Tucked into a small cove in the mountains behind La Quinta in California’s lower Coachella Valley, The Quarry Golf Club is hidden, ultra-private and basically unknown to all but members of the golfing elite and the wealthy few who play the course.
First conceived by entrepreneur Bill Morrow and designed by renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio, the course is a prime example of just how beautiful golf courses can be – and of how critical a role landscaping and watershapes can play in defining their character and aesthetics.
Our challenge was to embroider the course’s 18 PGA-sanctioned, championship-caliber holes with
Even compared to other spectacular facilities established by Silicon Valley’s high-flying software industry, Oracle’s corporate campus is truly impressive.
The mirrored-glass architecture and warm, meticulously maintained grounds are only the start of the story. As you dig deeper, you find a range of employee-oriented amenities both inside and outside the buildings that make it tough to do anything but admire the audacity involved in creating such a workplace – and envy the people who work there.
The management at Oracle makes no bones about it: All of the opulence is designed to attract and retain employees capable of developing cutting-edge software systems. That’s why you’ll see designer furniture in the offices, international cuisine in the restaurants and beautiful artwork throughout the compound. It’s an amazing place, and one that has been scrupulously maintained since construction was completed in the early 1990s.
The watershapes reflect the management’s lofty sensibility and are an integral part of an overall scheme of plazas, rolling lawns, pathways and places to relax, meet or socialize with fellow workers. Our role since 1998 has been to
Finding ways to blend the angular rhythms of modern architecture with the sweeping splendors of nature constitutes one of the more difficult challenges faced by today’s watershapers.
In the case of the project pictured on these pages, we were contacted in 2002 about an enormous, modern-style home on Mercer Island overlooking the shore of Lake Washington, right near Seattle. The property was being remodeled, and the owners wanted a set of watershapes that would enhance the beauty of the two-acre estate while more convincingly integrating the geometry of the structure with its woodsy lakefront setting.
The solution: a set of watershapes that start near the house with perfect geometric forms that stick to the architect’s original design, then moves down the hillside through various transitional stages to a pond feature that looks like part of
Clear, polished water in well-designed, well-built lakes, ponds and streams: What better way to communicate a powerful message about the value of the properties that surround them?
In a commercial setting, for example, clear water in a meandering string of ponds will readily translate into office space filled with happy tenants, while the murky-water alternative could be just the eyesore that holds down the image and limits the facility’s financial success.
The same principle works for watershapes at apartment complexes, where unseemly streams will almost certainly draw complaints from unhappy residents while cool, translucent water will become a point of pride and source of relaxation for tenants who otherwise might reflexively hold their noses as they pass by. Or consider the private estate where ponds are meant for swimming: Without question, these waters must have a crystalline clarity that attests to the water’s safety and potential for recreation.
Delivering this level of water quality is more and more a part of
By Eric Triplett
I’ve always been a demon when it comes to getting everything having to do with my pond skimmers right: If they’re set up properly, they’ll work so well that you rarely need to think about them – and that’s always my goal, both for me and for my clients.
Trouble is, you usually end up securing the liner to the faceplate at a fairly awkward point in
So often, design comes down to an ability to see patterns.
I first learned this from my mother, a dressmaker who had an uncanny ability to look at garments for which there were no sewing patterns and then sit down and make them from scratch. I seem to have inherited this talent, taking in a barren landscape and quickly visualizing how it will look with plants, rocks and water. For this, I am happily in her debt.
Not everyone comes across such a gift by birth, but I believe that the ability to visualize is something most any watershaper can develop through experience and by taking the time to learn the “language” of any
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It’s a fact: A great many of the ponds and lakes in the western United States are simply not part of nature’s scheme.
Whether used for water retention, landscape beautification, fishing or swimming, these artificial, man-made bodies of water are inclined (and in some cases doomed) to be troubled, usually because of fertilizer- and pesticide-laced runoff from surrounding developed areas. Indeed, some of these problem watershapes are filled with just about the worst water the environment has to offer.
As our business has developed, a large portion of what we do has focused on setting things right in these troubled watershapes and
During a lifetime of driving up and down the part of Sunset Boulevard where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean, I’d often noticed the sign pointing to “Lake Shrine” but had never taken the time to stop and have a look.
