American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Entry Courtyard: Shadows of Kentia Palms are projected onto the pavement of the courtyard. A North South channel of water guides one to the front door, and from the house back to the outdoor fireplace. (Photo: Pamela Palmer)

Ocean Terrace: On a dark night the only evidence of the ocean is the sound of waves. The East West light line connects the raised spa to a sunken seating area with a fire table. On a moonlit night the light line mimics the surf. (Photo: Pamela Palmer)

Vehicular Gate: Morning light elongates the geometry in one of a pair of Paulope entry gates. Specimen Pindo Palms flank the entry gates. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Reflecting Pool: Pedestrians walk up wide steps between Sago Palms. Lit from below, cast glass pavers lead the way up the entry steps. One turns at the reflecting pool and enters the palm courtyard through either gate. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Entry Courtyard: The Kentia Palm entry court is framed with bamboo. Trees are planted in 8'x8' planters carved into bedrock below. Some of this displaced stone was reused on site. Special soil mix supports the concrete slab and allows for root growth. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Entry Courtyard: Once inside the house one accesses the courtyard via the front door, or one of the six pairs of doors from the gallery that perimeters the court. Water flows down the stone walls on each side of the fireplace. Moonlight or firelight is reflected in the linear pool. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Overflow Parking/ Service Area: Translucent panels, backlit by the sun, conceal overflow parking on permeable paving. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

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Lunada Bay Residence, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Southern California
Artecho Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Venice, California

"An inspiring use of plants, water, hardscape, lighting, and textures to create a variety of spaces and views. So many nice moments are in the details, it draws you in to explore."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

On the edge of Southern California a site formed by wind and surf, often immersed in an atmosphere of fog, is transformed into a series of outdoor venues, designed for outdoor living at various times of day and year. A play of water and light lead one through the site. Natural phenomenon of light and reflection of sun, moon, water, and fire are explored.

Scope and size
The setting for this landscape is an odd shaped 18,000 square foot lot, which one enters at a corner of the site. A new house was designed on an existing footprint. The landscape is completely new, with the spa being located where the previous spa had been.

Site and context investigation
The site is on the bluffs high above the bay. It is a site rich in beauty, but a tough site. At times wind and surf pound the bluffs, salt air drops heavy mists, skies can be white and overcast. When the clouds part, bright blue skies emerge and sunlight sparkles on the bay. The soils are rocky and depleted of nutrients. Views in this quiet neighborhood are coveted and height limitations of trees are strictly adhered to.

Design program
The owners travel for business, so it is imperative that when home, they can use the outdoor living spaces. This meant making spaces that could be used in wind and fog and even a light rain. Seating and dining areas are located in many different exposures. Concrete and stone were used for benches. These store sunlight and offer warm, protected places to sit, even on a chilly day. The many seating and dining possibilities offer settings for large-scale entertainment, as well as intimate scale for individuals or a couple.

The owners showed us photos of lush plantings taken in Beverly Hills and requested plants with a similar visual character. A plant palette with a variety of color and texture, but composed primarily of plants with low water needs, was developed. Care was taken to use plants that can take the wind and salt air. Specimen palms were brought in to establish scale immediately. Low water coral trees, bougainvillea and red coral bells satisfied the client request for red flowers -the color of a favorite sports team. Native plants and other plants attractive to birds and butterflies were used on the bluff edge and hedges and vines form a wildlife corridor at the perimeter of the property, providing cover for birds and nectar for butterflies.

Design intent
Water is the thread that connects the various elements of this landscape. It appears in various guises: watery cast glass is lit from below, a shallow pond reflects the sky, water spills over stone walls, a channel cut into the courtyard directs one to the front door, water flows over a granite trough and disappears, water spills over a glass covered cube with three water moods-sheeting over the walls creating an infinity surface, as a reflecting pond and as a spa, a line of cast glass pavers masquerades as water connecting the spa and a sunken seating area. Small amounts of water are used in this way to invite and guide one throughout the site, precursor to and culminating in the grand view, of the shimmering bay.

Fire is used in outdoor areas to provide thermal comfort and to visually link areas and invite one to relax in the landscape. In the entry court, a fireplace sits opposite the front door inviting one into the courtyard. On cool or windy days, this is the center of outdoor activity.

Materials and installation methods used
Because the site is so rocky, planting large specimen plants was a design challenge. In the entry courtyard, oversized planting pits were excavated. Some of the stone was used for landscape walls and paving. Gap graded soil was used to backfill the holes. This soil mix supports the concrete slab, yet allows root growth to penetrate the growing medium. An irrigation valve was dedicated to fertilizing the trees. Liquid fertilizer is injected into the tubing that is laid below the paving, allowing food to reach the roots beyond the planting pit of the finished surface.

Environmental impact and concerns
The bluff condition is a very sensitive one. Drip irrigation was used to reduce the possibility of run off that could cause erosion. The irrigation system is fitted with flags which pop up when the system is running, so that an open valve does not cause erosion. Permeable paving is used in the service yard/overflow parking area and side yard. The only lawn is the sloping driveway to the overflow parking. The gravel and lawn driveway are installed using an invisible paving system that allows surfaces to permeate.

Collaboration with the owner and other designers
The design team meetings with the client included the architect. The landscape architects produced a Master Plan which the owners signed off on early in the project. Communication was open and much excitement generated as the various aspects of the site were addressed.

The site has many moods and the design addresses the site specifically by sensitively dealing with its resources, rebuilding it as habitat for wildlife as well as human use, elevating its beauty and making poetry with its moods.

Project Resources

Landscape Architect:

Principal-in-charge/Lead designer:
Pamela Palmer, ASLA

Design Team: Miriam Rainville, Daniel Lopez, Pascale Vaquette, Andrew O. Wilcox, ASLA, Perla Arquieta, ASLA, Valeria Markowicz (Intern)

Promotion: Tavi Perttula, ASLA, Marisol Metcalfe

Client: Jenny Yu

Architect: Pat Killen, Studio 9-One-2 Architects

General Contractor: Tim Zigrang, Zigrang Construction

Landscape Hardscape: Tim Zigrang, Zigrang Construction

Water Features: John Quinn, J. Quinn Construction, Inc.

Lighting: John Gannon, Gannon Electric

Concrete: Dave Shaw Concrete and Block

Steel Fabrication: Jim Grzesek, Art Metal Inc.

Irrigation Design: Jesse Roque, JR Irrigation

Landscape Contractor (Planting and Irrigation): Thomas Huerta, H&H Landscaping

Nursery/Trees: Instant Jungle, Andy Blanton

Gap-graded Soils: Earthworks Soil Amendments, Inc.

Andrew Mercado, Salco Landscape


Dining Garden: The dining area is enlivened by the sound of water as it drops from a glistening granite slab into a concealed pool among shade loving plant material. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Water Feature/ Spa Cube: The raised, glass-tiled spa has three modes: Reflecting pool (as shown); infinity fountain (water flows over cube into a slot at its base); and standard spa mode. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Ocean Terrace: A light line splices through hedges. One walks through waves of blue and green plant material approaching the rail to peer over the cliffs to the surf below. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Spa: Spa at dusk. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Fire Table: The poured in place concrete bench holds heat from the sun, allowing comfortable year round seating with or without the gas fire. Protected from the wind, the sunken seating offers prime views of the bay. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Fire Table Detail: Flame dances above recycled glass. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Light Line Detail: Watery cast glass light line connects the site to the bay below. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

Planting Detail: Sculptural form of an Agave's 'flame' silhouetted against the light line. (Photo: Jack Coyier)

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