Scottsdale Quarter Walkabout

Pre-great recession Kierland Commons (KC) now has a neighbor with a similar range of tenants: Scottsdale Quarter (SQ). And outdoor living considerations edging out similar, regional developments in Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso… 

What makes this better? It’s clearly attention to the outdoor spaces including the quality of landscape design and maintenance.

Enroute is a simple entry wall using concrete block screening KC’s south parking lot is lower maintenance and long-term cost than a stuccoed wall; it’s at least as attractive.

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The grouping of desert trees, Palo Brea / Parkinsonia praecox, completes the scene with other xeric plants. No comments on their shaping…

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The amenities of SQ and KC are complimentary, as is the thoughtful connection between both, across the 6 lanes of often-busy Scottsdale Road. It uses pedestrian-activated signals at either side of the crossing and in the median, for a safe, two-part crossing either direction:

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Those aloes are a bit dry, but what wouldn’t be this summer? Droughty Dave has clearly transformed the monsoon season into the nonsoon season, expanding his effect from New Mexico into Arizona.

It would be easy to repair the drip system or increase the watering time. Deep and infrequent, not shallow and more often.

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The Valley of the Sun is into outdoor living and the use of planters to define small outdoor dining areas of various tenants.

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Nothing special is here even in the plant mix, but since I’ve spent enough money post-Albuquerque move on this retailer’s mail order…

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Container and planter variations galore, often with spiky and other interesting plants, adorn many walkways and patios.

Since many patios have misters, this only enhances human comfort and plant survival.

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Entering or exiting SQ, one does so under alles of stately Date Palm / Phoenix dactylifera, from the analogous climates / climate twins of the middle eastern deserts, such as Baghdad or some oasis in Algeria.

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Mixing in some adapted signatures of the southwestern uplands or Coahuila.

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The SQ splash pad area and plaza has some perimeter plantings, mixing spiky agaves and flowering lantanas under more date palms. And often a seat wall, that hardens the edges better than a bench. This time, it’s sandstone slabs.

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This splash pad area is so well-done as an oasis, I’m still beside myself.

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The planting pockets along the interior streetscapes are actually meaningful, not token and too small to be of any value, as in some other western “lifestyle centers”.

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Some retailers who sell outdoor furnishings create complimentary displays that help sell what they have. Their devotion of valuable space to do that shows.

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Along the Scottsdale Road frontage, an attempt was made to incorporate native plant signatures of the ecoregion, ocotillos and teddy bear chollas.

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The planting design could have been better laid out, but this also could have been a tough sell to the developer, when dealing with the more delicate winter visitors from a few compass directions I know of, or even lawn-worshipping locals.

This is far more visually effective than what the latter often default to, even at a square foot cost 3-4 times that of the above planting: artificial turf.

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The use of fencepost cacti here works nicely along SQ’s Butherus Drive frontage.

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Walking home along Scottsdale Road, SQ now across the street, there’s something that’s become common here: trees in large rooftop planters.

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Designers on many Phoenix projects often know their climate, then figure out which plants will grow in limited soil volumes for plant roots. This is much less common than what many believe! Roofs already require structural support, without the weight of plants, soil, and water.

They are pulling it off well, it seems. Those were Olive / Olea europaea on Restoration Hardware’s 3rd floor outdoor furnishings section.

An adjacent restaurant also has a rooftop area with more planters, expanding outdoor living onto roof spaces. I’ll try posting on some other examples of walls or roofs with tough plants on them.

Many lessons are here for those who wish to learn, at least those not saddled by self-imposed dislike of people with different means or perceived beliefs than them. Phoenix seems to really be hated by more than one I know who prejudges it on the above. Too bad that hasn’t kept down their population…

And at least lessons to be gained on such projects aren’t mostly what not to do.

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Apple Store – Old Town Scottsdale

Walking into Scottsdale Fashion Square, a look to the side revealed their Apple Store, with a see-through view to the Camelback Road streetscape.

Of course, upon entering, I covertly snapped some pictures to help inspire or at least provide another look at minimalist planting design in the Sonoran Desert. Perhaps you can adapt something to your own space and ecoregion?

Or refine and enhance it, taking it higher! (i.e. my design bias here)

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The approach is a long planter of faux cacti. A tie-in with what’s on the outside of the store, but faux is still faux.

How about sculpture feature placed in a minimal fashion, related to the living sculpture outside? That would be similar to the relationship of the interior benches to forms inside.

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Outside it’s massings of fencepost cacti and aloes under date palms and ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde. With their low walls, this common plant treatment here provides a good start or even finish.

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The building’s perforated shade canopy is the star here, with a very pleasing pattern cast onto the paving from the laser-beam sun.

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Agave parryi var. truncata is used in a similar rhythm or spacing as the perforations.

