"Green" Gallery Transforms Garden's Garage

Descanso gallery exterior photo

Rendering of art gallery in botanical garden. Images courtesy of Descanso Gardens

Pasadena, California is already the greenest part of Los Angeles county and boasts three expansive botanical gardens within a 15-minute drive of its borders, including the Descanso Gardens in neighboring La Canada. As the first project to express its commitment to the principles and practices of sustainable design, the 160-acre garden started working on an adaptive re-use project, turning a garage structure into a state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly art gallery. Does this trend toward greening gardens mean pesticides will be gone soon?

descanso gallery photo

The gallery will be located across a meandering path from the 8-acre California native area in a chaparral hillside, filled with sage scrub, Matilija poppies, wildflowers, and shrubs. The new structure will also feature vertical gardens and an accessible roof garden with views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Besides the Descanso's famed camellias and rosarium, there are iris, lilacs, and other floral and wooded spaces, including a bird sanctuary created in association with the Audubon Society that offers a habitat for 150 species. Also an edible garden, built by artist Fritz Haeg, who did one at the Tate Modern and other spots, encourages visitors to transform their lawns into food plots.

The upcoming Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art at Descanso will be a 2,800 square-foot space opening in March 2010, in time for the annual Spring Festival. It will cost $2.1 million, donated by residents, Heather and Paul Sturt Haaga, who believe the Descanso is "a jewel in L.A.'s crown."

Designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners, the building preserves the exterior of the former garage of the garden's founder with minimum impact on the environment. It aims for a silver LEED certification with its choices for green building materials, lighting, heating and cooling, and water conservation.

Green elements include: formaldehyde-free drywall, recycled linen insulation, low-VOC paints, a tankless water system, low-flow toilets and waterless urinals, permeable surface hardscaping to replace asphalt, and end-block wood flooring. Lighting is low-voltage florescents on auto-dimmers, augmented by skylights for natural light.

The art will look all the better in such a green environment -- where treehugger's Bonnie Alter has fond memories tending the Descanso Garden's 3,000 roses.

More on "green" botanical gardens:
Stairway to Heaven: Kew Tree Top Walkway
Three TreeHugger Picks Win Design Awards
Woolly Pocket Garden Company Combines Plants, Recycling, and Nudity for Fantastic Botanical Design

Related Content on Treehugger.com