PROJECT STATEMENT: In order to integrate three oceanfront lots in an environmentally sensitive manner
for a client who had little interest in sustainability, the landscape architect wooed the client away from using
green turf and persuaded him to use dry beach sand planted with drought-tolerant, ornamental grasses as ground
cover. Borrowed landscapes of the Malibu chaparral frame views from the garden. Over time the owner became convinced
of the value of planting in a sustainable manner.
Purpose of Project
The purpose of the landscape design was to create an exuberant yet sustainable garden to complement
a newly constructed modern home and to tie together three oceanfront lots opposite a strip mall on Carbon
Beach in Malibu. The big idea was to use the Japanese concept of the “borrowed landscape” as a
framing device; plant screening hedges to block out views of the Pacific Coast Highway and the mall while
at the same time accentuating the nearby chaparral. The garden captures views of the adjacent hills and
utilizes drought-and-salt-tolerant plant materials that provide color, texture, and movement. A hillside arroyo
across the highway is directed towards the property, bringing intense rainwater. The reconstructed arroyo
is a feature of the design, physically and metaphorically connecting it with the adjacent native landscape.
Role of Landscape Architect
Originally, the client demanded bright green turf which required too much water and was inappropriate
in the context. The most challenging role for the landscape architect was to guide the client to the decision to
use dry beach sand as ground cover. The sand is planted with flowering ornamental grasses that mimic the California
hillsides. The landscape architect also wanted to demonstrate to other property owners that viable, usable, beautiful
gardens can be created and maintained with minimal water.
In effect, the client for this project went through a paradigm change. After insisting on areas
of water-intensive green lawn, now he is thrilled with the way that outdoor spaces, borrowed landscape, and
the use of multiple viewpoints enlarge the usable area and enhance the feeling of open space. This project
proves that by paying attention to the surrounding environment and the different requirements of surrounding landscapes
and private gardens, designers can, in their daily practice, balance clients’ needs with sustainability.
On this section of coastline, there is a ten to fifteen foot height variation between the elevation
of the house and the elevation of the beach. A “wave up rush study” was required to determine the location
of an underground head wall that would be located on the site. In this case, it is placed two thirds of the
way between the ocean and the highway. Underground utilities, a large septic system, an underground fire suppression
tank, and the head wall restricted the amount of trees that could be planted. The parking areas employ permeable
paving and scented ground cover. The fountain and lap pool run perpendicular to the ocean with minimal footprint;
they have a meaningful connection to the ocean and sky, constantly reflecting their surfaces.