PWP Landscape Architecture

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McConnell Foundation

Location

Redding, California

Completion Date

1997

Client

The McConnell Foundation

Architect

NBBJ, Seattle

Categories

>Gardens

The site of the new foundation complex was 150 ecologically-degraded acres owned for years by a local road contractor, who had created four large ponds by means of roughly-graded earthen dams. The site was heavily grazed by herds of mules, which had eaten the native shrubs and grasses, thus destroying the grassland ecology and creating serious erosion. Native tree cover had been reduced to a scattering of live oaks. Encroaching suburban development was visible from most of the site. The project became a well-demonstrated ecological repair of a large foothill site. The whole park was re-graded to the rolling forms of its previous foothill contours; topsoil was replaced and sowed with native flowers and grasses; riparian areas were reestablished; and a major reforestation of oak, pine, and cedar was encouraged at the outer edges of the site and in the adjacent subdivisions to soften the view of tract housing. Formally the design ties together three ponds at dramatically different levels. Reconstructed dams serve as angular linear pathways; an entrance road, carefully fitted to the existing grade, curves through an existing stand of oaks and a persimmon grove. The arrival plaza is softened by a cluster of live oaks. Artistic features include a rock “beach,” a stone jetty, a mist fountain, and a small island with a fountain of black granite and still water surrounded by a ring of bald cypresses. The landscape design reacts to the California weather cycle and reveals the importance of water. The rolling grassland foothills turn green in winter and yellow in summer, and in the rainy season the wetlands provide contrasting green rings around the ponds.