Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ten Eyck Landscape Architects at University of Texas El Paso (UTEP)

It's been so long since I've written about our June trip to the desert Southwest, and I'm longing to return to the sun. That trip ended in El Paso, TX, where we drove to catch our flight home. I'd argued in favor of spending at least one night there, to see what El Paso was all about, but Andrew was convinced there was nothing to see, he won.

But we did have time to make one stop, at the University of Texas El Paso...

Thanks to David Cristiani I knew about landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck's work on campus and wanted to check it out. There's Andrew, being a good sport and marching along in the heat (oh boy was it hot) wondering what he was in for...

Kind of a good Agave/bad Agave shot. Who will win? The dark side of Agave ovatifolia, or the light side? (ya, we all know it's the light side...)

Centennial Plaza is the center of the campus design and where we headed. It would have been nice to have the time, and stamina, to wander it all — but we did not.

The work that Ten Eyck Landscape Architects did on campus (completed in 2015) is covered in an excellent write-up on their website (here), including before and after photos.

There were several birds playing in this water, until I walked up with my camera.

Since school was not in session during our visit the campus seemed entirely ours. From Ten Eyck Landscape Architects website: "Acres of sloping asphalt streets and parking have been replaced by a pedestrian-oriented landscape that promotes outdoor learning, gathering and recreation and integrates the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert into the urban fabric of the campus."

The buildings on campus shared a distinct architectural style, one that Andrew was able to identity as Bhutanese.

I found a small article on the campus website that talks about the origins..."Dean Worrell´s wife, Kathleen, played a key role in what was to become the school´s signature architecture. Mrs. Worrell, while studying the April 1914 issue of National Geographic, noted the striking similarities between the rugged landscape of the Asian Kingdom of Bhutan and the new campus location. The article, entitled ”Castles in the Air“, featured photographs of buildings with high sloping walls, deep inset windows, red brick friezes, mandalas, and majestic overhangs. Though they required some persuading, Mrs. Worrell eventually convinced officials to use the architecture of the small Himalayan nation as a model for the buildings of the new campus."

In addition to typical "desert" landscaping there were several beautiful palms.

Love the cement table and benches.

More of the architecture...

Shade is important!

Blooming Dasylirion.

Austin isn't the only place in Texas where Agave ovatifolia reigns proud.

More from Ten Eyck's website "Given the site’s mountainous terrain, dramatic alterations to existing topography were required for accessibility and stormwater mitigation. A constructed network of vegetated arroyos along campus malls now channel, slow, and filter stormwater, which had previously sheeted over acres of paving. Pedestrian bridges traverse arroyos both large and small, providing the opportunity to overlook newly dramatized ephemeral rain events. Local and salvaged materials were integrated into the site design whenever possible, both to reduce waste and to engage the site’s historical context."

The center of this Dasylirion looks like it's about to push out a bloom.

You might have noticed this building in a previous photo, it's the Lhakhang Cultural Exhibit, "a cultural artifact that reflects thousands of years of traditional craftsmanship, such as hand-carved wooden elements and hand-painted fabric wall murals. The Lhakhang at UTEP is typical of the hundreds of lhakhangs found in Bhutan, and is the only structure of its kind found outside the small Himalayan country." (read more here).

The building is open to the public every Wednesday and the first Sunday of each month, we were there on the 4th Sunday of the month...

So we had to make do peering in the windows, it was rather spooky.

That A. ovatifolia doesn't look healthy, unless it's a the 'Sickly Yellow' sister to 'Frosty Blue'...

Did you notice the top heavy balls of seed on the Stipa tenuissima?

These black jumbo-jet bees (flys?) were all over the red blooms.

Of course getting a good photo of them proved rather difficult.

I've no idea what this is, but took a photo anyway.

With that it was time to walk back to the car and make our way to the airport.

Oh and Andrew admitted that El Paso looked like a place worth exploring and that we should have scheduled a night there...

Weather Diary, Oct 10: Hi 69, Low 47/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. The architecture is surprisingly modern-looking and the clean lines fit the desert landscape. Ten Eyck did a good job keeping all the garden features equally streamlined. Those jumbo-jet insects are carpenter bees I think.

    1. Indeed, the buildings look like they could have just been built, and are a natural for the desert surroundings.

  2. The lhakhang is amazing & the video you linked to was great. Lots of cool plants too but the most important part is that Andrew admitted that you were right!

  3. What a fun post! I'm a native Texan and still have never explored El Paso, but now you've inspired me. I do love Christine Ten Eyck's work...and the lights look like agave blooms!

    1. Aren't those lights fantastic!? I forgot to mention them, I'm glad you did.

  4. An unusual building that fits its surroundings surprisingly well. Nice observation (above) regarding the lights in the garden! This being a desert climate, I was surprised to see so much grass incorporated into the landscaping; wouldn't it require a huge amount of water to remain green? I love the "seed balls" on the Stipa tenuissima. It should spread nicely in any area left open. It's one of my favorite grasses.

    1. I too was surprised at the lawn, it's probably rather enjoyed by the students though...and a needed cool spot in all that rock and hardscape.

  5. Hi, after reading this remarkable post i am too cheerful to share
    my familiarity here with friends.

  6. Beautiful landscape but I cannot imagine being a student and schlepping my stuff across so much hot and sunny ground.

    1. It's all in what you get acclimated to, right?

  7. Having recently seen a docu on Bhutan, I can really see the connection. Fascinating place, well presented by you, as usual.

  8. Oh, now I really want to go! Thank you for this, in case I don't get there!


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