As with many designs, the fence designed by architect Robert Cole, came about not in response to a problem but rather to the client's wants and needs and the limits imposed by county ordinances. In this case, the client — who Cole says has a modern sensibility — wanted to obscure the view behind his house of large power lines and a neighbor's home as well as have a place for reflection. Zoning allowed for a 6-foot fence.
“Vegetation seemed like the simple answer,” says Cole, a principal with ColePrévost in Washington, D.C., who sees landscapes and plantings as part of a broad palette of design materials. “But the client didn't want to just look at plants” since much of his free time is in the evening. Cole, working with specialist lighting designer Tom Lindblom, AIA, and Brian Walsh of Federated Lighting, integrated lights into the design and then a screen to shield the neighbors from the lights.
“We came up with the idea of exotic Japanese black bamboo. The stems turn black after two or three years, and they grow to about 35 feet. They're very beautiful,” says Cole. He worked with contractor Richard Hazboun of Added Dimensions to keep the invasive grass in check, planting it in a reinforced concrete area about 4 feet wide by 45 feet long and 4 feet deep.
The bamboo is lit from the front with programmable LED lighting projected onto a screen made of fiberglass reinforced concrete panels with a fine texture. The LED light sticks — glass tubes with three LED lamps per inch — are supported by stainless steel stanchions, and the plants are lit from below by halogen lights.
“When you look at the garden and wall during the day,” says Cole, “it's not really there. It takes on a persona and character at night, and that's what makes it successful for the client. It's amazingly restful, and he enjoys when people drive by and stop to look.”