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By September 1, 2020 September 11th, 2020 No Comments

Natural Balance

By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Millicent Harvey Photography

The newly released Hocker: 2005-2020 Landscapes — with an informed foreword by Dallas architect and frequent collaborator Gary Cunningham — showcases 15 such projects. From the graceful and jaw-dropping green spaces of North Texas residences and urban landmarks — including the Dallas Museum of Art and the campus of the R4 Foundation in Fort Worth — to projects on Sonoma Mountain in Southern California and acreage in Lyme, New Hampshire, inspiration, artistry and poetry abound. Chapters open with Hocker’s eloquent musings, titled “Material,” “Texture,” “Structure,” “Craft” and “Layers,” which deftly segue into project insights captured by occasional 817 Home contributor and architectural writer Helen Thompson. It is a celebration of a body of work that proves Cunningham’s postulation in the opening pages: Architecture and landscape become admirable equals in the most beautifully balanced of projects.

HOCKER 2005-2020 LANDSCAPES

Dallas landscape architect David Hocker fondly remembers a childhood punctuated by visits to the Texas Panhandle and East Texas Pineywoods, where he bonded with the natural world and, even as a lad, marked the various textures of soil, layers of stone, variegations of greenery. His family’s weekend home in Bonham, Texas, on the edge of the Blackland Prairies, contributed yet another layer of open-air memories.

Those adventures into nature stayed with Hocker, evolving into a profession when his artistic eye for detail — nurtured at the Cistercian Preparatory School in Dallas — focused on horticulture at Texas A&M, resulting in a degree in landscape architecture. Studies abroad in design and architecture were influential, too. Since launching in 2005, Hocker’s eponymously named firm has gained international recognition for projects that reflect the dialogue among site history, natural materials and flora in landscape creation.

An ipe sundeck frames and bridges the new granite-lined pool.

Bronze joints are inlaid between travertine slabs in the walkway to the front door; they are an organizing element in the plaza, a flexible space for outdoor functions and entertainment.

The newly released Hocker: 2005-2020 Landscapes — with an informed foreword by Dallas architect and frequent collaborator Gary Cunningham — showcases 15 such projects. From the graceful and jaw-dropping green spaces of North Texas residences and urban landmarks — including the Dallas Museum of Art and the campus of the R4 Foundation in Fort Worth — to projects on Sonoma Mountain in Southern California and acreage in Lyme, New Hampshire, inspiration, artistry and poetry abound. Chapters open with Hocker’s eloquent musings, titled “Material,” “Texture,” “Structure,” “Craft” and “Layers,” which deftly segue into project insights captured by occasional 817 Home contributor and architectural writer Helen Thompson. It is a celebration of a body of work that proves Cunningham’s postulation in the opening pages: Architecture and landscape become admirable equals in the most beautifully balanced of projects.

The following book excerpt showcases a well-known and pedigreed Westover Hills home elevated by the embrace of a Hocker design into a timelessness the architecture has long deserved.

MATERIAL

Inherent in every project are its materials — the elements that give form to architecture. Some, such as concrete, steel, and stone, are natural building blocks, which through their honesty resonate as symbols of functionality. With the passage of time, though, functionality is elevated to a new level, where material and environment are entwined — steel gates rust, stone walls become encrusted with lichen, and concrete patinates through contact with water. The result suggests that history is palpable, always within reach or in plain view, and inviting engagement. Materials reliably connect us to landscape, making sense of it as a place and opening it to us as a realm where we feel we belong. — David Hocker

At the entrance, a koi pond framed with a minimally detailed stainless steel edge contrasts with the lushly vegetated surrounds. Basalt columns laid on their sides offer places to rest and watch the fish.

To unify the expansive property, a circuit that loops through the acreage on the way to the pool was introduced. The sunken garden is a contemplative space with a paver-lined splash pad, whose soothing sounds echo against the granite-paneled wall.

In 1966, the late modernist A. Quincy Jones — known as an architect to the stars — completed a monumental residence in Fort Worth for Eddie Chiles — a colorful oilman and an owner of the Texas Rangers — and his wife, Fran. After Eddie died in 1993, the 12,000-square-foot showplace stood vacant until it was purchased in 2010. The new owner appreciated both the grandeur of the residence and its location in Fort Worth’s Westover Hills neighborhood, which includes houses by two other architectural giants, I.M. Pei and Paul Rudolph. The homeowner sought Hocker’s help to update the site, a process that would lend more functionality to the hilltop on which the residence was situated. The firm’s goal was to introduce organizing elements that responded to the architectural rigor of the house.

The Chileses entertained lavishly but guests arrived via a conventional driveway that tilted with the hill’s slope. Hocker regraded the front to create a 90-by-90-foot motor court and plaza anchored by a central area for sculpture or plantings. A salvaged travertine walkway to the entrance makes for a majestic procession befitting the scale of the split-level house. Access was created elsewhere, too: the original pool, isolated from the upper level of the house, gains visibility thanks to architectonically scaled limestone stairs and a water feature that descend from the house’s upper terrace into the pool below. In order to maximize enjoyment of the rest of the scenic 3.3-acre site, Hocker developed a circuit of the property with sculpture gardens that serve as outdoor rooms where guests can linger. Each offers a special experience and its own way to take advantage of space whose value had long gone unnoticed.

A runnel channeling from a black granite plinth bisects the staircase.

THE DETAILS

Excerpted from Hocker: 2005-2020 Landscapes ($45, The Monacelli Press, rizzolibookstore.com) by David Hocker with text by Helen Thompson