A Blog about Landscape Design in San Diego
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I'm a landscape designer and contractor living in Encinitas, CA.

 

 

 

 

http://www.fallhomegardenshow.com/seminar/designing-the-modern-garden

 

 

On the 14th of September 2013 Ryan Prange will be giving a seminar on “Designing the Modern Garden” at the Fall Home Garden Show. The talk will outline a brief history of modernism in the landscape, including key players and the Architects who inspired them. The talk will focus on: Modern vs. environmentally friendly, tailoring your garden to your “not-so-modern” home, and the materials and hallmarks of a modern garden.

 

Everyone should join in and visit the show and the seminar. Come support Falling Waters and learn a few things about Modern design too!

San Diego Simple

San Diego Simple

 

Current Projects

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Roof top design

Roof top design

Falling Waters has been plenty busy this year designing spaces for clients in Southern California. We thought we would share a few pictures from a recently completed project.

Roof Top design

Roof Top design

This residence in Pacific Beach, CA is a modern dwelling made for a single family home. The deck above needed much improvement and was not being used as efficiently as it could have been. We decided to re-imagine the layout and make two distinct spaces which still allowed ease of flow through the space and be usable for lounging and entertaining. A new plant palette brought in new life to the space and the use of materials gave the project more depth. We are pleased with the outcome and hope you guys enjoy it too.

 

 

 

Hand crafted landscape in progress

Hand crafted landscape in progress

 

 

 

Lets talk about what it means to be a landscape designer.

We take an idea.

We conceptualize it.

We design it and figure out the logistics.

Then, we create.

Piece by piece a landscape is handcrafted. The landscape is crafted by a designer and by a contractor and a laborer. These are, in essence, handmade spaces by craftsmen. To begin a project we have to break ground. This sets off the building process by which the space is altered. From here on out we are handcrafting the landscape. We are manipulating the visceral qualities of the land we are designing and we are creating an ultimate and large scale hand crafted item. Every scoop of soil is a part of the process. Every nail hammered, every plant placed, a part of the process. The result becomes a custom creation unique to each owner.

The craftsmen

The craftsmen

Don’t we, as owners of things generally appreciate and place higher value on items which are handmade? The status of handmade items almost always brings greater pride to an owner of any equivalent item that comes off the shelf. It must be the knowing that my item was personally thought of and conceived. That a skilled set of hands used a selection of custom tools to build and create. That a person devoted time specifically for my item, with sweat and exertion, fatigue and a completed hand crafted item as a result. To know these things and know it did not come from a factory line or is 1 of 1 million plastic molds brings high satisfaction to a client and purchaser of things.

Walter Gironas Leather craft

Walter Gironas Leather craft

A friend of mine is a maker of leather goods. He cuts, burns, stains and stitches raw leather into crafted goods. The end product of the raw leather is a wallet, a handbag, a wrapped leather bound sketchbook. All of these items are available at any retailer. The big box retailer carries them along with the boutique store. Though, his is his own. A product unique to his technique. With it comes character and originality and effort and many man hours. Those types of things are appreciated greatly by some. Those types of things are valued much higher than an off the shelf item.

Leather holster

Leather holster

Let us think of the landscape again. Can we begin to see landscape design as one large, unique, intimate and original handcrafted item? The hardware store will always be there to offer those factory made and cookie cutter landscape accessories. But to own an original idea, now that is something more personal. I know I find more joy and comfort in knowing my item is originally mine. The competition is growing and there is a surge coming of highly creative people into the industry. These designers will bring variations to their craft. However, our craft and craftsmanship will be soley ours. Our signature will be our craft and craftmanship, and that sets us apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautification Awards

Beautification Awards

 

The Beautification awards are annual awards given out by the California Landscape Contractors Association. The awards are split into regions of California. Falling Waters Landscape participated in the San Diego chapter. Our partner company RB Prange inc. also submitted entry’s for the maintenance categories. The Awards are separated into different categories based on size and scope of project as well as for residential and commercial projects. This years ceremony was held on the University of San Diego Campus in the plaza of the Joan B Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice overlooking Mission Bay and the San Diego Harbor. Industry professionals were on hand from both large and small companies with hopes that their projects would be selected for achievements in exemplary landscape design and maintenance.

