This Taiwan Home Features a Private Zen Garden

2022 Best of Year Winner for Residential Landscape

This 6,600-square-foot, single-family residence, nicknamed Star House, has a dual nature, at once fortresslike and porous, urban and pastoral. To create a sense of refuge in the dense and frenetic city of Kaohsiung, Atelier Gratia principal Grace Ming-En Chang’s inward-gazing structure presents to the street as a faceted concrete monolith but is in fact open and airy inside, unfolding around a central courtyard. Every room has a view of this private sanctuary through full-height glass walls, some of which slide open to provide access to decks or balconies. The courtyard’s ground-floor Zen garden—a nod to Japan, where the homeowner once lived—“employs geometry to represent an idealized version of heaven,” Chang explains. A single, sculptural pine tree sprouts from the center of an infinity-edge reflecting pool populated with koi, and an iris-lined path leads to the backyard’s bamboo and fern forest.

The greenery continues on the roof, where it segues to a more wild, free-form style, “a gesture of giving back to nature,” Chang explains. A prairie of tropical grass, irrigated via recirculated rainwater, helps block the harsh sun and cools the temperature inside the home. The lawn is dotted here and there with shrubs and fragrant native flora such as rosemary, jasmine, and lantana that have fast become a haven for butterflies and birds: an oasis in the concrete jungle.

a sculptural pine tree in a koi pond at the center of a home's courtyard
a sculptural pine tree sits in a koi pond in a home with a concrete exterior lit up at night

a lightbulb tilted to the left on an orange and purple background

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an aerial view of a rooftop covered in greenery
a car sits in front of a modern home with a concrete exterior
Atelier Gratia: grace ming-en chang

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