in there for variety. Make it interesting to look at, but low maintenance. Keep everything in line with the architecture of the house. Allen: Gotcha. A month or so went by and before I knew it, I had a brand new yard. Somehow, he took that basic description (and some specific instruction regarding need for flood prevention) and came up with the monoliths and cacti. By god, it does sort of look like an aquarium when viewed through my giant back windows! Not only did Allen address my practical concerns, he embellished the entire outdoor space. The property is now more functional and aesthetically pleasing. He even kept the costs below the quoted price. During the job he was at my house every day (even weekends) making sure things were getting done properly and he called me with progress reports on a regular basis."

The ornamental grasses were replaced with low-maintenance succulents and the large myrtle hedge on the northern edge removed entirely to reveal Ben's hard handiwork on the angled posts of the classic Haver carport. Allen thought the new sage hedge's soft grey-green foliage and frequent lavender blooms would better compliment the grey exterior of the home.The grapefruit tree out front was also removed, further featuring the home's new uninterrupted clean lines. The geometry of the home is now released to its full potential.

The formal alternation of planters and grasses reinforces the grid structure that underlies the design. The green lawn will bounce back and provide good balance to the dark green foliage at the back of the property.

Monolithic stones are strategically placed to create the dramatic coral-like structure of Mr. Natural's desert aquarium.

A raised platform, once a pile of demolition rubble, is now the ideal bench height for entertaining guests out back and provides much-needed drainage. Young eucalyptus trees will provide ample shade.

Photo: Ben Allison For a complete trip back in time, enjoy a visit to the Allison Residence before it became theirs in 2002, and after its first major renovation in 2005.We look forward to seeing how this new design will mature for Mr. Natural over the years! *Kalchik is currently with DesertDesigners.
The Ralph Haver Archive