 

Beautification Awards

Beautification Awards

The dinner was held outdoors in the plaza followed by the awards ceremony inside the theater. There were laughs and cheers abound and pleasant surprises for a variety of companies. Falling Waters Landscape Inc. entered in the categories of Water Smart landscapes (water conservation within the landscape), and Medium Residential Design. Our maintenance submittal came from RB Prange Inc. Falling Waters won for the Water Smart Landscape Category and RB Prange won an award for commercial maintenance!! Our Submittal for medium design did not receive an award and we assumed was the end of the night for us. The last three awards however were the biggest awards of the night that included all of the submittals and Falling Waters was honored with the sweepstakes award, which was given to best overall landscape design. We were all very pleasantly surprised for the recognition and honor bestowed on us.

 

Beautification Awards

Beautification Awards

 

 

The Beautification awards came and went and was a great success for us. We have now won awards in four consecutive years and this years was our biggest yet. Until next years awards ceremony, Falling Waters will continue to make every landscape we design an award winning landscape.

 

Beautification Awards

Beautification Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

On June 7th and 8th Waterwise Botanicals nursery in Escondido,CA  hosted the 1st annual Succulent Celebration, a festival dedicated to all things succulents. Falling Waters Landscape was on hand to represent the company and take part in the festivities of the weekend. As I approached the front entrance I knew it would be lively since the roads were lined with cars on either side. The Festival was truly a celebration of all things succulents as every guest speaker was an expert on succulents.

The respected and accomplished speakers on hand included :

Photojournalist & bestselling author Debra Lee Baldwin

Plant Research and Development Manager Kelly Griffin

Landscape Designer Michael Buckner

Waterwise Botanical founder Tom Jesch

Designers Chris Berg, Carmen Contreras

Solana Succulents owner Jeff Moore

Mission Hills Nursery owner Tiger Palafox

 

Debra Lee Baldwin was a crowd favorite for capturing the crowd with her humor and knowledge. On friday morning she had the attention of the largest crowd of the weekend with her talk on her top 10 favorite succulents for the garden. Her Potting demonstration on saturday was also a favorite for her quick yet beautiful succulent bouquets that awed the crowd for their visual appeal while using a minimal variety of species and a few simple design principles. Each and every speaker gave insightful talks about their respective topics and provided informative tips for homeowners and their gardens.

 

 

 

 

Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin

Tiger Palafox Entertained with an informative talk about myths regarding succulent landscapes and let everyone know that mixing succulents with non succulents is OKAY. People tend to be afraid to experiment mixing different types of plants at times. The talk also informed on the extreme hardiness of succulents and how they don’t need established root systems for survival. Succulents will however thrive and aesthetically look and perform better with regular watering.

 

 

 

Succulent Festival

Succulent Celebration

Waterwise Botanicals plant experts were on hand throughout the entire weekend helping guests who meandered through the rows of varieties of plants and succulents being sold. Nursery tours were held throughout the day while maintenance and care tips were providing guests the know-how for a successful garden.

 

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

The festival brought vendors selling pots and unique flower arraignments in interesting containers. Some vendors even ventured from Santa Monica, CA while guests traveled from as far as Oregon. The crowds which consisted of people from all walks of life were busy from morning to late afternoon. Bbq Food Trucks were on hand during the lunch break and brought long lines which allowed people to mingle and talk plants while enjoying mac n cheese brisket sandwiches on sourdough bread.

 

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

 

Sketches

Sketches

Breaks between the speakers allowed guests to meander through the nursery and allowed me for a quick 5 minute sketch of the succulents in the display gardens. Sketching can bring inspiration from time to time and may be the catalyst for the next set of Falling Waters Landscape designs.

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

 

 

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

 

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

Sketches

Sketches

The 1st annual Succulent Celebration by Waterwise Botanicals was surely a great success. The public was well informed on a variety of subjects about their succulent gardens and topics of pest care, irrigation, complimentary plants and tips for plant care were flowing from many a professional. The public was flowing through the entrance from morning to night with cars parked along the road as far as the eye could see as they, just as I were excited to have the opportunity to hear from experts in the industry and browse the large catalog of succulents available at Waterwise Botanicals. We can’t wait to come next year and see what the celebration brings us.

