Landscape Architects: Maximizing Space, Resources

Web exclusive: Part II of Gary James’ look at landscape architects

MoodyMoody Graham incorporated a built-in bench and grill into a Carderock stone wall to enable a Capitol Hill client to make the most of limited space. Bluestone combines with granite cobbles to form the patio area, which includes a dining setting at right.

In our April issue, writer Gary James turned his lens onto landscape architecture trends across the nation as part of our Elements series focus on the earth. He found so much great information that we simply ran out of space for it in the print edition. So, in this two-part web exclusive series, James shares landscape style from coast to coast.

In Washington, D.C., where Moody Graham is located, sustainability is a cornerstone of most design conversations, along with beauty, innovation and harmony. Co-founded by Ryan Moody, the firm offers landscape architecture, garden design and ecological planning for a wide range of clients, designing estate gardens and public parks in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia as well as urban gardens for residences in the Georgetown, DuPont Circle and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

“We’re always looking to be smart with resources,” Moody says. “Sometimes that means coming up with an innovative way to capture rainwater. In others, it might involve developing creative screening or furnishings that make a small space look big.”

He adds that for his firm, a sustainable product is more than just eco-friendly—it also is durable and built to last. “We like working with proven materials like wood, stone and terracotta,” Moody says. He also is excited by new lines of colorful planters made of recycled plastic.


In most city yards, space is at a premium. One recent client he worked with had a 15-by-30-foot space behind their row house, where the design needed to accommodate a dining area, kids’ play zone and tool storage, while also leaving room to park a car.

“Urban spaces pose a challenge, since we need to make the most of every inch,” Moody says. “We use a lot of built-in wood and stone benches and grills and design them so they’re part of the overall architecture of the space.”

Furniture also is often built into the space or, if freestanding, is chosen by how it might be folded and put away when not in use. The firm looks for pieces that can perform more than one function.

“If a client wants a fire element, we’ll look for a unit that can double as a table so that the same piece can be used to serve drinks and food as part of a chat setting,” Moody says.

Like his counterparts in other regions, he’s receiving more requests to design spaces with defined play areas. Popular activities in his area include croquet, table tennis and foosball. To make such spaces more personal, his firm teams up with local artists to add art and logos to playing surfaces.

“No matter where they live, people love having a personal outdoor space that they can escape to,” Moody says. “It doesn’t matter how big or small your area is, with the right, creative design, you can make it your own unique sanctuary.”

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