Desert Landscapes

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    Ryan A. Waggoner

    I’ve just recently relocated to Phoenix, Arizona from the midwest and I’m trying to acclimate myself to the drastically different environment. Most projects I’ve worked on in the past have been in Dubai, so I have a relative amount of knowledge of desert landscapes. However, I would like to become more educated on these landscapes in the U.S.
    Does anyone have any good suggestions where I could find some good examples or even places around Phoenix that I could go see? Many thanks…

    Landon Davidson

    This exhibit at the botanical garden just got over but the garden would be a good place to start.

    ken mccown

    Ryan: The Desert Botanic Garden is great as London mentioned, and you should go down by Tucson to the Sonoran Desert Museum as well!


    Ryan A. Waggoner

    yes, i definitely want to go to the dbg as i’ve seen pictures in the past. the chihuly exhibition looks like it was amazing. i think we’ll hit up the flashlight tours, as it was 109 here yesterday and only getting hotter in the months to come….

    Brent Jacobsen

    Hi Ryan –

    This post is bit late in the game for your discussion but I just noticed it. I just graduated from MLA program at the U of A this May and can recommend the new College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture building on campus next time you are in Tucson. The outdoor lab / garden was designed by Ten Eyck Associates and is a great example of integrating architecture and landscape architecture in the desert to create a diverse biome and a lush, but sustainable, landscape for the students. The project features an 11,000 gallon cistern, green wall, and has reduced potable water use by 87% despite the presence of a natural pond. As a campus entity, it is open to visitors all the time, and the director of our program, Ron Stoltz, is always happy to give tours of the garden depending on his schedule.

    Other good Tucson haunts include Sabino Canyon, the Desert Museum (as Ken mentioned), and the River Trail system for an example of well-used desert greenway planning. Also, the Pines golf course in Marana is an interesting reuse project that takes advantage of an old quarry to manage water more effectively on a golf course. Admittedly golf courses in the desert are not my ideal land-use, but an interesting example of using topography and drainage to help support turf and cottonwoods. The Tucson Botanic Garden and Tohono Chul Park are both small, but good places to round out your botanic knowledge if you are down in Tucson.

    As for Phoenix, Ken and others can probably give better examples but the Tempe Transit Center is a LEED-project that features a green roof, and Ten Eyck recently won an ASLA Award for The Biodesign Institute at ASU. Good luck in the desert – it is a harsh, but fascinating place to design within, and the Sonoran Desert is a compelling ecosystem to learn about and hopefully nurture and protect.

    Les Ballard

    I hope it is constructive to suggest that you do not want to know what you ask but to create other environments within the (future) boundaries you can expect in your area. While I am sure that your previous experience will be invaluable in this respect, I would suggest that you look at the project to preserve the oryx in the African desert. They are doing well again, obviously eat something and bely the fact that most people think that all desert is like the great depression or The Empty Quarter which, of course, it isn’t! I do not know what your local engineers consider to be local future rainfall or water provision – some places do not even have plans in place yet – but it seems sensible to save or recycle all the water you can and plant accordingly. Arizona was seabed, I believe and any land life there was a temporary thing arriving at where you are now. It seems most appropriate, therefore, to cultivate in strips and even below ground around (false?) aquifers and pools. Food fungi and rhubarb are a possibility for cropping though things like tomatoes are possible with reflected light from above. When colder heat can be used from rotting garbage and the resultant CO2 sent back to the plants. Garden wise, I think you have humming birds not far away and those or other special species are worth providing with the odd oasis of tropical growth beneath part sheltered/pergola surronded areas that people might gather beneath for coffee or just ease. A water feature there in a naturalistic guise would be good. I see no reason why grants for areas like these should not be available from nga’s and others with their own fish to fry or specie to save.

    Best of luck then with the Tulsa bat cave, the deer preserve and the coffee bar with the hummng birds. LOL

    Luv n Lite

    Les Ballard

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