Succulent Celebration

Succulent Celebration

 

Within without- James Turrell

Within without- James Turrell

 

In the late summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to view an installation by James Turrell at the Venice Biennale in Italy. This is a yearly world art exhibition showcasing acclaimed progressive artists from all over the globe. Turrell’s exhibition was the only installation out of hundreds with a line to view. I waited for nearly two hours in order to enter a room with two other people for no more than 5 minutes. The installation had not a single object inside. The only things encompassing the room were space, light and total disorientation. That was the point though. While waiting in line we stood in anticipation of what to expect of the visual and perceptual artist and his latest installation. Many of Turrell’s works engulf ones visual perception of the space they occupy and subsequently alter your perception of the light that is emitted either extremely apparent or subtle. It is difficult to describe his installations as you are usually attempting to describe perceptual illusions.

Apani Installation by James Turrell at the Biennale, Italy

Ganzfeld APANI, 2011, Venice Italy Biennale

When I emerged around the corner towards the entrance we were looking at an illuminated wall shining a bright neon colored rectangle. At the base of the wall was a set of stairs running down either end and leading to a base like a pyramid. We remember not knowing what we were supposed to be looking at until out of nowhere a man walked out of the projection. The way the light reflected off the rectangle made the depth of the neon rectangle dissolve and subsequently was the first perceptual experience. Upon entering the room we are instantly void of depth and given the feeling of standing in an endless room with no end. The only cue we receive is a slight incline of the room. after the first few minutes the acknowledgment of the space we occupied started to become apparent and the size of the room began to emerge. Then just as it began, it was over and we were walking out the wall and down the stairs. Our experience was so brief yet incredibly profound. The wait was well worth being taken on Turrell’s visceral ride of light and space. The installation let me know of the great impact a designer can imbue to a viewer with such a brief  visual and experiential moment.

Ganzfeld APANI 2011, Venice, Italy Biennale

Ganzfeld APANI 2011,
Venice, Italy Biennale

 

Ganzfeld APANI 2011 Venice, Italy Biennale

Ganzfeld APANI 2011, Venice, Italy Biennale

James Turrell has been working in the light and space art world since the 1960′s and received a Macarthur “Genius” grant in 1984 for his contributions to the art world and progressing the field of light, space and land art installations. He is widely considered one of the signature artists of his generation and his works are scattered all over the world in various forms. His works began manipulating artificial light sources in isolated environments to create illusions to ones perception with light. Turrell then began experimenting with natural celestial light and building structures that would compliment the light to create illusions of depth and perception.

 

 

Diving the Light

Diving the Light

Dividing the Light

Dividing the Light

Turrell’s lifelong project however actually takes place inside an extinct volcano called Roden Crater. The idea is to bring all of his works’ ideologies into one mega land art installation. His aim is to bring the light from the sun and moon into the crater and cultivate celestial experiences that are inspired by the ancient cultures who also looked up to the sky and created mega structures to study and honor the celestial cycles.

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater

James Turrell in front of Roden Crater

“My work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing. I’m also interested in the sense of presence of space; that is space where you feel a presence, almost an entity — that physical feeling and power that space can give.

Roden Crater has knowledge in it and it does something with that knowledge. Environmental events occur; a space lights up. Something happens in there, for a moment, or for a time. It is an eye, something that is itself perceiving. It is a piece that does not end. It is changed by the action of the sun, the moon, the cloud cover, by the day and the season that you’re there, it has visions, qualities and a universe of possibilities.” – James Turrell

Within Roden Crater

Within Roden Crater

 James Turrell can’t be considered a typical landscape designer by any measure. James Turrell can be considered an innovative and immensely progressive thinker and designer. His attitude toward art and the many manipulations one may incorporate to alter the perceptual experience have most definitely affected the design and art field. Turrell’s work is successful for it’s transcendent characteristics for not being conventional art nor conventional landscape design. The blending of mediums has been significant in progressing both fields and creating lasting impressions on those who have the opportunity to experience his installations first hand.

