In December 2018 the Los Angeles Times triumphantly announced “L.A. architects, designers named among the ‘best of the best’: The 2019 AD100 list.” How exciting to make Architectural Digest’s “list recognizing 100 top talents worldwide in the field of design, deemed the ‘best of the best’ by the editorial staff at the style-setting magazine.” A great start to the new year, with lots of beautiful landscapes to blog about! I knew landscapes wouldn’t be front and center in the photos focusing on architecture and design, they never are, but certainly there would be glimpses of what for me is always the scene stealer, even if pushed to the margins of the photos. Design bloggers only have to decide what color they want to talk about on a given day, whether to alternately extol maximalism or minimalism, and the choices are endless. Garden and landscape design bloggers? Slim pickings. (To make matters worse, landscape design credit on a project is often omitted — see here.) So I hungrily checked every portfolio listed by the LA Times but found that if any exterior shots were included at all, they disappointingly revealed that lawn and architects are still bff’s. Hey, guys, the 1960s called, and they want their landscape design back…
Soon, I hope, when building the “nests” for our species (which impacts the nests of so many other species), the landscape will never be an afterthought. Searching through the portfolios, I did find a firm that included a “landscape” category: Marmol Radziner, with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. These photos are from their portfolio, including the above Kaufman house, Palm Springs, California.
Maybe you’ll argue that it’s the client still asking for monoculture landscapes of lawn. Everyone knows what to do with lawn. Reassuringly controllable. As Marmol Radziner shows, plantings don’t have to be overly complicated. Easy maintenance upkeep and water-wise are not mutually exclusive. Bunch grasses are simple, effective, deliciously wind-driven. And the above photo reminds me of the words of landscape architect Steve Martino: “A basic garden unit is a wall, a tree, a chair, and a little water. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a garden.” (quote found here)
“California is a hotbed of talent … it always has been and still is. … When you think of California design now, you think of indoor-outdoor, you think of houses that let in the sun, let in the light … the talent coming out of L.A. is amazing” — my emphasis! (“L.A. architects, designers named among the ‘best of the best’: The 2019 AD100 list.”)
Let’s emphasize the “outdoor” in “indoor-outdoor” for once. Let in the light, yes, but check out the shadows plants throw against walls, the seductive rustling of the wind in the trees, the myriad inspirational shapes and forms of plants — and the air cleansing and cooling effects they bring to our homes in summer, the wildlife they nurture year-round. (And I include myself in that “wildlife.”) Here’s to a “Green New Deal,” where architecture and landscape architecture shake hands in 2019 and never let go!
(And Happy New Year!)