“This is all about the plants and they are spectacular, adding texture and color to the
desert and lawns. This shows a real knowledge of plants. The feeling is lush and the
colors are fabulous.”
—2012 Professional Awards Jury
The Sunnylands Center and Gardens is an interpretive center that celebrates the cultural legacy of the historic estate through a new 15 acre desert botanical garden. The landscape architect created a living landscape that respects the character of the Sonoran Desert and demonstrates a new ecological aesthetic for landscapes in the arid southwest.
▲沙漠植物园代表了一种新审美。Sunnylands Center & Gardens represents a new aesthetic for the area that celebrates the character of the Sonoran desert.
▲植物园中心西侧的露台与反射池。Groves of Palo Breas and reflecting pools define the event terrace west of the new Center.
▲延伸如景观的咖啡区是这个中心的主要活动区域。The dining terrace extends the cafe into the landscape and is the Center’s main event space.
▲建筑前对称和有次序的植物们，远处的太阳能电池组是这里的能源中心。Sculptural desert plantings adjacent to the Center reflect the order and symmetry of the building. Solar arrays provide power for the Center.
▲小树林里的冥想迷宫。Nestled in a grove of Hybrid Mesquite, the labyrinth offers an opportunity for quiet reflection.
▲让游客歇息并欣赏公园美景的凳子。Benches are regularly placed through the Garden to allow visitors to enjoy views and specialty gardens.
▲沙漠植物每个季节的景色都不一样，这是芦荟盛放的早春。The Garden includes a broad list of desert plantings that offer drama and interest throughout the year. Here, aloe striata blooms profusely in early spring.
▲仲春时节，林下花朵形成梦幻的金色地毯。By mid-spring, Palo Verde blooms cover the trees and create a fantastic golden carpet throughout the garden.
▲异国情调的花朵改变着花园的空间感知。Exotic blooms continually change the feel of the Garden’s spaces.
▲穿过沙漠雨水滞留盆地的道路。Walking paths lead visitors through bold masses of desert plantings and to a fragment of restored desert landscape which incorporates a stormwater retention basin.
▲植物对建筑的呼应和强化。Landscape at the approach to the Center reinforces the crispness of the architecture.
▲种植在建筑边缘的植物龙舌兰像雕塑般，符合建筑的个性又为建筑带去了植物景色。Sculptural plantings like these Smooth Agaves echo the character of the architecture and bring the landscape into the center.
▲林下具备雕塑感的植物个体。Design of surfacing included selections of mineral mulches that would best accent individual plant selections.
▲映射出天空与周围景观的反射池。The reflecting pool creates dramatic reflections of the sky and the surrounding landscape.
Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage, California is an extension of the 200-acre desert retreat of Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The Annenbergs commissioned the California modernist architect A. Quincy Jones to design their estate in the desert in 1963. In 2006, the Annenberg Foundation commissioned the landscape architect to develop a garden for the interpretive center.
Because of its location in the desert, sustainability figured prominently into discussions about the nature of the project. Originally conceived as an extension of the landscape of the Estate, the design team and the client agreed that the Center and Gardens would reflect the next Century implement the most advanced efforts in sustainability.
In addition to the selection of regionally-appropriate plants, the project features restored desert habitat, high-efficiency capillary irrigation system, soil moisture monitoring, 100 percent on-site storm water retention, geothermal wells, a significant photovoltaic array and an on-site green waste recycling program. The project has received LEED Gold Certification and uses approximately 20 percent of its water allocation from the Coachella Valley Water District. The project also proactively meets the specifications and requirements for the use of reclaimed water five years ahead of the implementation of Rancho Mirage’s citywide initiative.
Working closely with owner, the landscape architect developed a scheme that begins as an orderly, geometric composition adjacent to the Center and becomes progressively more free flowing as it moves to the desert meadows. The landscape architect sculpted the earth and used plants in a painterly fashion across the 15 acre site. Trees were carefully positioned throughout the site to ensure that ample shade was provided and great care was given to the visual composition of understory plantings. Plantings were designed “in mass” much like one experiences a large nursery. Therefore, dozens of aloe, agave and barrel cactus were used to great large sweeps of color and texture.
A generous entry drive meanders through a series of rich, undulating desert plantings before delivering visitors to a formal entry court anchored by specimen Sweet Acacia. After dropping of their passengers, guests park their vehicles in a carefully landscaped parking court created by a grove of Hybrid Mesquite trees.
In collaboration with the architect, the building was carefully sited to frame panoramic views of the mountains beyond from the Center’s main entry and lobby. Guests explore a variety of interactive exhibits including those that address the design and construction of the gardens developed as a collaboration between the Client, the landscape architect, the horticulturist and the exhibit designer.
A continuous terrace across the west side of the building extends the Center’s café to the landscape and accommodates special events. Twin stainless steel fountains within the terraces complements the crisp architectural composition, mirror the expansive desert sky, lower the ambient temperature and create the soothing sound of moving water.
Sized specifically to support special events required for programming, a circular lawn is the central organizing feature of the rear garden. Framed by a double row of ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verdes, its perimeter walk connects guests to a series of private gardens that feature quite seating nooks, rich desert plantings and a labyrinth for contemplation. Paths from the rear garden lead visitors through a rich and varied botanical collection of desert plants that passes through the front garden, along the perimeter of the restored habitat and back to the Center.
The landscape architect’s responsibilities included leading a one-year procurement process to select approximately 53,000 plants for the site. The team established exacting standards for contract grown material. The Foundation also implemented time-lapse cameras on the site to document the extensive efforts required to realize the landscape, which will be incorporated in the educational exhibits inside the Center.
Developed in close collaboration with the design team the landscape architect created a garden that celebrates the legacy of the Annenbergs while remaining sensitive to the delicate balance of life in the Sonoran desert. By creating an alternative to the traditional Palm Springs landscape that relies on heavy water use, chemical fertilizers and exotic plants, the landscape architect has created a garden that challenges the status quo and raises awareness of ecological issues in this imperiled ecosystem.