 

Skyspace

Skyspace

As I step outside the office and look towards the mountains beyond the carpet of suburbia sprawled before me I visualize a place unknown, untamed and uninterrupted. Dangerous and undomesticated animals are sure to be lurking within those hills. The normal resources I have at my disposal are not available to me within the trees. Stripped of familiar avenues, I must find my own way through this novel landscape. If asked, I’m sure many people would call what I am describing as the wilderness. Folks may say we live in civilization and that is the wild. I sometimes wonder to myself where this idea came to be. Surely the places unknown beyond the familiar comforts were once described in books and newspapers. They must have written of far off landscapes of mountains or deserts unfit for man. People would be terrified, while others a bit excited. In the end though, the wild is over there and we are here. Somewhere along the way we as a society made that distinction. Somewhere along the way we drew a line and it has stuck, unwavering for years on end. Are we supposed to know that we must live here and not there?  Must we be tamed and abiding members of society and deprived of any wildness that may be hidden within us?

Into the wild

Into the wild

What seems to emerge from this is that what we are describing are merely states of mind and designations. We choose to say that those mountains, forests and deserts are the wilderness. The default definition of wilderness became those areas on earth not developed by us and left as is as a sort of preservation of what once was. It is a place of danger without hand rails and caution signs. Enter at your own risk. Similarly, the wild was given this designation as a place unknown, uncomfortable and not refined with wildness as what occurs within the wild. If I act wild then what am I doing? Am I undignified and out of control? What I end up seeing is that we chose to designate wilderness, the wild and wildness as how it is defined today.

What I hope to happen is that we start seeing a paradigm shift in how we view these terms. If you were plucked from a small farming town and dropped in the middle of Tokyo wouldn’t you then be in the middle of the wilderness. You would be surrounded by the wild. Everyone around you characterizing a sense of wildness that you are unfamiliar with. All signage would be foreign to you and thus you would have to find your own way around with hardly any way of communicating with the inhabitants. The large autonomous forest replaced by man made sky scrappers engulfing your plane of sight would still play the same role within your existence wouldn’t they? They would still be large structures looming over you as a reminder of your new wild.

We are so trained to live within the constructs of the progression of societal evolution that we at times fail to forge ahead and create our own opinions about the norms that have been ingrained into our heads. We created wilderness in that we have defined it to be as it is. Stopping traffic in the middle of rush hour to play a game of soccer would be an entirely new and foreign plane and environment that would be completely wild to you. Your untamed wildness may emerge and what once was defined as a freeway brings a new definition. What if we designed intended wilderness’? What if we made landscapes unfamiliar to you? Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so. If we are to re-examine the definitions that we created then wouldn’t we be poised to create new and avant-garde landscapes prime for success? We must embrace these possibilities to fully realize our potential to create and re-create. The mountains and deserts will prevail. Is it the only wilderness? No. Embrace the idea that you are entering the wild when you alter your normal routine. Acknowledge that taking a hike on a trail is not wild at all but completely man made. Your state of mind determines what is wild and what is not. I hope everyone enters the wild from time to time.

 

“And the walls became the world all around” – Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucked within the hillside of a dessert landscape amid the ever dry and relentless sun sits a parcel of land. This parcel like any other in the area is the product of environmental forces that have molded, eroded and defined this place for millennia. Curated first by a vast emptiness and followed then by the native flora and fauna. Lastly, our human nomadic and permanent settlement made claim to this parcel and built. Begotten on this particular place in 1947 was a masterpiece. This is the product of a mans vision which defined an era of architecture and still maintains an enduring influence over 70 years later. The Kaufmann house in Palm Springs CA, by Richard Neutra is a definitive piece of Mid-Century Modern architecture that escalated the profession and set benchmarks for minimalist modern design set in contrast to its stark, raw and un-compromised landscape.  Throughout the years however, multiple tenants made additions and changes to the original design and the  Kaufmann house no longer  retained its luster that it once held. Years later a phone call was made to a small and fairly unknown design build firm in Southern California. The call was to commission the restoration of the mid-century masterpiece and re-invigorate the architectural character it once had. That small office was Marmol Radziner + Associates and today they have published a new book that just arrived at our office today.

