Burton Landscape Architecture Studio,


ust as white space adds a framework and depth to a work of art, the landscape surrounding buildings can provide harmony and a flow that ties the structures to their environs. The integrity and beauty of the whole is all in the balance.

Landscape architect Bill Burton of Burton Landscape Architecture Studio, who in 2004 began the design process for the exterior space at The Resort at Pelican Hill,® believes that successful projects flesh out the details early on so that, once completed, it feels as if the buildings and landscape emerge as one.

“Over the four years leading up to opening day, we spent a lot of time figuring out where everything should go and how it would best sit on the land,” says Burton.

Where does one begin with such an expansive assignment? Because Orange County’s coastal topography and weather are so similar to those of northern Italy, the first Newport Coast General Plan, completed in the 1970s, reflected the feel of those iconic Italian hill towns and villages. When it came time to develop The Resort at Pelican Hill, the Irvine Company® extended that ideal by blending Mediterranean design with California’s environment and adopting the classic Palladian villa as its model.

Andrea Palladio, 16th-century forefather of the villa style, believed that the setting was at the heart and soul of the villa, and was meant to be “in balance between man and nature, on a scale acceptable to both.”

At Pelican Hill,® Burton says, scale was a critical element; for this reason, close to 4,000 trees were cultivated and prepared for planting across the property. It was an undertaking that required masterful hands. The trees successfully set down roots and have since flourished, creating grounds that appear centuries old.

Scale was also crucial to the landscaping surrounding the Coliseum Pool, which was inspired by the Roman Colosseum and remains to this day one of the largest circular pools in the world.

“We terraced the hillside with layers of cabanas to take advantage of the views, and covered the grounds with lush plantings to encourage relaxation,” says Burton.

Mature pine trees, like those featured along the Appian Way in Rome, were sourced from throughout California and limbed up to replicate the iconic canopy, which also preserves the views. At the same time, succulents and flowering bushes, planted in tandem, mirror the verdant California coastal zone. An abundance of olive, palm and ficus trees suggest a tropical atmosphere, and sculpted edges along gardens and pathways form a border between the more formal plantings and the natural flora and fauna.

“Because the grounds are so vast, there is tremendous diversity in the landscape, and that encourages guests to wander,” says Burton. “There is always something of interest to see at the Resort.”

By the time The Resort at Pelican Hill opened in 2008, the years of collaboration had resulted in a design that delivered the desired harmony among all elements: Bungalows and Villas, spa, restaurants, event spaces, pathways, pools and two ocean-view golf courses.

The final product is so much more than a hotel with stunning landscape; it is a veritable botanical garden dignified by the Resort’s noble Palladian stature.

The creative team: Burton Landscape Architecture Studio, Solana Beach (Landscape); Alterers Associates, San Diego (Hotel, Clubhouse, Public Facilities); Robert Hidley Architects, Irvine (Bungalows and Villas); Andrew Skurman Architects, San Francisco (Interior Architecture)

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