Transitioning with exterior gateways
We encounter multiple thresholds in the course of each day. We tend to associate them with passage into buildings or through the rooms of buildings, but residential exterior gateways are typically the first thresholds we encounter as we pass on foot from the public to the more private realm.
Gateways often incorporate a modest overhead shelter; a flanking fence, wall, or hedge; and a dedicated walking surface. They may or may not include a gate, depending on their relative privacy or the number of people they are meant to accommodate. Gateways off sidewalks are typically scaled to admit one individual at a time, and they often incorporate gates to help regulate traffic. Gateways off driveways or parking courts tend to be scaled to accommodate several people at once and are frequently unencumbered by gates.
Some folks consider such gateways to be outside the purview of architecture, but to me, every element of the built environment is architecture. It all contributes to shaping our experience and reflecting who we are to the greater world.
A gateway can provide a transition between a bustling sidewalk and a residential front garden, signaling with its design different levels of accessibility. Or it can announce the transition from a driveway or parking court to a more secluded yard, set of gardens, or terrace, hinting with its design at what lies ahead.
I’ve sketched some examples of gateways sited off sidewalks and some sited off driveways or parking courts. Each is suited to a different aesthetic and manages the threshold from one zone to another differently. A gateway shouldn’t be viewed as an expendable splurge, but as an integral, nuanced design element that influences our perception and communicates our intentions. Borrow the principles behind these gateways to create your own unique design.