Country estates are of two sorts, those in which farming is the primary consideration, and those where no income is to be derived from the farming, making the economic feature of secondary importance.
Country estates having farming for primary interest may be divided into two classes, those in which production of crops is the single purpose, and those in which the production of crops displayed to the best advantage is aimed at. This is the sort of estate that the gentleman farmer would own (Fig. 48).
In the second class of country estates crops are used to support the estate itself, but not for the purpose of deriving any additional income. In still another division they minister to only one feature of the estate, which class is to be used for the purpose of entertainment only. This self-supporting feature may be vegetables, cut flowers, or fruit, intended solely for the entertainment of the guests of the owner (Fig. 49).
With the main features of the problem clearly in mind, the land selected should be as nearly as possible suited to the purpose of the estate, possessing the greatest number of natural features that will work in to advantage with the scheme in hand.
In such an estate as is demanded by the following problem, the entertainment of city guests by out-door sports and the general pleasing appearance of the design are of equal importance.
Entertainment is to be the main purpose of the estate, and its position in the country will mean that out-of-door amusements are to figure largely in this entertainment.
The elaboration of the scheme along the line of out-door sports will depend entirely upon the wealth of the client, and will determine the type of development to be employed, and the introduction or exclusion of features which require special expense.
If the estate is to be designed on lines of great magnificence, there may be formal flower-gardens, conservatories, and even hothouses for the growing of vegetables out of season; private golf-courses, tennis-courts, bowling-greens, bridlepaths ; in fact, there is scarcely any limit to the development of an estate of this kind where the money expended is of no object.
The size of the subdivisions of the scheme will be determined by the number of guests who are to be entertained. If three or four or half a dozen come at one time, one tennis-court will be sufficient, but if twenty young sportsmen are in the habit of spending week-ends there, three or four courts will probably be found necessary.
Wherever possible, the natural features of the countryside should be retained and emphasized to give an appearance of freedom and naturalness. For instance, if there is a plot of level ground at a short distance from the house, which is placed upon a slope, this plot should be chosen for the location of the tennis-courts rather than spoil the slope nearer the house for the sake of convenience. All these points of purpose as regards sports, gardens, size, and expense of stables and garages must be determined before the house itself is located. The house itself should really appear as a sort of key to the whole scheme, for its position will determine, or appear to determine, the location and the accessibility of all the parts, although these parts, by their relative importance, have actually determined the position of the house.
The house should be designed so that the rooms which are most often in use will have the most favorable exposure, and take advantage of views.
Figure 48. HOLM LEA, BROOKLINE, MASS. A typical American country estate with horticultural interest.
After the location of the rooms has been determined upon and the planting near the house is being considered, accents may be so arranged as to attract the gaze of people within the house toward these views. In Figure 47 an open space in the trees has been left so that the occupants of the house may look out upon Lake Michigan. The white birches used in this position serve to draw the attention to the view by their color.
When the location of the house and the subdivisions have been roughly determined, the circulation is the next important consideration. The forecourt, from the entrance to the house, is the keystone of the circulation scheme, and upon it depends the efficient handling of traffic of all sorts, whether for pleasure or utility. It should be a kind of out-door room and center of radiation; it should provide for the parking and handling of carriages and cars, and its exit toward the stables and garages should be studied on the one hand, and on the other its communication with the reception-rooms of the house should be given equal attention. The number of vehicles to be accommodated will determine the scale of the court.
Of first importance is the communication of the main highway with the entrance court. This drive is a sort of semi-public room. There is often another road for service, tradesmen, and heavier teaming, and this is sometimes entirely separate, sometimes one with the pleasure road, and sometimes the same over part of the course with a branch-off as the service part of the ground is approached. Wherever the service road is a separate feature, it should be made as unobtrusive as possible, as its purpose is strictly utilitarian. The planting of this road is therefore essentially economic.
Before the shapes of the planting masses and areas are finally settled upon, the appearance of the estate should be considered in a large way, and this consideration should be divided into two members, the public and private views. There may be an intermediate or semi-public class. Certain parts of the estate are visible to all passers-by, and this aspect is known as the public view, and should be treated accordingly. There are semi-public views, or glimpses caught between the drive and the main thoroughfare. These would be seen by those coming to the house.
There is then the more private or intimate part of the ground, which is reserved entirely for the use of the owner and his friends. This should be visible only to them, and the presence of the private part of the grounds need not be seen at all by strangers. Stables and service buildings will come in the semi-public part of the scheme; gardens and recreation ground will fall in the private class.
Figure 49. MONTACUTE HOUSE A typical English country estate with emphasis upon entertainment of guests.
After the shape, size, relative importance, and communication of the different members of the scheme have been considered in large masses, they are then each studied in detail, always bearing in mind the fact that details of whatever sort should aid in creating a general impression rather than detract from that impression.
In the method employed in working out a plan of this sort, first of all topographical models are made, that the designer may familiarize himself thoroughly with the lay of the land. After the general location of the main features, and after details of cut and fill in connection with the house and more formal elements of the plan are decided upon, topographical changes should not be made in other parts of the scheme.
The location of all these features is determined by means of "thumbnail sketches," tiny plans so small in scale as to prevent the consideration of anything but the most general grouping and position of the largest features. Of course the topographical model is based upon a careful survey of the grounds, and the thumbnail sketches are made with due consideration for all the sections and elevations. Then is determined the position of the large lawn area, the boundaries of which are to be planted. These are in turn subdivided more or less by interior planting to keep the open space in scale with the planting areas, and to secure the satisfactory divisions so as to frame distant views, and create interior views and vistas.
In the two plans for country estates shown in Figures 50, 51 the general emphasis of the design is placed entirely on such an arrangement as will secure the best features for entertainment of guests and for out-door amusements. In these plans the circulation is the main feature of the design. The large open stretches of lawn and the trees are used simply as boundaries to break up the lawn areas, and are arranged so as to relate carefully to the more formal or architectural parts of the design. The architectural, or formal part of the design is in turn located in direct connection with the buildings, leaving the more informal portions away from the architectural features. In the general arrangement of roads and planting it will be noticed that the natural contour of the land has been an important feature.
Figure 50. A PLAN FOR A COUNTRY ESTATE.
The success of a design of this character depends to a great extent upon the position of the planting areas, and the selection of plants which will bring out in elevation the general idea that the flat plan conveys. In case trees are found on the property, the whole design should relate carefully to these.
In both of the solutions shown a feature has been made of the small stream which existed on the property. In one design the water has been featured near the house in the formal garden treatment, and in the other it has been treated largely in an informal way. A plan of this character should be made in consultation with the architect who is to design the buildings. This will result in the most satisfactory solution of the problem in regard to general form and location, and will produce harmony in the architectural and landscape design.