Sunnylands Center & Gardens

  • Location
    Rancho Mirage, CA
  • Completion Date
    2011
  • Size
    9 acres
  • Team
    Architect: Frederick Fisher + Partners
    Interior Designer: Reich&Petch
    Civil Engineer: MSA Engineering Consultants
    Structural Engineer: Leo Parker Engineering
    MEP Engineer: G&W Engineering
    Horticultural Consultant: Mary Irish
    Lighting Designer: HLB Lighting Design
    Irrigation Designer: Sweeney & Associates
    Water Feature Designer: CMS Collaborative
    Signage + Wayfinding Designer: Reich&Petch Exhibit Designer: Hillmann & Carr
    Litwak Group
  • Awards
    • 2012: ASLA National Honor Award for Sunnylands Center & Gardens
    • 2012: ASLA San Diego Chapter Award for Sunnylands Center & Gardens
    • 2012: ASLA Texas Chapter Honor Award, Design, for Sunnylands Center & Gardens
    • 2012: Architectural Foundation of Los Angeles (AFLA) Design Award
  • Photography
    Sibylle Allgaier, Caitlin Atkinson, Marion Brenner, Mark Davidson, Dillon Diers, Brian Fredricks, Ken Hayden, Paul Hester

About

The natural desert ecology evokes the dull colors of scrubland. By contrast, the 200-acre estate of the late philanthropist Walter Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, contains a golf course and collection of green spaces tied to its midcentury residence and guesthouses. A 15-acre parcel adjacent to the estate was an opportunity to challenge this water-intensive ecology and create a place of relaxation and discovery in a contemporary aesthetic. Working closely with Mrs. Annenberg, the intent was to welcome visitors to the grounds at a new exhibition pavilion and invite reflection in the surrounding garden spaces.

Today the gardens at Sunnylands surprise visitors with their variety and vibrant hues, while displaying native species in bold strokes. The quiet expression of the pavilion, designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners, contrasts with the vivid botanical garden, which features 53,000 handpicked specimens from over 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants. Organic and free-flowing at the edges of the site, the lines of hardscape surfaces and planting beds take on a geometric precision as they approach the building. An adjacent event terrace and lawn offer views of the San Jacinto Mountains. More than 1.25 miles of walking trails lead visitors past the event lawn, beneath flowering palo verde desert trees, to a labyrinth garden, a performance circle, and interpretive displays of native plants.

To the right and left of the terrace, twin reflecting basins mirror the expansive desert sky, lower the ambient temperature, and fill the area with the relaxing sound of water.

The desert location is an essential component of the sustainability framework, which features restored habitat, a high-efficiency capillary irrigation system, soil moisture monitoring, stormwater retention, geothermal wells, a significant photovoltaic array, and an on-site green waste recycling program.

The landscape is painted with large swaths of desert specimens, creating movement across the interior paths.

The botanical plantings display a surprising mixture of color and texture throughout the seasons.

The geometric planting layout along the interior paths reinforces the approach to the Center.

The gardens’ design share Leonore and Walter Annenberg’s love for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in landscape form.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens in the Lab

Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Sunnylands Center & Gardens

  • PLANTING
  • WATER
  • CARBON, ENERGY + AIR
  • CARBON, ENERGY + AIR

0

arid landscape plants were used, including 70 different plant and tree species

0%

of allocated Coachella Valley Water District water utilized; 100% on-site stormwater retention

0

geothermal wells 396 feet below the Great Lawn heat and cool the Center

0 lbs

of annual carbon sequestration from the 617 new site trees, which offsets 8.9 cars per year

PLANTING

0

arid landscape plants were used, including 70 different plant and tree species

WATER

0%

of allocated Coachella Valley Water District water utilized; 100% on-site stormwater retention

CARBON, ENERGY + AIR

0

geothermal wells 396 feet below the Great Lawn heat and cool the Center

CARBON, ENERGY + AIR

0 lbs

of annual carbon sequestration from the 617 new site trees, which offsets 8.9 cars per year