'The Landscape of Home' Shares the Joy and 'Magic' of Hollander Design's Work - 27 East

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‘The Landscape of Home’ Shares the Joy and ‘Magic’ of Hollander Design’s Work

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Landscape architect Ed Hollander of Hollander Design on the Long Wharf last Thursday, March 14. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Landscape architect Ed Hollander of Hollander Design on the Long Wharf last Thursday, March 14. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

"The Landscape of Home."

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in "The Landscape of Home." CHARLES MAYER

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in "The Landscape of Home." CHARLES MAYER

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in "The Landscape of Home." NEIL LANDINO

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in

Landscape by Hollander Design featured in "The Landscape of Home." NEIL LANDINO

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Mar 20, 2024

“The Landscape of Home,” the latest book on the work of Hollander Design, captures the joy and the “magic” of the firm’s design work.

“Part of what we do is engineering. Part of what we do is science. Part of what we do is design, and part of what we do is magic. And magic is where the fun of this comes in,” said Edmund Hollander, the firm’s president and namesake, during an interview last week at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, the village he calls home.

Hollander said he wanted “The Landscape of Home” to reflect who they are at Hollander Design. When he interviewed writers for the book, he looked for someone who would take the time to get to know the firm.

“It would have been very odd to have a book written in a way that didn’t reflect who we were,” Hollander said. “We work with the greatest architects on the best projects, for the most successful clients in the world, but I don’t think that we’re pretentious or ostentatious. So to have a book written in a way that made it seem as though we were these — it’s just not who we are. So that was important, for the tone and the writing to reflect who we were, the way we think, the way we feel, the way we interact with other people.”

He found that writer in Judith Nasatir, who has written numerous monographs for designers. It helped that she was a Yankees fan, — “I said she must be a great writer,” Hollander said — but what really sold him is when Nasatir told his team, “I want to be your voice, and the only way I can be your voice is to get to know who you are.”

Hollander and Nasatir visited project sites that she went on to write about.

“She had to spend enough time with us walking around and feeling these places as well as looking at them, and as well as listening. And so she kind of became part of the team so that she could get an understanding of: Why do you do it this way?” he said.

Hollander explained that the concept of the book grew out of the pandemic.

“The relationship that people had to the outside of their home changed from something that they looked at to something that they lived in,” he said. “And the concept of home changed. Home was now a place that was safe, it was healthy, it was secure.”

The subtitle of “The Landscape of Home” is “In the Country, By the Sea, In the City,” and it explores the idea of the home landscape in all of these types of areas.

“You may have a terrace that’s 12 by 20 feet in Boston or New York, but that landscape space is as valuable as a couple acres somewhere else,” Hollander noted.

The book reflects the range of Hollander Design’s residential work.

“Some of it’s very traditional, some of it’s very modern, some of it’s more formal, some of it very natural and ecologically oriented,” Hollander said. “So we tried to kind of pick examples of the different types of homes and the different types of landscapes that people could do.”

The big picture, he added, is: “How do you create spaces for people to live in, outside?”

He said architects look at the building as the client’s home, and Hollander Design looks at the entire property as the client’s home: “Where does the house go? Where does the driveway go? How do you approach it? Where do you have lunch outside? Where do you have dinner outside? Where do you hang out with your kids? What kind of recreational opportunities do you want — do you want a swimming pool or a tennis court or a pickleball or padel or golf? And especially out here, the opportunities are endless.”

He’s designed Hamptons yards that are as small as the American Hotel dining room, he said, and large enough for an 18-hole golf course, like Three Ponds Farm in Bridgehampton.

In the last 30 years, the firm has done around 300 properties in the Hamptons.

“Obviously, they’re all different, but some really become part of your heart and your soul,” Hollander said. “And they’re not your children, but you put a lot of effort into it. From the time someone thinks about buying a piece of property to the time they move into it — maybe three, four or five years of, what happens when? How do you design it? How do you build it? How do you plant it? How do you live in it? And over the course of that time you develop a lot of personal attachments and friendships with the people who own the property whose homes you’re creating.”

Hollander Design also does commercial work and public spaces, but it’s the homes that are the most personal.

“We’re doing the next phase of Hudson Yards, which is as impersonal as anything could ever be, and then on the other hand, we’re doing a home for someone, which is as personal as anything could be,” Hollander said. “Because if you and I lived in the same house, on the same piece of property, we’d want a totally different landscape because we have our vision of home and our vision of family and the way we live is different.”

In the Hamptons, understanding the natural ecology is particularly important, he said, and he noted the other aspects Hollander Design seeks to understand when embarking on a design project, such as modern versus contemporary architecture, as well as who will live there and how they will use the house.

“We have to download all of that information before we even start the design process,” he said.

Hollander Design has about 40 employees and offices in New York City, Chicago and Sag Harbor, and its three studio leaders are Geoffrey Valentino, Melissa Reavis, and Stephen Eich. Notably, the book is attributed to the firm itself rather than to Edmund Hollander individually. “The idea that I do this all myself would be a fallacy,” he said.

At any given time, the firm has 100 projects in the works, from Taiwan to Florida to the coast of Scotland, and the Caribbean. And of course, the South Fork of Long Island. The Hamptons “has always been a special part of who we are,” Hollander said.

“There’s something about out here that resonates with me,” he continued. “I love the area. I love the environment. I like the people that I work with out here. I like the clients that we work with out here. And you know, I’ll go to 10 construction sites tomorrow, and we laugh a lot. There’s a lot of joy.”

With every client, the only thing Hollander Design insists on is that they have fun, he said, adding, “One of the nice things is we have clients that will allow us to engage their imaginations and our imaginations and create things that have never been done before.”

The book also includes a brief concluding section titled “My Home,” about Hollander’s relationship with Sag Harbor.

“‘My Home’ not being so much my little house in Sag Harbor, but the role that the landscape architect or an architect can have within their community and what they can bring to that,” he explained. “One of the joys of my life is everything we’ve been able to do in Sag Harbor. That was important.”

Hollander designed John Steinbeck Waterfront Park and the Jean Hollander Memorial Walk, redesigned Long Wharf, and was also integral in the restoration of the Oakland Cemetery, among other contributions to the village and its local nonprofit institutions.

“I remember saying to my wife, ‘Without the money, I’d love to be the new version of Mrs. Russell Sage,’” Hollander recalled, referring to Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, the benefactor of the village whose gifts include Mashashimuet Park. “I want to be someone who can do a lot for the village that will live generationally after we’re gone.”

Hollander has also shot a television pilot in East Hampton for PBS that gives a look into the landscape design process at spectacular properties and about the collaborative process of working with architects. It will be released in April, and a second episode was shot in Wainscott. Hollander is hopeful they will lead to an ongoing series.

“The Landscape of Home: In the Country, By the Sea, In the City” was published this month by Rizzoli.

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