Designing a Hidden Oasis for a Local Nonprofit

When a local nonprofit in Newport News, Virginia asked us to create a space for their staff to reflect and find some peace and quiet, we didn’t realize it was going to be quite a task. With a bus stop, cars honking nearby, along with a fire station, it was challenging to create a tranquil oasis. Our original plan was to build a 16-foot wide space on the side of the building with an 8-foot tall fence for privacy. However, just as we were finalizing the plans, we were informed by the city that it would not be allowed. Back to the drawing board!

A Creative Solution

We had to rethink our approach, and the only other possible spot was in between two buildings—the nonprofit on one side, and a neighboring business on the other. The challenge? The property line divided the space in favor of the neighbor, and I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get permission. After some negotiation, the neighbor agreed to let us build on his property—but only if we followed one condition. Keep reading to find out what it was!

Design plans for the orignal location on the side of the building - before the city told us we weren't allowed!

A Majestic Welcome

Now onto the actual design of the space. To create a sense of “hidden oasis” from all the craziness outside, we knew that the gate had to be tall and majestic. We opted for an 8-foot gate to provide security and privacy to those using the space. Unlike conventional gates that require you to step back and pull out in order to open, this gate was specially designed to push open, welcoming you to a Narnia-like experience. The moment you enter the space, we wanted you to feel like your breath was taken away by the peaceful ambiance, sound of the fountain, beautiful lights, and landscaping. We deliberately made the curved walkway in the center to encourage movement throughout the space, creating an intentional journey within the area.

Designing for a Long and Narrow Space

The space is long and narrow, so we had to be creative with the design. We added three separate seating areas along the sides of the walkway, broken up by small Techo Bloc Borealis walls, a bubbling fountain, and greenery. The center is covered with easy-to-maintain turf, with stepping stones leading to a circular paved area where people gather. We also added a bar area where people could sit with their laptops, work, and enjoy the lovely view. The space is also perfect for hosting coworkers for a fantastic meal or appetizers at the end of a long day. ​

Powerful Elements for Reflection

We added some powerful elements to the space to make it a calm and reflective area. We placed rocks around the fountain that were prayed over during an earlier event, and each paver contains scripture or prayer, providing inspiration for all who enter this quiet oasis. We used wood elements to soften the space, and added some Jasmine Vine around the wooden panels provides a touch of greenery. The sound of the fountain reverberates throughout the space, creating a truly peaceful atmosphere.

Visual Appeal Inside and Out

The space also needed to be visually appealing from inside the building. The windows of the second floor boardroom overlook the space, and a counseling room on the first floor looks right into the courtyard. We made sure that the views from these vantage points were beautiful and unobstructed, allowing the space to be enjoyed even when no one is in it. 

A Quirky Request

By now you might be asking yourself, wait—what was the one condition that the neighbor had? Which brings us to the mermaid statue. The gentleman that owns the neighboring building is Polish, and mermaids play a significant part in Polish tradition and folklore. His one request was that we include a mermaid statue in the plans, a unique addition that adds to the quirkiness of the space. 

A Haven from Street Noise

The nonprofit staff now has an absolutely fantastic space where they can retreat, away from the incessant street noise. We couldn’t have done it without the amazing support from Shawn CameronYorktown Materials, and Mercury Mulch, who supported us in ensuring that we had everything we needed to successfully complete the job.​

In summary, we created a tranquil and enchanting outdoor space that will serve as a haven for the staff of the nonprofit organization for years to come. It may have been a tricky task at first, but we were up to the challenge, and the result is a beautiful outdoor oasis for reflection and tranquility, showing that anything is possible with careful planning and attention to detail.