Cabot Yerxa Elementary School
Desert Hot Springs, California
This large, multi-level campus in Desert Hot Springs, completed in 2009, was an earth-shaping challenge carved out of a sloping site. Large flat pads are separated by 50 foot grade changes using two stacked retaining walls or large 2:1 slopes that are traversed by ramps and stairs.
Outside of the civil engineering marvel, the landscape development presented us with great logistical challenges as well. The stacked retaining walls created isolated planting areas 25 feet off the ground with limited accessibility. The large slopes covered huge, potentially expensive planting areas with heavy erosion problems. To keep the project affordable, we limited the plantings to bubbler-fed desert Mesquite trees and spreading Bougainvilleas and Banks' roses.
The highlights of the campus however are the desertscape plantings in the main classroom portion of the site with dry creek swales between buildings featuring boulders, Palo Verde trees, and other desert plantings. Olives, Mexican Fan palms and Mediterranean Fan palms combine with Cassia, Indigo Bush, and Jojoba to colorful effect.