Visiting California

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    Nick Harper

    As a UK Landscape Architect I am visiting Californian coast between San Diego and Monterrey. Can anyone make suggestions as to significant design work in the area that I should see?


    WOW!! From San Diego (my favorite city on earth) to San Fran area? Too many to list. Getty Center in L.A. is a nice start. Visit the Irvine Spectrum where highways I-5 & 405 meet in Irvine. I worked on that shopping mall as a Cadd and sketch monkey. Monterey and Carmel is a treat on its own.

    Have fun!

    Trace One

    the Getty – landscape design (NOT by an LA of course..) is pretty interesting..after that, Big Sur cliff walk – otters!  SF you can do a really fun ‘staircase gardens ‘ tour – you can look it up on-line..

    personally not enthusiastic about Ca design, plant palette, etc..Be prepared to drive at 80mph everywhere being tailgated by a line of twenty cars, twelve feet behind your…not…

    Hop over to NY, and see the real stuff.

    Oh, Gilroy Gardens is pretty cute if you have kids..

    Nick Harper

    Thanks for response. Really looking forward to seeing San Diego.

    Nick Harper

    Thanks for the info. Driving in LA was a challenge last time I visited, even 20 years of driving in London was no preparation. The habitats and plant palettes of California are very different from those of northern temperate Europe so should be good learning for me. I will come to New York but crave some sunshine and fresh for the moment. I will look up Gilroy Gardens, thank you.

    Christopher Patzke

    It’s not a landscape but I would not miss the Monteray Aquarium.  The shore bird exhibit is delightful.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Noguchi’s California Scenario –

    That website is great too… It covers most of the classics in SoCal.

    Nick Harper

    Yes i visited a few years ago and was fascinated by the context as described by Steinbeck and the modern day use. The Aquariam was great.

    Jason T. Radice

    Only the bowl-thingie was not conceptually designed by an LA, the rest of the site was designed by OLIN. The bowl-thingie was desinged by an ‘artist’ with the help of a horticulturist during SD and Spurlock Poirier LAs from DD’s onward.  


    I’d add in Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach and the attached aquarium there.

    Mary Pat Mattson


    The bowl mentioned at the Getty is by Bob Irwin – an amazing artist and yes landscape designer (also did the DIA Beacon) and influential for many landscape architects. In San Diego, don’t miss the Salk and Neurosciences Institute just north in LaJolla.

    In LA, also check out the Huntington Gardens – wow.

    Hargreaves has several projects in the northern California area – Guadalupe River park in San Jose, Bixby Park, Candlestick etc. These have all undergone some degree of entropy – so understand that this is part of the intention of the designer.

    The gardens around the DeYoung and Academy of Science museums in Golden Gate park are amazing, not to mention two amazing museums.

    In the SF area, three are works by Halprin, Peter Walker, Andrea Cochran, Cheryl Barton, Walter Hood. If you can get up to wine country the Cornerstone Garden is at the south end of the valleys.

    And of course the amazing natural landscape of the area. No one can design a redwood forest! Just sink in…!


    Brett T. Long

    Nick! Welcome back to California.  I know you said you are roaming the Coast, but maybe you should try a diversion from West to East across the State.  California’s best design is the access to nature.  In two days you could bisect Big Sur, the Central Valley, Yosemite and jog down to Death Valley and back.  It is a lot of driving, but is amazing.  To the guy from New York… how does the Giant Sequoia (largest tree on earth) and Bristle Cone Pine (Oldest living thing on earth) work for the “real stuff.” Do we all surf and live on the beach too? 

    Trace One

    not to quibble, MP, but I will quibble..Is the Salk really worth a visit? What does one get out of a visit, as opposed to reading about and looking at pictures of this space? IMHO, not much..The runnal, the central runnal, by the way, is the best place to run communicatons cables, when hosting an outdoor event there..says something about form and function, not sure what..

    I love the idea of the Salk..I worked on planning plans close by, I used to walk by it every day..the best thing about that area is the Glider port, which I will do before I die, and which the University is nefariously plotting to get rid of..Why I  don’t know..

    I think the La Jolla Seal Beach and beach walk, up to La Jolla Caves is some of the most gorgeous places on earth – I love swimming in La Jolla Cove, the sea lions nearby causing their ruckus, pelicans, cormorants, great shopping and eating all within four big blocks..Swimming at the Cove it is the closest we get to Greece…and Casa Beach with the harbor seals is outrageous for the kids, if you can get beyond the anti-seal harpooners making themselves evident everywhere..That is worth a side trip, truely..But the old Salk? I don’t know..Not for me.

    but your mention of the Acamdemy of Sciences with it’s  Renzo  Piano roof was a definite oversight on all ours part – you get an a for that mention!

    Cara McConnell

    Nice list, Mary but he did ask “between” Monterey and San Diego. San Francisco is a 2 hour trip up north from Cannery row. Don’t miss Balboa Park and Old town in San Diego. For a spectacular natural setting, do not pass up Yosemite National park. All you have to do is go to the websites of your favorite designers and see their list of works in the cities you plan to tour.

    Nick Harper

    Thank you Thomas, Brett, Mary, Trace One and Cara
    What a fantastic response. I will relook at my map and begin negotiations with rest of family about places to visit.
    If anyone needs advice for visits to UK……..

    Jason T. Radice

    I used ‘arttist’ in quotations for a reason.The central garden is the weak point of the Getty complex. Doubly so for that HIDEOUS granite block wall where the waterfall is, scaled so poorly it looks like a cheap concrete block wall, and all nicely stained from the minerals in the water. The central stream is weak, and besides the cool rebar trellises for the bougainvillea, the whole design it is mediocre at best. From what I have read and seen, Irwin was totally incompitent for the task as he could not grasp the idea of grading, drainage, or even the plant materials. He had to heavily rely on Spurlock an 14 other consultants which the Getty had to hire to have some sense of reality and get the job done. Kind of like having a fry cook do your heart surgery. Imagine if a real LA (modernist or contemporary classicist) had done the design from the beginning, it would have been more artful (perhaps land sculpture such as a Hargreaves design), used better and matching materials, and would have been more in context for an art museum and the amazing Richard Meier architecture that is the Getty.


    That being said, somebody who paints solid colors on canvas and hangs it in a gallery is not an artist in my book. Even Rothko used 3 colors.



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