Down to Two Pizza Oven Locations - 2024 Project - January 2024

The notion of building a wood-burning oven in our backyard is one that I've mused about for years.  Dating back to our first house in Elmhurst, I dreamed up how I could build one and where it would go in the landscape.  I've posted about it a few times since we moved to Downers - including here in 2017 and again in 2020 and then one month later (also) in 2020.  The first post in 2020, I talked about planning for a pond and oven.  That last post in September of 2020, I mentioned building it on *top* of our large drywell.  

When I go back and read those posts, I can see the evolution in thinking - from close to the patio to utilizing the lower elevation on the northside to placing it on the drywell to deal with any potential heaving.  They all make sense.  And, that's what I've been thinking the past few weeks as I've moved into real planning mode.

I'd like to call 2024 the year of the pizza oven.  Or, at least...the pizza oven foundation and stand.  Let's get those done this year.  When I do my 'priority projects' posts, a pizza oven will certainly be #1.

When I've been out in the yard measuring and digging (to see where the gravel lies), I've had time to think about placement and the impact on both usage (location to house, location to patio, orientation) and sight-lines (elevation).    And, up until yesterday, I was certain where it was going:  Along the north property line, (mostly) on top of the drywell, angled/oriented with the oven opening facing the patio and placed a good distance from current patio, down a few feet in elevation with room to build a second tier of patio between the oven and current paver patio.  

But, then I started to stare at the site engineering.  And, I had an idea:  what if I reversed the oven opening to face *away* from the house.  And, what if I used some of that lower elevation/grade change to sort-of 'tuck' the oven in with a couple sides acting as retaining walls?  I could still get some of the oven on the drywell, but, I could create a room at the lower tier that includes a patio and a boardwalk extension around the oven.   That's not a bad idea. 

Below is a rough drawing showing the two potential (finalist??) locations with the green rectangles showing the oven footprint and the red arrows showing the opening of the oven/facing of the oven.


where to put a backyard pizza oven

The location adjacent to the patio would require the foundation of the oven to serve as a retaining wall against the patio.  You can see the numbers on this engineering drawing (726, 725, 724, etc).  Those are the elevations and just in that green rectangle, it appears that the southside of the oven foundation would be "up against" an elevation that is about three-feet lower than the north-side.  I say 'up against' because the foundation would have to be dug down and the block stand would serve as the retaining wall.  

I'm planning on a brick-face facade and either a gable or a box-gable roof.  The height of the stand+oven+insulation+roof is something on the order of eight-feet tall.  Tucked in against the patio, the oven would stand five-or-so feet proud.  Now, for some folks, that might be a not-so-good thing.  But, I've long been thinking about a couple of concepts (and I've posted on them.

Those are:  
1.  Creating "garden rooms" that provide a sense of place. 
2.  Miegakure. Japanese for "hide and reveal".  

They sort-of go together.  

I've written about Miegakure before (here), but that idea of 'hide and reveal' is one that I've long considered due to the long, linear nature of our yard.  When I built the boardwalk, one of my issues in solving how to 'finish it' was how I solve-for "hide and reveal" in a meaningful way.  I think it turned out pretty good and gives the visitor that feeling of Miegakure.  
If you want to make a small outdoor space more interesting or appear larger, you can use an ancient Japanese design technique known as miegakure or ‘hide and reveal.’ This entails partially obscuring a view or features in a garden to create an illusion of distance.
That five-foot-tall mass sits right in the site-lines of boardwalk travelers.  It also provides the ability to wrap the boardwalk *around* it to connect to the new, lower patio area.  Those two things combined, leave for a small lot of garden that currently is just turf.  Bound by the screened porch on one side, the patio on second, the oven on a third and (potentially) the boardwalk on the north.  See this post about a patio water wall of my dreams.  Seems to fit perfectly in this mix, no?  

Besides garden design, the placement of the oven has to be practical.  Not too far from the kitchen.  But....Based on my use of the Ooni, I see the appeal in setting the oven up in a secondary patio location to remove it from the 'gen pop'.   By that I mean that I find making pizza for a crowd pretty stressful.  Stretching the dough, launching it, baking it properly and retrieving it in-tact is high-stakes (at least for me) and I've found that I do best when I'm not the focus of attention and can sweat it out alone.

Either of these spots provide that.  They also provide the focus of a secondary patio that can be built down below on that "dry well".  

I need to decide in the coming weeks, so I can firm up my plans and begin to figure out the materials needed.  2024 - needs to be the year of the pizza oven.

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