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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Power of Repetition

Some people are encouraged to be redundant, and have nothing to say. Others are not wanted to be redundant, because what they say might cause thinking.

Redundant or repetition?

Design is not always so personal and never mean, though design that comes from the personality is inviting.

Nearing high noon at the Desert Botanical Garden, this comes into view once you pay for admission.

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The 90 degree intersection of the low seat  / garden wall through the line of Ferocactus wislizeni is effective!

In my case, I bought a membership, as I’ll be frequenting it often with my various company I have all summer. I might even go back a couple more times this week. Members also get in at 6 am Wednesdays and Sundays, which Sonoran Desert dwellers know as that hour when it’s tolerable outside in summer.

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A grove of flexible, white-trunked Mariosousa willardiana really provides a cooling visual.

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Scott in Tucson tells me his took 16F with no damage, so the books need some revising. But Juan Blanco in El Paso said 5F (plus 66 consecutive hours below 32F) froze all specimens of the same species in their garden. So, let that inform you as to hardiness, though Tucson to El Paso is more different than some perceive.

There’s much to the 32F mark and how it happens or the duration, so yet another big coffin nail to those who dislike lists, patterns, and statistics…

This exfoliating bark…

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These 1991 City Boundary Project markers point to the summer solstice’s sunrise direction. I hope to visit then. Fewer stone columns would not be as effective as what the Martino / Pinto team did here.

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And my favorite place on my hour-plus walk Thursday afternoon, following some other visits and $11 yet mediocre ice cream. It’s Scottsdale, after all, so you can pay much for perfection or much for the opposite.

This is an interior design firm’s front, which appears to not connect to their parking lot…the entrance looked as though it was on the side.

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Masses of small agaves with the gray concrete planter curb works so well. I had a residential client who moved before I got to see a smaller scale of that I envisioned fill in.

If I had a design office again, I would do so much differently, including use the sourcing model of many interior designers and architects like the diva, which helps pay more and gets you something like this.

“If” may need to become “when”!

Their wood planters framing the front are me…their upward taper, and the pair of aloes contained within.

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The designer here really created some interest, in the intense light of the low desert, more spreading and scattered than the laser-beam focus of the high desert. This light bleaches the terra cotta, concrete, and wood out visually and in a few years, literally.

And this works.

Far better than temporary plantings, where much needs to be removed and redone to satisfy those without enough patience.

“Never give up”, someone once said.

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4/27/19 weather:
95F / 70F / 0.00 or 35c / 21c / 0.0
(we hit 101F Friday, so now we’re getting closer to summer…but that’s still late spring in the low desert)

Inspirations

Many people become designers by having something capture their emotions while functioning well, then they adapt it.

When done with consideration to one’s unique space, users, and the originator, that isn’t plagarism. Everything is inspired by something else. Very often we see other built designs, but ultimately that comes from something else in the natural world.

At the Desert Botanical Garden last week, I did that very thing.

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Durable Barriers: steel posts and angle irons allowed to oxidize, as well as wire mesh and welding, combine a simple effect and rustic ambiance; I like both.

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While the round stones-impressed-into-cement-in-a-handrail isn’t practical financially, using rebar verticals to allow plants to grow behind or through is desirable. Many of you know my appreciation of soft and sharp in nature or gardens.

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Opaque Panels: sometimes these are taller than me, and other times like this they are short. No matter, what a great backdrop to create a focal point.

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Generous Desert Forms: one may get “that looks like Phoenix…” (in a childish whine) from those who reject anything not Denver X Monet X tundra. I have. But part of regionalism is abstracting wild forms into a small vignette.

Round cactus pads dancing between vertical, stoic yucca trunks and some other spots of spikiness is the condensed version of countless land areas in my region. So, why not amp up our spiky sparsness?

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I now live where regionalism is more acceptable. Those yuccas and cacti are all Chihuahuan and not remotely Phoenix (Sonoran), so they borrowed from us! While they work handsomely there, they work even better in Las Cruces.

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Informal Hedging: softening or blocking the background, to enclose and privatize a space all year must be done without losing existing scenes and borrowed views. Such a balance will be a challenge in more than one area of my compact property.

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While I had several Rhus ovata / Sugarbush at my first Albuquerque house, they were not used at my last house, so they get a leg up! This plant’s crisp, evergreen foliage and colors always got accolades.

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Unusual Fillers: another specific plant packed in more than I would have thought grabbed my attention. Euphorbia antisyphillitica / Candelilla is native to lower elevations in the Chihuahuan Desert. Rarely used in southern New Mexico’s valley, it sustained only a little freeze damage at -5F to +5F in 2011, so this could fill in some tight planting areas I have. Maybe.

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Water: on an incredibly balmy April day in 2012, this water feature told a story better than on my chilly, rain-washed “winter” day as I wore a bulky jacket. The form and warmer weather lighting nails down habitat related to the architecture and ecology. The bird might agree, too.

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Many unbelievable situations conspired to get me out of probably never doing landscape design for others again, but that changes when it’s for me! I can see clean lines that reflect my modest home’s form, including a water feature with sculptural, spreading desert plants that thrive where I am.

So, ignore saguaros, palo verdes, or other tender, low desert fare. That tends to come with the territory in Phoenix.

Yes, there will be Gambel’s Quail, Curvebill Thrasher, Roadrunner, and several species of hummingbirds in my garden, especially if I can splurge on such a water feature.

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Crunchy and Permeable: with only 10 percent of the space here, I’ll have less of this same thing, probably with larger 3/4 inch crushed rock so it’s less messy when walking inside onto carpet in the office to change the song, or the bedrooms.

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Imagine the warm, crunchy sound walking on it, with the ability of the surface to absorb storm water to benefit tree roots. I’ll have less impervious paving than I did at the last house.

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Light It Up: in summer, darkness means it’s bearable to be outside. Even if I momentarily spot the glowing eyes of a mountain lion or the careful pace of a coyote watching me on the grill. And at any time of the year, it’s nice to extend indoor living out, even if one bundles up to do so during our drive-by winter.

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