Meet 2015 New England Design Hall of Fame Inductee Peter White

November 9, 2015

Text by Erin Marvin


Peter White

Landscape architect Peter White does more than just design beautiful landscapes; he takes a holistic approach to creating true outdoor living spaces.

White’s work reveals a fluidness and a balanced asymmetry that speaks more to eastern and international influences than those typically found here in New England. As a principal at ZEN Associates (along with Shinchiro and Maho Abe), White has undertaken extensive travel to Japan and other countries to explore the ways different cultural practices—including cuisine, the arts, and social custom—can influence landscape design. Alternative notions of designing for both beauty and practicality influence his own outdoor spaces. “We shouldn’t think about the outdoor room any differently than the way we’d think about a living room or bedroom,” says White. “It’s thinking about what we want to do outside, and designing to accommodate that. The importance of furniture, lighting, sound, and water should all be talked about as features of the outdoor space—not as backdrops, but as a definition of the room you’re going to go out and live in.”

White wants his clients to live in those outdoor spaces all year long, even here in New England, where landscapes typically go physically and visually dormant in November. To ensure his outdoor rooms have year-round appeal, he chooses furniture that can go uncovered and stand up to the elements, and uses plant material that has seasonal change but enough evergreen to still feel alive in December. Carefully placed lighting illuminates the space at night and makes it feel inviting, even in winter months. And, of course, fire features encourage people to gather, even if it’s just for an hour or so on a snowy evening. “Our clients aren’t looking for a quick fixfor the landscape, but an investment in their lifestyle,” says White.

White and his firm continue to help their clients invest in their outdoor lifestyle both here and abroad, with recent projects including residential landscapes in New England, rooftop gardens in London, and even a 180-foot yacht in the South Pacific. It’s a true testament to his holistic approach that his beautiful and functional outdoor rooms can work anywhere, any time of the year.

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