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Small, narrow backyards can make designing for the space a challenge. Undaunted, Brian McLean, Terry Walsh and Ciaran Lynch of Throwing Rock Studio, used their expertise to transform a confined, San Francisco outdoor area into an airy, urban oasis. Concrete was the medium of choice because of its longevity and versatility, in addition to the client’s appreciation for the refined finishes produced by Throwing Rock Studio.
Project Objective + Client Feedback
Common to many San Francisco properties, the size limitations of this yard became the strongest influence on the configuration of the outdoor space. While the client and builder had asked only for a concrete patio with concrete planters, McLean set out to create a functional, modern space that was inviting for guests but private to the urban life beyond its border.
An exciting project, this commission was part of Metropolitan Home’s 2009 “Modern by Design” show house, a main feature of the 2009 Pacific Coast Builders’ Conference in San Francisco. Being part of such a grand project was what made it unique. According to McLean, to have all the varied designers and crews simultaneously working on the house was an intense, creative, and challenging atmosphere.
Design + Expertise
The long, narrow yard was enclosed by a 20′ by 65′ retaining wall, which needed to be made more livable. Throwing Rock Studio achieved this by placing planters of various heights and depths along the wall—adding dimension and interest to the space, while the plants softened the formerly empty, urban lot. McLean also designed the planters to serve as benches in order to allow for as much open space as possible.
Located on a hillside, the yard was also susceptible to flooding. To address this, Throwing Rock Studio integrated channels into the flat concrete patio that would drain all surface water away from the house. They later filled these channels with polished stone, a textural and warm addition to the composition, while still maintaining this key function. Additional features that complete the outdoor retreat include down-lighting under the floating area of the bench as well as a simple, round fire-pit with optional gas feed, and blue LED light strips recessed in the flatwork.
Due to its high-profile, the project’s deadline for completion was uncompromising and yet Throwing Rock Studio did not have access to the site until three weeks beforehand due to other exterior construction taking place. With much at stake in order to meet completion, McLean explained, “We considered scaling back our scope in order to make the deadline but in the end we all decided that our design was too exciting to be compromised. We decided to give it our all and make it happen.”
The response from all those who toured the show house has been extremely positive, particularly for Throwing Rock’s design and craftsmanship of this modern concrete patio. McLean summed up the experience, “It was completed successfully because of our amazing crew. Their willingness and ability to do so much in such a short amount of time was awesome. I can’t thank them enough.”
2010 Best Outdoor Living, CHENG Concrete Exchange Design Challenge
Recognized in the industry as the pinnacle of exceptional design and craftsmanship, the CHENG Concrete Exchange Design Challenge showcases talent and technical skill of the very best in creative concrete.
About Throwing Rock Studio
Throwing Rock Studio is committed to the art and science of finely crafted concrete. A design and build studio, they oversee projects from conception to completion.
In the fabrication studio, Throwing Rock focuses on the chemistry, treatments, and form building techniques necessary to create superior concrete structures. In the design studio, the team focuses on ways to express the versatility of concrete. In the field, they use their detail-oriented craftsmanship and knowledge of large structures to produce fine works of art on a grand scale.