American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2008 Professional Awards
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Located in Malibu, this project spans three lots. The garden uses the Japanese concept of "borrowed landscape", a framing device that blocks out certain views through plant screening and accentuates others by situating them within a landscape frame. (Image: Pamela Burton & Company)
From the Pacific Coast Highway (National Defense Highway), the interior garden is framed by the guest house and main house, and opens to the full expanse of the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Pamela Burton & Company)
The plan of the private residence shows the relationship of the main house and guest house as they frame the garden. (Image: Pamela Burton & Company)
Exterior parking on both sides of the property utilizes permeable paving with planted joints. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
The Entry Trellis is covered with a Copa de Oro vine which screens the strip mall across the highway, and provides a shaded threshold next to a reflecting pool with a bronze edge. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
Guadalupe dry beach sand provides a low maintenance, walkable ground cover that effectively brings the beach into the garden. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
The hedge is planted 18 inches below the deck level to provide a secure boundary above the variable beach. An outdoor fireplace and dining area are seen in the distance. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
The summer landscape with fog reveals a garden that mimics the adjacent landscape. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)


Malibu Beach House, Malibu, California
Pamela Burton & Company, Santa Monica, California

"What a beautiful refuge! The landscape architect has a masterful hand with plants and added a lot of sustainable features to the project. Just terrific all around."

— 2008 Professional Awards Jury Comments

PROJECT STATEMENT: In order to integrate three oceanfront lots in an environmentally sensitive manner for a client who had little interest in sustainability, the landscape architect wooed the client away from using green turf and persuaded him to use dry beach sand planted with drought-tolerant, ornamental grasses as ground cover. Borrowed landscapes of the Malibu chaparral frame views from the garden. Over time the owner became convinced of the value of planting in a sustainable manner.


Purpose of Project

The purpose of the landscape design was to create an exuberant yet sustainable garden to complement a newly constructed modern home and to tie together three oceanfront lots opposite a strip mall on Carbon Beach in Malibu. The big idea was to use the Japanese concept of the “borrowed landscape” as a framing device; plant screening hedges to block out views of the Pacific Coast Highway and the mall while at the same time accentuating the nearby chaparral. The garden captures views of the adjacent hills and utilizes drought-and-salt-tolerant plant materials that provide color, texture, and movement. A hillside arroyo across the highway is directed towards the property, bringing intense rainwater. The reconstructed arroyo is a feature of the design, physically and metaphorically connecting it with the adjacent native landscape.

Role of Landscape Architect

Originally, the client demanded bright green turf which required too much water and was inappropriate in the context. The most challenging role for the landscape architect was to guide the client to the decision to use dry beach sand as ground cover. The sand is planted with flowering ornamental grasses that mimic the California hillsides. The landscape architect also wanted to demonstrate to other property owners that viable, usable, beautiful gardens can be created and maintained with minimal water.


In effect, the client for this project went through a paradigm change. After insisting on areas of water-intensive green lawn, now he is thrilled with the way that outdoor spaces, borrowed landscape, and the use of multiple viewpoints enlarge the usable area and enhance the feeling of open space. This project proves that by paying attention to the surrounding environment and the different requirements of surrounding landscapes and private gardens, designers can, in their daily practice, balance clients’ needs with sustainability.

Special Factors

On this section of coastline, there is a ten to fifteen foot height variation between the elevation of the house and the elevation of the beach. A “wave up rush study” was required to determine the location of an underground head wall that would be located on the site. In this case, it is placed two thirds of the way between the ocean and the highway. Underground utilities, a large septic system, an underground fire suppression tank, and the head wall restricted the amount of trees that could be planted. The parking areas employ permeable paving and scented ground cover. The fountain and lap pool run perpendicular to the ocean with minimal footprint; they have a meaningful connection to the ocean and sky, constantly reflecting their surfaces.


Additional Project Credits
Pamela Burton & Company Team:

Pamela Burton, Stephanie Psomas, Andrea Zurik, Stephen Billings
Michael Palladino, Managing Principal
Richard Meier and Partners, Architect
Scaliter Irrigation
James A. Cowan Landscape Installation
Harold Jones Landscape Maintenance


A view from the upper terrace of the Guest House shows the beach being pulled into the garden. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
Yellow Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos), Mexican Marigold (Tagetes) and Duranta repens "variegata" were incorporated within the grass massing to create a complex salt-tolerant palette of yellows and greens. (Photo: Pamela Burton & Company)
The design was executed to optimize the flowing, dramatic movement of grasses, contrasting red bark of the Arbutus tree, and seasonal color of the Kangaroo Paw. (Photo: Pamela Burton & Company)
Meeting the clients request for "lots of color", the design combines multiple plants in a yellow palette. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
The reconstructed arroyo planted with low maintenance ornamental grasses flows under a bridge that connects the Main House with the Guest House. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
An informal sandy walk connects the Main House entry with the Lap Pool and Guest House. A low maintenance, drought-tolerant planting palette reduces the carbon footprint. (Photo: Bruce Botnick)
The Lap Pool is located parallel to the Guest House and appears to connect with the ocean beyond. (Photo: Pamela Burton & Company)
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