The Residence design was brought to us with the intent to bring together the combined acumen of those involved for a showcase design reflecting the flora of the Mojave Desert (with a few borrowed species). The Marmol Radziner prefab structure is the first of its kind in the state of Nevada. The Architects wanted the landscape to appear native, as if the structures "landed" on the pinnacle of a lot overlooking our great city.
With this in mind, we began by creating a plant list that combined many of the unsung native plants such as Rubber Rabbitbush, Big Galleta Grass, Mormon Tea, Apache Plume and the three Mojave yuccas, Banana, Joshua and Mojave with some "borrowed" specimens including Blue Nolina, Ocotillo, Jojoba, Texas Olive and Beaked Yucca. We ventured into the Northern California dry valleys for superior Interior Live Oaks and Phoenix for salvaged Ocotillos, Mesquites, Palo Verdes and other desert thriving specimens necessary for the grand scale of the site. Habitat enriching species such as the California Buckwheat, Blue Grama (added during construction), Fairy Duster, and Brittlebush are already attracting birds and desert hares. Much of the plant placement was derived from available information assembled from studies performed in the Mojave Desert regarding native desert plant spacing and species distribution. With over fifty-two species of flora, this residence provides a rich diversity of plant material without overwhelming the structures.
Some of the design issues that were addressed include screening, retaining popular views and drainage. All of the mechanical equipment for the pool/spa and A/C units is adjacent to the golf course. It was necessary to block direct views from the golfers to avoid undesirable views as per CCR's. Sensitively placed 24" box Jojoba and slightly smaller sages solved this issue well in the limited space available. Distant eastern views of Las Vegas city and "Strip" along with natural western views beckoned to be unobstructed. A popular driving range to the northeast and the golf cart path that wraps around the eastern limits of the property needed to be "distanced". Proper placement of evergreen plants and a tree grove shrouds the views up into private space while allowing views over (or through in the case of the trees) to the city beyond.
The greatest challenge this site put forth was the grading and drainage. Civil engineers love to make sites "work" with no regard to aesthetics. Fortunately, we were involved from the very beginning of the design process allowing us to voice our concerns from the onset. The elimination of a second house on site opened up a sizable area of land toward the front of the lot. A sunken "meadow" was the solution to all of our water run-off concern as well as providing a large space for active play. With the choice of hybrid Bermuda the water requirements are minimized. All rain that falls south of the drive and west of the house is directed to the meadow. With 18" of depth until a stylized dry riverbed overflow relieves the retention onto the street, a sizeable water-harvesting element is in place. The entry path slowly reveals the landscape as visitors walk from the front gate to the front door bridge. Retaining walls of the subterranean parking area required 42" of height on the pedestrian side per code for safety issues. Along the length of the wall we created a dry riverbed with stacked boulders and plantings that doubles as a secondary overflow for the meadow. From the interior of the house, this looks as if the riverbed continues under the structure and into the courtyard. In the back area, a depression was created to lower the wrought iron fence out of the prescribed view of the Sky Space. We capitalized on this element, harvesting all water running around the eastern extremes of the property.
This residence is a type of project that comes along not so often. With open-minded clients, a thick budget and a team that worked well together, it was a pleasure to be a part of this estate. We look forward to watching this site evolve over time.