The renovated Eldridge Place Courtyards invite employees to retreat for a break - whether to catch up on emails, enjoy a quiet moment under a tree canopy, or unwind with a little entertainment.
Each courtyard has a separate personality; Granite representatives gave AR the range of activities they wanted to incorporate, and the team segregated and grouped the type of furnishings and activities into the different courtyards.
Through thoughtful, research-based planning and design, AR designed spaces that show off bright, engaging plant palettes where visitors can take a break from their busy day and connect with nature.
Heavy rains and subsequent flooding from Hurricane Harvey had resulted in severely damaged spaces suffering from compacted soils, poor drainage, disfigured tree canopies, little biodiversity, and a lack of usable spaces.
After Harvey, this largest courtyard became a dark and damp space: it had been flooded with nearly 3ft of water, resulting in the destruction of a majority of plant material. This was a courtyard AR designed many years ago, but with the major tenant absent the courtyard was now desolate, devoid of activity and light. Because this was the largest of the three courtyards, AR envisioned a place for visitors to gather – a place that was engaging and innovative, inspiring a sense of place and excitement.
This courtyard became an exercise in hardscape – detailed paving, a dropped ceiling, bar height ADA accessible counters, plug-in ports and a massive video wall were all pieces of the puzzle. The dropped ceiling presented unique challenges; drawings for the building dated back to the 80’s and lacked needed data. Working with the Structural engineer, our team developed and detailed the wood dropped ceiling. For planting, two new trees were brought in to block the view of a service yard and a mix of shade-loving ground covers complimented the trees and provided much-needed visual interest.
This courtyard had been the most sunken of three, therefore having the most flooding and drainage issues. In fact, the area drain grates were situated almost 2 feet below any adjacent paving, and resulting slopes and erosion created accessibility issues. To solve this, AR designed a Party Deck concept by designing a deck to go over the challenging space, removing the grading and accessibility problems. The deck itself gives off that party aspect, with swag lights hanging from branches throughout the space. A foosball table provides visitors a way to interact, and beautiful tables and chairs invite them to sit and stay awhile.
While designing this space, it was important to save as many of the oak trees as possible – AR attempted to avoid the root system entirely by setting the deck on earth anchors. Ideally, these anchors dive about 3 feet into ground, but they weren’t budging more than half a foot before breaking. After reviewing aerial images from the ‘70s, it was determined that the site had once been home to an apartment complex. Once the complex had been demolished, some spoils were left behind, and there were pockets of concrete throughout the site. AR worked with the construction team to reconfigure the deck footings, creating the beautiful site that it is today.
The smallest courtyard wasn’t as sunken as Courtyard 2, but it hadn’t been maintained well and most plant material had died due to flooding, leaving the place feeling really empty with nothing to activate it. This space was designed to appeal to visitors who sought a respite from a hectic work day, who needed a spot to relax, meditate and feel inspired by natural surroundings.
AR manifested this feeling through simple seating and a bright, engaging plant palette. The colors were a variety of reds and chartreuse and other complimentary colors – like one big quilt – not just shades of greens or monochromatic hues. Fun seating options, including moveable Adirondack chairs and matching side tables can be situated to watch a game of Cornhole, or re-positioned to catch a bit of sun.