Distinct Character Shaped by Water Conservation
To transform old employee housing to VIP campus, CMG conceived of a new building as a social hub for visitors to the Cottages Retreat. The existing water consuming landscape was converted from an expansive lawn dotted with olive trees to a rich and varied environment with a xeric plant palette of charismatic cacti, meadow grass and Palo Verde trees. New intimate garden spaces were created for both contemplation and socializing. The same goals for social spaces and xeric landscape were achieved with the Administration Campus, but as inclusive environment to mix everyone associated with the operation of Sunnylands, including Trustees, museum curators, gardeners, and volunteer docents. The project team and client set ambitious goals for water use reduction, net-zero energy use, net-zero carbon footprint, and zero-landfill waste through management of construction and operations by-products. Each successive project achieved ever more ambitious goals while honoring the design legacy of the original estate and the harsh desert setting.
The center’s function to host retreats to advance world peace and facilitate international agreements has been wildly successful, with several visits from President Obama in its first open year. Today, the entire estate maintains Sunnylands’ legacy as a relaxing oasis and venue for political discourse and is open to the public for guided tours of this picturesque and historic midcentury modern property, while it demonstrates water and ecologically conscious development and operations in the desert.