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Inside their roomy store’s lounge, downstairs from the main sales area up top, where one can plug in and hang out, or get assistance with their device.

No coffee or water. But a refreshing lack of being bothered by Apple staff, while taking a rest from the mall or the desert’s generous sun and warmth.

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In the evening, stairs leading up and out from that lounge area come alive. Same similarly massed plantings as on the upper area facing Camelback…

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The perforated canopy reveals further dimension with dusk.

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The canopy reminds me of the Mac keyboards I once owned.

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And those lit stairs and sitting terraces!

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It seems there should be some complimentary containers and plantings, specified for the architecture and desert conditions.

Currently, the space needs to be “activated”, the buzzword-du-jour of some designers. Plants are needed, but I do not mean annuals or flower color.

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A reader of my Instagram feed a few nights ago, seeing this pop up on his #marfa search, joked about a Marfa Apple store like the nearby Prada Marfa!

The stair lighting does remind me of Flavin’s interior lighting at Chinati.

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No matter, it will have to be cooler, even compared to the temperatures at home, to enjoy such things in the evening. Let alone anytime soon in Scottsdale!

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Do aspects of minimalism and contemporary art and architecture leave you wanting? Do you think those can be finished better or made more human, too?

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7/13/19 weather:
110F / 91F / T or 43c / 33c / T (yes, that’s the low!)

Kierland Commons Walkabout

Kierland Commons is a pleasant, mixed-use development in North Scottsdale, a few blocks walk from my peaceful summer condo residence. Its pleasant feel is based in large part on great landscape and hardscape elements for such a space in the desert.

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Phoenix dactylifera at a key intersection, classic.

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Plus, we’re in the Phoenix metro.  Like coincidences and analogous climates? Then, compare the climates of Scottsdale, US and Baghdad, Iraq. The latter only lacks a late summer monsoon.

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Sensible shade, native and adapted species, and mostly southwestern or at least arid-region forms. No silly gesturing to dissimilar places.

I have no idea if the varied shade structures were part of the original design or added later, but my guess is the latter given some planters look to be suffering from shade.

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There’s less climate / desert denial and more horticultural / design savvy seen here or in the Valley of the Sun than that place 6 hours NE. (into tucking temperature-hardy but thirsty plants into the most horridly hot spots under overhangs or against walls, then blaming their failure on “cold”)

Hence my guess; designers here tend to get plantsmanship and design principles.

Many people walking in the cool of the morning like me still choose the shady side, under a combination of built and grown shade.

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Great shirts, by the way…little at Kierland for the guys.

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See how this works…built and grown shading? Always a challenge in limited rooting areas and dense development patterns, but this met the challenge.

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I remember when Kierland was first being developed on a (long) past Mountain States’ landscape architect conference. Streets disecting Sonoran Desert with spare creosote bushes and palo verdes, or bladed land. There were even a few stands of Ericameria nauseosa on a nearby (former) arroyo, unusual at this low, 1400 foot elevation.

Now, it’s all built up and a great place to walk, only 2 blocks from my condo for the summer.

 

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Their large container plantings are a mixed bag, but the thought was there. This is a good specimen of Texas Mountain Laurel / Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, which loves alkaline soils and limestone rock. It does well in the Valley.

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Yet the bougainvilleas are sheared into submission and look like they will never grow overhead. Are there concerns of possible damage from their aggressive growth and weight on the shade canopies? If not, what a waste.

If the shade structures are able to support such woody vines, their walkways would be greatly complimented by carefully-pruned bougainvillea branches covered in brilliant flowers.

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This is not a problem as much as a proactive lesson to those not used to the desert’s high alkalinity in the water…calcium deposits from irrigated containers requires maintenance to avoid staining hardscape.

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Good use of paving patterns here, again, from stencils or some sort of repeated formwork.

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I ate here finally, though the menu is a bit too SoCal for my tastes. But my carne asada tacos were well-prepared – healthy and tasty.

What drew me in? The care to provide an attractive landscape of part hardscape and part plantings, and here…SHADE from a ramada!

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Some don’t like their random planting of too many spikes; I’m on the fence, but I tend to side with them. My 2 Bay Area sisters did like it, so perhaps regional differences or just my design snobbery!

I think everyone likes this fresh manner of tilework on the garden wall.

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To me, this is refreshing with cool, coastal colors that contrast where I’m from in New Mexico (or Arizona), the dry land with most-every wall in beige or tan stucco.

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Still good if I could adjust a few plants, though the Sticks on Fire / Euphorbia tirucalli seem too close.

And we know what happens, when the usual landscape maintenance crews in the Desert Southwest see overplanted landscapes, as they start to grow in…

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7/8/19 weather:
105F / 76F / 0.00 or 41c / 24c / .00