I suppose the “shrine” part of it made me think it was the exclusive preserve of adherents or members of the Self-Realization Fellowship – an organization I knew nothing about other than that their facility was in one of Los Angeles’ most beautiful locations.
I finally overcame my hesitation about visiting the Lake Shrine a couple years ago, when a friend told me it was a place where people of all faiths and religions were welcome to stroll, meditate and enjoy the tranquility of the setting. Curiosity overcame skepticism and I finally visited the place. What I found at the Lake Shrine was a serene, calm, meditative oasis of lush, beautiful gardens surrounding a lake.
To this day many years later, the minute I drive through the entrance gate, I’m always swept up by sensations of serenity and peace – and have since
By Eric Triplett
A surprising number of my clients come into the pond-buying process without having given any thought at all to how the watershape will look after the sun goes down. That probably has something to do with the fact that the big natural ponds they’ve encountered in their lifetimes have not benefited from any kind of illumination beyond the occasional pole-mounted floodlight.
So they’re in for a treat when we complete their pond and they watch it
When we think about the challenge of literally “shaping” a body of water, we must start by thinking about edges.
The edge is the pond’s DNA or blueprint. It tells us almost everything about the pond. Without being able to observe the edge, you can’t discern whether it’s a formal pond, lake or a sewage-treatment facility. It might be a beautiful water feature or an eyesore. The edges form our reference in defining the whole setting and are consequently of the utmost importance.
We find this defining-edge concept at work in nature’s own beaches, riverbanks and lakeshores, and it is a one that extends right through the heart of watergardening and all types of watershaping, whether architectural or naturalistic (or, as I commonly classify them, formal or informal). No matter the focus or intent of our designs, we must always consider what will be happening at the water’s edge. This is the part that demands the most thought, skill, care and expenditure.
The subject of edges is so massive that it will be considered here and in articles to come. For purposes of this discussion, we’ll limit our look to the use of edges in informal pond settings and situations in which we are attempting to create the impression that the body of water in question was originally
In designing and constructing naturalistic projects for residential clients, I keep two thoughts uppermost in mind: First, the only way to create a successful, natural-seeming illusion is to base my work on the observation and study of nature; second, the only way to build fun into such an environment is to fill it a child-like sense of wonder that draws old and young alike to the natural beauty.
For the project pictured in these pages, those two thoughts were always front and center. The homeowner first contacted us about his desire to place a dramatic waterfall in front of some striking, 120-foot-tall eucalyptus trees. That vision soon expanded to include additional watershapes now woven through the majority of the steep, terraced, heavily wooded site.
Some work had already started on a set of streams and a hillside pool by the time we became involved, but when the client became acquainted with our work and saw the sort of realistic, highly detailed projects we execute, he wanted us to pick up and take the entire project to completion.
Built during the unusually wet winter southern California experienced this past year, the project was challenging in logistics, scope, variety and detail. Some of the practical challenges included hand-carrying 400-pound rock panels down 100 yards of steep, switch-back paths – and occasionally dodging rogue golf balls shanked over from the adjacent Bel Air Country Club. Despite such annoyances,
My journey in the company of water began when I was about seven years old, as soon as I was old enough to explore the countryside near my family’s farm in Southern England. It was then that I fell in love with water – wading in streams, making dams out of small rocks, sticks and mud and watching the fish darting in clear pools. Much of my summer vacation was spent on a sun-peeled green punt gliding on a lake and staring down to the bottom at the aquatic plants and water creatures. It was a formative experience.
My parents loved the water, too, and they always had some type of boat. I’ll never forget how almost every one of those modest vessels leaked profusely. This gave all of us first-hand experience of enjoying the water as we developed a visceral appreciation of the importance of
Our projects generally take two forms.
On the one hand, we’re called upon to “heal” ailing bodies of water that have been set up with inadequate or improperly functioning circulation and filtration systems. Although other people’s mistakes mean good business for us, I won’t say that we ever look forward to seeing potentially beautiful ponds or lakes cursed by unappealing or even unhealthy water conditions.
On the other hand, we often have the opportunity to join a project at the design phase and handle the installation as well, applying what we know about water quality from the first conceptualization of the watershape. That’s always a welcome prospect: Not only is it exciting to