goodman landscape

Updated June 8, 2017 ... click on images to enlarge


Landscape wasn't an afterthought to Reston Founder Robert E. Simon Jr.  He hired Daniel U. Kiley, the nation's foremost postwar American Modern Landscape Architect, to help design landscape for the original Reston villages and clusters.

HCA Common Area landscape surrounding the Goodman Houses was also not an afterthought.  It was purposefully designed by Architect Charles M. Goodman FAIA as an integral part of Hickory Cluster, reflecting a modern vision of simplicity, continuity, and human interaction.

Kiley collaborated with Goodman on many projects, including Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Virginia from 1953-61, where Goodman became famous for integrated site, landscape, and building design.  According to Richard Guy Wilson in The Making of Virginia Architecture:  " ... For him, good design could influence how people live and how they relate to Nature.  Consequently, Goodman  focused as much effort on siting, landscaping, and interior plans as he did on designing prefabricated components. ... "

Elizabeth Jo Lampl also noted in Housing Washington:  " ... Hickory Cluster ... combined urban and quasi-rural qualities as one of the first components of Reston ... the boldest experiment in new town design of the era. ... "

And as described in Life for Dead Spaces, for key central Common Area spaces like those in Hickory Cluster, Goodman designed " ... a familiar place which generates new interests sparked by human contact -- a neighborly place where people will bump into each other."

In 1962, Goodman created the conceptual Hickory Cluster site plan above for promotion and marketing of early Reston.  This conceptual plan, and a large April 1963 architectural model of the First Village, envisioned numerous site and landscape design features that were later built and others that were not.  Both depicted park-like modern landscape intended for human recreation and interaction.

In addition to site plans, renderings from early Reston brochures clearly depict the original envisioned Hickory Cluster central Common Area landscape as a highly interactive place rather than natural woodland barriers.

This rendering appears to look east toward Lake Anne from the landscaped center of Hickory Cluster with Block 3 Goodman Houses at the upper right.

Another rendering appears to show Lake Anne in the background to the east from the rear upper deck of a Hickory Cluster Goodman House.

In addition, and as part of 1962-65 Hickory Cluster construction drawings, Goodman prepared overall cluster and individual block site plans.  These original vellum drawings are still on file at Reston Association headquarters.

Finally, early post-construction photographs clearly show Hickory Cluster modern landscape as envisioned, as designed, and as actually built.

This 1965 image of 11553-57 Maple Ridge Road in Block 2, with Block 1 to the far right, documents both original Block 2-3 and Block 1-2 Hickory Cluster managed, park-like streambed areas, as viewed from a Block 3 Goodman House.

Other Reston Historic Trust images of early Hickory Cluster Block 3 and the central Common Area also show managed, park-like modern landscape. 

From these original rendered visions, actual construction drawings, and as-built photographs, the Simon, Kiley, and Goodman visions of Hickory Cluster modern landscape are clear. 

They show designed, managed, park-like modern landscape that extends modern Hickory Cluster building architecture.  An open landscape that visually and functionally integrates modern Goodman Houses with modern public Common Areas to promote neighborly interaction.  All in contrast to naturally-wooded Reston Association Common Areas that surround Hickory Cluster and intentionally block views and buffer sounds of neighboring clusters, roadways, and businesses.


To help protect original envisioned Reston Association wooded natural areas and Hickory Cluster managed, park-like modern Common Area landscape against arbitrary and unauthorized changes, RA and HCA enacted a number of guidelines, standards, bylaws, and resolutions based on underlying covenants and deed restrictions, including:

" ... Board of Directors may not modify common land property, except for emergency/preventive maintenance, without written approval from 2/3rds (minimum of 3) of the affected neighbors."

 "... 1.  The common property greens and walkways in front of lots and the entrances adjacent to lots shall at all times be free from obstruction and shall be used only for ingress and egress from the lots. 
2.  No bicycle, scooter, baby carriage, shopping cart or similar vehicle, toy or personal article shall be allowed to stand or be stored in any of the general or limited common elements, except in designated by signage areas. ... "

" ... The design of the cluster is based on the overall compostion of elements in blocks and houses, rather than a variety of distinctive differences in the design of individual houses. ... ", and
" ... shall apply to all new or reconstructed fences and walls ... a screen of shrubs neatly trimmed, flat on top, and no higher than six feet ... ."

These guidelines, standards, bylaws, and resolutions are still in effect today.  Both Reston Association and Hickory Cluster Association are responsible for enforcing them.


