Sunnylands Restoration

Rancho Mirage, CA

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A Historic Landscape for The Next Generation

CMG began our work for the transformation of the estate from home to museum and retreat with a Cultural Landscape Framework Plan. This document was used to identify the key contributing landscape features of the property, to ensure they were respected with adaptation of the estate for new uses and goals, including an initial 50% reduction in landscape water usage. Guided by the findings and treatment recommendations of the Framework Plan, CMG directed the reconstruction of the Historic House landscape and prepared a master plan for long-term programmatic development opportunities, and related studies for the estate. Once home to one of America’s most influential families and an icon of mid-century modern California living, the estate now hosts world leaders seeking to address pressing issues of our time. While attentive to the historic resources, new improvements are to contribute to a more environmentally conscious institution for the new generations.

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With the Cultural Landscape Framework Plan CMG defined themes that express original landscape design intent, assess historic resource integrity, and guide restoration of the landscape with treatment recommendations. A core area around the historic house was defined to receive minimal change to original materials and organization, while the remaining landscape was modified with low-water planting strategies that honor the themes and legacy of the original design; water reduction was achieved without altering the essential experiences of the historic landscape. Through careful management of views, certain areas of the grounds were re-designated for drought-tolerant landscaping. Incorporation of new irrigation systems and lining existing lakes to make irrigation reservoirs greatly increased maintenance efficiency and habitat value was enhanced for migratory birds.

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The Cultural Landscape Framework Plan identifies landscape characteristics that are most critical in shaping the property’s identity and significance. The Plan provides a touchstone for all future landscape initiatives and allows the institution to advance an environmentally conscious mission into the future, while being mindful of its unique past. CMG’s sustained relationship with the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands led to numerous projects, including the design of the Cottages Retreat and Administration Campus.