Kaufmann House 1947

Kaufmann House 1947

 

The book is by Marmol Radziner + Associates and it’s titled Between Architecture and Construction. Marmol Radziner + Associates is a design-build Architecture firm out of Santa Monica CA, and has been specializing in Modernist design for over 20 years. For over 100 years the American Institute of Architects (AIA) banned design build practices due to potential conflict of interest and designated architecture as something separate from building. Marmol Radziner + associates saw this as “counterintuitive, because architecture is about the object.” The company has transformed the design-build industry into their own which has made them uniquely poised to “relclaim control” of a projects development from beginning to end. Their philosophy defines themselves first as craftspeople who embrace an array of disciplines and responds to the surrounding context given to them. They have also recently embraced and taken to a whole other level the industry of prefab. Their very own prefab factory designs, creates and assembles neo-prefab architecture that redefines what we all have previously thought of when considering prefabricated building design.

The plane of existence between design and build is often at odds with each other because of inherently different philosophies. Falling Waters admires Marmol Radziner + Associates for their pioneering of the design-build cohesion that exists within their company and we also strive to meld our vision and design to the work that we actually build. We feel like we hold our own within that context of designing modern inclined landscapes that push boundaries and coalesce the design build gap that exists in our industry.

You all should check out this book that describes the design-build process through many of their projects and that we find to be pretty awesome and within our philosophy that we should “extend our design process into the craft of production.”

Here is the cover of their book

Here is the cover of their book

 

 

 

 

 

Falling Waters Landscape Inc. is now G3 Certified!

“We like to think of ourselves as a mycorrhizal organization; G3 integrates the policies, programs, and people required to generate sustainable green careers, and energize communities to protect and restore their urban watersheds.”

Green Gardens Group

Green Gardens Group

Our official certification training focused on sustainable landscaping techniques, urban watershed restoration, and community organizing. We are very excited to be G3 certified and to represent a responsible effort to foster healthier and sustainable landscapes and cultivate a more environmentally conscious community.

 

It's Naitve. It's Sustainable. It's Ocean Friendly.

It’s Naitve. It’s Sustainable.
It’s Ocean Friendly.

We love being a part of this paradigm shift in thinking about how we design our coastal landscapes. Southern California is such a great place to live with possibly the best weather in the world. Though we must not forget that we live in a very arid region as well. As we travel through San Diego we see an abundance of green lawns, tropical trees and water being used with an out of sight out of mind mentality. Without the enormous water contributions of Northern California and the Colorado River, Southern California would visually look completely different than the lush green wonderland we see today. As Designers and stewards of the landscape we have a responsibility to design with the knowledge we posses about our lack of expendable water. We need water for our homes and for necessary uses but typically 70% of our home water bill goes straight to the water usage in our yards. If we are capable of mitigating this water usage then we have the responsibility to do so.

 

An ocean friendly home

An ocean friendly home

What people don’t realize is that Southern California and more specifically our Mediterranean climate houses a broad range of flora that is adapted to arid climate regions but is also strikingly beautiful. What I’ve noticed is that people will request a plant palette that is tropical in nature. Not because it is particularly what they want, but because it is what they are surrounded by. They see their neighbors and friends with that particular plant palette and then decide they want something similar. A pattern then begins and ultimately San Diego begins to have a narrow vision of beauty in the landscape with an even narrower palette of plants to choose from. Falling Waters Landscape understands the disconnect that is occurring and is attempting to change that cycle.

We have partnered with the Surfrider Foundation and the Ocean Friendly Garden program which seeks to promote conservation, permeability, and retention. They understand urban runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution and we as official contractors for the program are actively enforcing these tenants in our own designs in the coastal Southern California Region.

 

Progressive thinking leads to good things

Progressive thinking leads to good things

Our display at the Spring Home/Garden show won best of show for placing a focus on these ideas and putting them into action by utilizing water cisterns to capture water, installing swales to help water infiltrate into the soil and water table, using mulch to ease evaporation and also help water more easily permeate through the soil. We used permeable pavers to reduce runoff and incorporate native and drought tolerant plants. The combination of these ideas then becomes a cohesive and beautiful and functional design that all Southern California homes could and should utilize. We are very proud of our partnership with the Surfrider Foundation and that our conscious efforts were recognized as a responsible and beautiful solution to the current state of landscapes in Southern California. We would like to give a thanks to all who helped out in the implementation of the display along with all of our sponsors and partners. Til next year. . “When one tugs on one thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world” -
John Muir