Location

Rancho Mirage, CA

Owner

Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands

Architect

Frederick Fisher & Partners

Landscape Architect

The Office of James Burnett

Project Size

16,000 sq. ft., 200 acres

View

Sunnylands Center and Gardens:  LEED Gold and Beyond

MATT Construction is pleased to announce that as of March 2012, the Sunnylands Center and Gardens—the visitors’ center for the historic Annenberg Estate—is now open to the public. As Construction Manager [at Risk], MATT collaborated with an outstanding creative team, including architects Frederick Fisher and Partners, interior designer Michael Smith, and landscape architect James Burnett of The Office of James Burnett (OJB), to build a LEED Gold-certified Visitors Center for the 200-acre Sunnylands estate, the historic home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg in Rancho Mirage, California.  Ongoing communication with team partners and careful preparation during the year-long preconstruction phase permitted MATT to offer the client $1.6 million in value engineering savings, and to ensure that construction was finished on-time, on-budget, and to the highest standard.

The Sunnylands Center and Gardens won LEED Gold certification for its many sustainable features.
The Sunnylands Center and Gardens won LEED Gold certification for its many sustainable features.

The new 16,000 sq. ft. Sunnylands Center houses the offices of Sunnylands’ owner/operator, the Annenberg Foundation. The building evokes its namesakes’ famously archetypical mid-century modern home, both inside and out: its architecture, by Frederick Fisher Partners, complements A. Quincy Jones’s original 1964 design with its clean lines, overhanging roof and panoramic glass walls; its interiors, by Michael S. Smith, pay homage to the work of the original interior designer, William Haines. Exhibition spaces, interactive multimedia stations, a small theatre, café, and store invite the public to discover the Annenbergs’ multifaceted cultural, political and philanthropic contributions; to view selections of their extensive art collection; and to learn about the property’s history and environmental features.

Frederick Fisher Partners' crisp architectural vision complements A. Quincy Jones’s 1964 design of the Annenbergs' home, located on property contiguous to the Center & Gardens; interiors by Michael S. Smith evoke the original design by William Haines.
Frederick Fisher Partners’ crisp architectural vision complements A. Quincy Jones’s 1964 design of the Annenbergs’ home, located on property contiguous to the Center & Gardens; interiors by Michael S. Smith evoke the original design by William Haines.

Surrounding the Center is the Office of James Burnett’s remarkable 9-acre garden which, with its varied collection of more than 50,000 individual plants massed in striking patterns, forever dispels the notion of desert landscape as Spartan.

The Office of James Burnett, landscape architects, proves conclusively that
The Office of James Burnett, landscape architects, proves conclusively that “xeriscape” does not equate to “zeroscape.”

The project’s numerous sustainable features—which include a large photovoltaic solar array, geothermal wells, extensive use of native and xeric plants, and cutting-edge high-efficiency irrigation systems such as an on-site soil moisture calculation system—have enabled Sunnylands to generate 100% of its own power, heating and cooling, to fulfill the specifications and requirements for the use of reclaimed water five years ahead of the implementation of Rancho Mirage’s citywide initiative, and to reduce the property’s consumption of water to a mere 20% of the local district’s allotment—while still maintaining the golf course of the Annenbergs’ estate on the adjoining property.

Three rows of solar panels with 864 collector modules are assembled into a 250 ft. long aluminum structure.
Three rows of solar panels with 864 collector modules are assembled into a 250 ft. long aluminum structure.
Ninety-six geothermal wells extend 396 ft. below the surface.
Ninety-six geothermal wells extend 396 ft. below the surface.
In winter, the geothermal system’s series of underground tubes pump natural heat into the Center, while in summer, the earth becomes a heat sink where heat from the building is transferred into the ground.
In winter, the geothermal system’s series of underground tubes pump natural heat into the Center, while in summer, the earth becomes a heat sink where heat from the building is transferred into the ground.

By creating an alternative to the traditional Palm Springs landscape that relies on heavy water use, chemical fertilizers and exotic plants, the landscape architect has created a garden that challenges the status quo and raises awareness of ecological issues in this imperiled ecosystem. Interpretive signage highlighting these and other innovations make a stroll along the Center’s 1.25 miles of trails as educational as it is beautiful.

Informative signage makes the Sunnylands Center & Gardens educational, as well as beautiful and functional.
Informative signage makes the Sunnylands Center & Gardens educational, as well as beautiful and functional.
Drought-tolerant and native plants plus a below-ground irrigation system = water savings of more than one million gallons per year. The Gardens were designed to use less than 20 percent of the local water district’s allotment for the property.
Drought-tolerant and native plants plus a below-ground irrigation system = water savings of more than one million gallons per year. The Gardens were designed to use less than 20 percent of the local water district’s allotment for the property.

With its new gardens, developmental irrigation concepts that are pushing the boundaries of technology in both water distribution and management, and an experimental wildflower field designed to preserve the desert within cultivated areas, the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands has become a member of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, and the United States Botanic Garden, who aim to transform land development and management practices with the nation’s first voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes.  Joining more than 150 projects around the world, Sunnylands is participating in a pilot program evaluating the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes. During the pilot phase, which just concluded at the end of June 2012, participants are testing the 250-point scale and performance benchmarks proposed for different levels of site sustainability. SITES will use feedback from participating projects to finalize the rating system and reference guide by early 2013. The U.S. Green Building Council anticipates incorporating the guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED Green Building Rating System.

The Sunnylands Center & Gardens is one of only about 3 dozen US sites participating in the worldwide Sustainable Sites initiative to develop a LEED-like sustainable rating system for landscaping.
The Sunnylands Center & Gardens is one of only about 3 dozen US sites participating in the worldwide Sustainable Sites initiative to develop a LEED-like sustainable rating system for landscaping.

Meanwhile, its enhancements completed, the Sunnylands Center & Gardens is now welcoming guests into the Annenbergs’ milieu.

Through our participation in the creation of this newly public venue, MATT Construction is proud to have helped realize the dream of those extraordinary philanthropists, Walter and Leonore Annenberg, continuously to advance the common good through the exchange of ideas. We encourage you to visit the center and enjoy it first-hand.

The Sunnylands Center & Gardens presents an inviting oasis for visitors and for those participating in the thoughtful discussions of significant problems, for which the Annenbergs were well known.
The Sunnylands Center & Gardens presents an inviting oasis for visitors and for those participating in the thoughtful discussions of significant problems, for which the Annenbergs were well known.