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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Tuesday
Nov022010

REVIEW: Pamela Burton Landscapes

Click image to visit Hennessey + Ingalls BookstorePamela Burton Landscapes
Foreword by Robert A.M. Stern
(Princeton Architectural Press, $50)

I'm in awe of Pamela Burton’s erudition (the way she rattles off familiar and Latin names of every plant in her path) and still more her ability to make those flowers and shrubs thrive and compose natural works of art. It’s a terrible admission, but I cannot recall the names of more than a few species, and plants wither at my touch—a failing so shameful that I had to flee England. However, this collection of seventeen public and private landscapes is more architectural than horticultural, and it drew me in. As the author explains, “When designing gardens, I think of myself as shaping distinctive outdoor rooms in the process of forming spatial axes and proportions of height and width, then creating exploratory paths that serve as connections between those garden rooms. In addition, elements such as openings, lighting, temperature (shade and water), sounds, and furnishings must be considered.” Haptic architecture, employing organic materials.

Burton’s landscapes are deceptively simple, drawing on the clean lines and orderly plans of California modernists, and the earthy irregularity expressed in the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. They respond to the benign climate and varied topography of the region, are fire-and drought-resistant, and they are designed to be used, not merely looked at. Art works and buildings are integral components of this green architecture, and Burton’s creativity is part of a broader collaboration. That makes her a favorite choice for architects as varied as Michael Palladino, MRY and Robert Stern. Though Burton and her team have worked as far afield as Sao Paolo, most of the work is located in LA or around Ojai (where she has created an idyllic garden within her family’s citrus grove). You can experience her landscaping for yourself on the UCI and Redlands campuses, and in Santa Monica at the MRY public library and the business center on Colorado Blvd.

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