Name of project: Bahía Azul Garden

Garden surface: 4.000 m2

Construction year: 1996

Location: Bahía Azul, Los Vilos, Chile

Architect of house: Juan Grimm

About twenty-five years ago, I started looking for land on the north coast of central Chile with the idea of building a house for the summer and weekends. The landscape has fascinated me since I was a child because of its unique and special characteristics. The site I found, facing a huge blue ocean, surpassed any expectation: spectacular views, the richness of the topography marked by hills and cliffs of sculptural rocks.


For the design of the house, I decided that its volume would act like one rock more amidst the surroundings. I planned the architecture with a simple structure of two black cubes and a wall covered with the local stones. I opened large windows to the sea and the northern hills. The main access follows the rhythm the garden generates until you arrive at a first patio. Then, along a gently curved path, you discover the first view of the house, next to a hillside of native vegetation that embraces the rocks typical of the place. Further on, you reach the steps that access the house, which are submerged in the bushes, as happens in some natural spaces of this zone where the volumes are surrounded by vegetation.

During the first ten years, I dedicated myself to building the paths, the greenhouse and planting the different species of vegetation. When deciding which plant varieties to use, I imagined how they would cover the arid, rocky slopes of the site in the future; how they would combine with the existing sparse vegetation; how they would hide unwanted views; and how they would fit into that wonderful coastal landscape and the house at the top of the site, right on the edge of the cliff.

This garden was conceived to merge with the existing landscape through lanes, paths or steps, using curves or breaks to allow the continuity of vegetation from architecture to infinity. The access garden, the native hill garden, the cactus garden, the swimming pool garden, the greenhouse garden and the garden of the sea rocks, that I am in the process of building, particularly stand out. Each of these has its own distinctive features.

I distributed the shrub species to the east, so that the house protected them from the saline wind. In the same direction, along the boundaries of the site, I planted Monterey cypresses and Myuporum laetum, forming a dense wall of vegetation to separate me from the neighbor and gain greater privacy. To the west, facing the sea, I planted vegetation in which succulents, bromeliads and cacti predominate and in order to emphasize the hillside, I reinforced the presence of already existing species: more puyas, more cacti, more Chilean bell flowers and rock purslane, which trail along the slopes of the cliff to merge with other species of succulents. Different shades of greyish-green predominate.

The Bahía Azul Garden has been my laboratory. I have been able to experiment with new plants and learn from their behavior, for example, how much sun exposure they need or how much watering is required to achieve optimum development. I now clearly understand under what conditions chaguales grow best, and I know exactly at what time of day the scent of the heliotrope and the featherheads is strongest. I have also observed how birds help in the reproduction of the flora.

Nowadays the garden contains only shrubs, since the Monterey cypresses and the mousehole trees that I planted along the border with my neighbor were destroyed by a storm years ago. Thus, one of the many learnings left behind by the successive events of nature became clear: trees do not belong in that landscape.