Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Andrea Cochran

Around the time I went to Stern Grove, Andrea Cochran gave a talk at UC Berkeley. She’s another one of the west coast landscape architects with interesting stonework in her projects. She mostly spoke about the projects in the recent book Andrea Cochran: Landscapes, but with a lot more photos, including construction photos and some before photos of the projects. I was most interested in the stonework at two of her projects up in the Napa area.

I smile every time I look at photos of the riprap at the base of the wall in this landscape. It’s as if the stonemasons never cleaned up after the project or as if they were building a breakwater for a flood that has yet happen. It’s landscape humor, whether or not the designer actually meant it to be. But it also works visually; breakwaters and seawalls are always striking, and most mountain headwalls have talus heaped at their base, so it’s a familiar form to have the clean face of the wall above the jumble of the riprap. She said that she added the riprap because the walls were too strong visually, that their line was dominating the landscape and she needed something to soften the effect. It’s not often that adding stone will soften a landscape.

The other interesting stone element from her book and presentation is a pyramid made from construction rubble. After excavating for a building on the site, they had literally tons of rock to get rid of and the landscape needed something to fill the view across the reflecting pool, so she channeled Michael Heizer and had the rubble stacked into a pyramid. She said everyone was skeptical until it was built. Like the riprap, a bold design move.

Both projects won ASLA awards, with more photos and info about the projects, titled Walden Studios and Stone Edge Farms, at the ASLA website. There’s also a recent interview with her on the ASLA blog, covering a lot of the other topics she talked about at the slideshow.

There’s a video about her here.


7 Responses to “Andrea Cochran”

  1. December 18th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Loree / danger garden says:

    That is a wonderful visual! (the piles of stone next to the clean wall). Inspiring.

  2. December 18th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Gayle Madwin says:

    I like the rubble in front of the wall. I’m not so sure I like the pyramid, though. I think I’d need to see some other shots of it, up closer, before I could decide.

  3. December 19th, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Town Mouse says:

    Fascinating, though I do wish the photos on the ASLA site were just a bit bigger, it’s hard to get a feeling for this work. Still, if you have an observatory, you might as well have a phyramid ;->

  4. December 19th, 2010 at 11:40 am

    ryan says:

    Interesting reactions; the wall does seem better served by the photos. Maybe it takes the slideshow to show how the pyramid fits into its landscape.

  5. December 19th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Country Mouse says:

    I had the opposite feeling to Gayle. I saw all the stones lying around and thought: I could USE those! I just don’t get it, I guess. Very interesting to see this – stylist. I like Andy Goldsworthy bunches and bunches, and by contrast, this designer doesn’t cut it for me; maybe I’m more tuned into those nature sculptures. Or maybe it’s just the mood I’m in. Thanks for throwing a new aesthetic my way, regardless. Very interesting indeed.

  6. December 20th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    I think gardeners historically have come up with lots of successful ways to deal with overbearing walls, usually by planting something interesting in front of them, but I really like the talus slope in front of the one you show. Love the pyramid, too, but work like this seems to need space and layered vistas to really come off well. Still, this is work that shows a lot of thoughtful restraint, and maybe that’s the best lesson in this for those of us living on your basic city lot.

  7. December 20th, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    ryan says:

    Fair enough. It’s definitely a distinct aesthetic, very much landscape architecture rather than gardening.

    Yeah, I would’ve probably planted in front of it, but the talus is more interesting from a design stand point. Both seem specific to the Napa landscape; like you said, not for typical suburban yards, but shows how some restraint can make for a bigger impact.

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