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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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

Saguaro-Inspired

I forget who recommended I visit the landscape outside Scottsdale’s Museum of the West in Old Town. Maybe it was Danger?

Saguaro cactus ribs seemed to have inspired parts of the museum and its landscape design, at least to this New Mexico resident’s guess. Photos from 4/26/19.

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From my explorations near Camelback Road, it was only a 1-1/2 mile round trip walk in a rather pleasant, dry 100 degrees, with plenty of design-worthy window shopping and landscapes on the way, as I clung to shady areas.

Then my epiphany: Scottsdale is almost a cross of New Mexico and Beverly Hills!

I was drawn to the above by seeing the below. Multiple focal points, yet all related. Living sculptures with created sculptures, shadow patterns of multi-trunk desert trees…

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More sculptures in the dappled sunlight…

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In the shade, walking back to my car…

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Another sculpture within plant sculptures, playing off the saguaro rib walls…

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The yuccas look like Blue Yucca / Yucca rigida, often bluer than prom queen du jour Y. rostrata.

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More sidewalk patterns I’ve never seen before, at least outside the Valley of the Sun…

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Those intricate patterns might spall (fracture into adjacent concrete) in cooler winter climates, where there is some moisture with freeze / thaw. Even slight amounts of the above can limit the finishes practical on concrete paving.

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Any questions why Deergrass / Muhlenbergia rigens was used in the parkway strip?

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Deergrass looks tougher than even in the Rio Grande Valley.

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The curb cuts for storm water infiltration into plant root zones is great to see. Believe it or not, some municipalities forbid such bioswales involving street runoff, even when their own codes or guidelines imply or encourage it.

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Different, large rock chunks mixed with smaller rock line those swales, while the incredible rock slab mulch covers this spare planting of Datil or Banana Yucca / Yucca baccata. Though yet another statue steals the show.

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This ground plane cover is very unique and really compliments these bulletproof plantings. I’ve seen something similar in past wild places I’ve explored in the west.

A mesa top near Cubero NM and this morning’s hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve come to mind.

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More of my rewarding walk to / from the museum…

Duck season! Wabbit Season! I’m not sure about ducks in Scottsdale, but they sure like (jack)wabbits here. Even if my visit was actually Palo Verde season…

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“Bye bye, tomorrow, Jody’s gone to the rodeo,
And you know some good old boys are getting ready to ride,
‘Cause it’s almost Saturday night.” – Dave Edmunds

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This small but lush garden entry to a salon is appealing, even if the fountain isn’t running.

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The sweet scent of the Star Jasmine / Trachelospermum jasminoides was gently intoxicating. Mixed with more mesic agaves and yuccas, it is even better.

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After passing a tapas restaurant I should have stopped at…

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Yucca rostrata that remain from some initial plantings; they seem to do almost as well here as in their home in the high, Chihuahuan Desert borderlands.

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The Arizona Canal and some new buildings offered seeing water that wasn’t coming from spray heads midday to water token turf areas…

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I missed getting a closer look at the Soleri Bridge, barely seen in the distance, right of the canal.

An interesting shade structure north of the canal…

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I’ll follow-up the first, museum landscape portion of this post with another post, if I’m able to ask the museum’s landscape architect a few questions I have of their design. Not many questions, since their firm’s project narrative covers many details of their design.

Though I rarely ask much of anyone, preferring to figure out things for myself. But since I’m nearby and one of the LAs commented on my Instagram post, why not?