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3 outdoor books to inspire your mind and fulfil your heart

Our top 3 books of the month that discover the great outdoors from pretty gardens to nature-first architect firms

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By House & Garden South Africa | October 20, 2022 | Trends

1. Foundations: Houses by JLF Architects (Rizzoli)

Foundations: Houses by JLF Architects by JLF Design Build and Seabring Davis, R1 200, Image: Supplied

‘The most sustainable thing we can do is design a house that will still be here in a hundred years, a place where people can gather for generations to come. Nature is perfect. So, when we design a house, looking to regionality, craft and belonging are key to our approach so that the dwelling will not be a scar on the landscape, but instead will act as something that honours it.’ With this mission statement, JLF Architects –the visionary US firm founded in 1979 by design principal Paul Bertelli and architect Jonathan Foote – outlines its belief that architecture should, primarily, be rooted in its particular place, responding meaningfully to the natural or built environment, and Foundations is its debut monograph.

Using local materials and partnering with regional craftspeople, JLF Architects seek to create buildings that are tactile, modern, environmentally responsible, authentic, artful and considered. Forty years on, the firm has grown – as have the range and complexity of its projects – and considers the desire to build in partnership with the land an approach that remains valid and increasingly resonant. Whether in the mountains or foothills, from the forest to the water’s edge and coast-to-coast, the homes on these pages are an invitation to imagine how we should live as one with Nature.

2. Lotusland (Rizzoli)

Lotusland by Marc Appleton, R1 300, Image: Supplied

Contributor Marc Appleton perhaps best sums up this book in his introduction. ‘To experience Lotusland is to appreciate the idiosyncratic character of its creator. The publication of this long-awaited book is finally an opportunity to share this unique garden with a wider audience.’ Called Eden by many, listed as one of the 100 gardens to see in one’s lifetime and among the ten greatest botanical gardens in the world, Lotusland is magic mixed with paradise in the hills of Montecito, California. Madame Ganna Walska, a well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, purchased the estate in 1941 and spent forty-three years creating an otherworldly 37-acre oasis filled with an unparalleled collection of exotic flora. Beautifully photographed by Lisa Romerein, Lotusland offers a thoughtful examination of Madame Ganna’s penchant for the dramatic, unexpected and whimsical in garden design.

Home to more than 3 400 types of plants, including at least 35 000 individual specimens, Lotusland is recognised not only for the diversity of its collections, but for the extraordinary design sensibility informing the many one-of-a-kind gardens that comprise the whole. A leader in sustainable practices, Lotusland is a pioneer in organic gardening methods. The garden is a centre for horticulture conservation and a repository of threatened and extinct plants, making it one of the most storied estates in southern California and, perhaps, the most private public garden in the world.

3. Cabin Fever: Enchanting Cabins, Shacks and Hideaways (Gestalten)

Cabin Fever: Enchanting, Cabins, Shacks & Hideaways by Gestalten, R995, Image: Supplied

Whether hidden in sylvan surrounds, overlooking bodies of water or even exposed to the elements on a mountain peak, architects are contending to create high-impact spaces on a small scale. Cabin Fever takes a broad look at remote retreats designed to make the most of their natural surroundings, feeding our desire to escape the commotion of the city without sacrificing comfort. Featuring rustic timber cabins on stilts, mirrored pods in the woods and otherworldly, off-the-grid getaways, Cabin Fever showcases a new wave of modern, always remote, hideaways.

As South Africans, we share in this global movement and, fortunately, to have access to both superbly remote locations and a growing selection of architects who have a greater knowledge of what living wild truly means.