Long-time residents indicate that, due to budget limitations, HCA abandoned efforts in the mid-1970s to maintain cluster Common Areas according to the original modern landscape visions of Simon, Kiley, and Goodman.  In addition, HCA apparently allowed, subject to possible future removal, individual residents to unilaterally plant and maintain limited portions of nearby Common Areas according to their own personal gardening preferences rather than in a planned, coordinated, and consistent manner clusterwide.  It is unclear whether these significant changes to the original landscape were approved by affected HCA homeowners and by RA DRB as required by HCA and RA governing documents.  Regardless, these changes set the stage for current HCA Common Area conditions.
In 1988, HCA engaged the professional services of Mortensen, Lewis & Scully, Inc., Landscape Architects in Vienna, Virginia.  MLSI prepared landscape planting plan recommendations for Hickory Cluster Block 1-3 Common Areas, including a plant list of recommended trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, grasses, and bulbs for clusterwide consistency. 

However, these plans also show a number of other changes that appear to be contrary to Hickory Cluster original Goodman designs, including the controversial, open-box reconstruction of many Block 1-2 plaza planters that ostensibly allowed better drainage and reduced related plaza concrete and planter reconstruction costs.  It appears that HCA implemented some of these recommendations but not others.

In 1998, as part of the HCA Common Area Improvement Study, Stephenson & Good, Landscape Architects in Alexandria, Virginia, prepared additional recommendations.  These plans show naturalized streambed areas in the cluster central Common Area, popular with some cluster homeowners, but that also appear to be contrary to the Simon, Kiley, and Goodman modern landscape original visions.  It appears that HCA also implemented some of these recommendations but not others.

In 2000, Reston was one of the first communities in the nation to be designated a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.  These communities promote backyard habitats that provide food, water, shelter and a place for birds and other wildlife to raise young.  They also educate residents about sustainable gardening practices such as reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserving water, planting native plants, removing invasive plants, composting, and stream or trail cleanups.

However, interior landscaped Hickory Cluster Common Areas were designed and built to be part of an integrated composition of modern buildings and modern landscape, and to provide recreational opportunities for Hickory Cluster residents and visitors.  Fortunately, very large and naturally-wooded Reston Association Common Areas surrounding Hickory Cluster continue to serve as valuable community wildlife habitats.

In 2002, the Northern Virginia Stream Restoration Bank was formed.  Within ten years, NVSRB, Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., RA, and HCA formally agreed to include a Hickory Cluster Colvin Run Watershed project within the stream restoration portfolio.  This more than $870,000 project, funded by commercial property remediation penalties, was completed in February 2017.  It resolved numerous sewer infrastructure, streambed erosion, tree impact, and landscape issues.  It has also has partially returned the streambed area between Blocks 1 and 2 to original visions of managed recreation areas for resident and visitor interaction within a natural yet modern landscape. 


In an August 21, 2005 Washington Post article, former America Online founder and CEO James Kimsey said of the McLean, Virginia 1959 Frank Lloyd Wright Marden House he purchased in 2000:  " ... nobody ever sat me down and lectured me about the house.  Some people actually said they had ideas of how I could change it.  But if I renovated and changed it, over time, it would lessen its value, and I don't mean monetary value.  It would be a Frank Lloyd Wright house modified to suit my taste.  Well, nobody cares about my taste.  They care about Frank Lloyd Wright.  So I made a very conscious decision that I should restore it.  ... Well, the thing of it was, what's the point of having a Frank Lloyd Wright house if it's not a true Frank Lloyd Wright House? ... "

Goodman was and remains the Frank Lloyd Wright of Reston and Hickory Cluster.  According to Richard Guy Wilson, " ... More than any other individual, Charles M. Goodman brought Modern Architecture to mid-twentieth-century Virginia. ... "

It is the Simon, Kiley, and Goodman Modern Architecture and Modern Landscape Architecture visions that make Hickory Cluster special, important, and valuable, because Goodman buildings and landscape together are a significant work of International Style American Modern Architecture worth preserving as originally envisioned, designed, and built.

Ongoing Hickory Cluster landscape decisions will be critical to improving and maintaining the architectural integrity, market value, and possibly the survival of Hickory Cluster, to and beyond its 50-year anniversary in 2014.  Fortunately, original Simon, Kiley, and Goodman visions documented in drawings, photos, and other artifacts are available as key resources for these decisions.