One Columbia Student Lives the Dream:[br] Wins $2,000 for Designing Condo's Backyard

Condo gimmickry comes in many delicious flavors: indoor basketball courts, FAO Schwarz-branded playrooms, or nearly nude women.

Then there are the Ivy League student-designed backyards.

“We have a big garden in the back, and we decided to contact Columbia’s graduate school for landscape design, and met with the dean,” said Ken Horn, a developer of the 11-story Lookout Hill Condominium. “We told them, ‘Look, we have this backyard, it’s a real project, and we want to open it up to your 17 students.’”

That real project is at 199 State Street, on the border of Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill.

After watching eight hours of presentations, Mr. Horn, a colleague, and academics voted on their $2,000 winner. (Even though $1,000 and $500 went to the runners-up, The New York Sun pointed out that the developers saved a pretty penny on design costs.)

The victor, Anna Mather, broke up the backyard into two private gardens and snug sitting spaces. “She actually took into account when various trees would bloom,” Mr. Horn gushed, “and the different colors.”

So, naturally, 70 percent of the apartments (all below $1 million) have sold out–even though Lookout Hill doesn’t open until May. “Has it helped us sell units? Probably,” Mr. Horn said when asked about the Columbia gimmick. “But… it’s a great thing to have a garden in the middle of the city.”

- Max Abelson