Greenery at the Green

  • Lawrence Reed, a landscape architect with SWA Group, planted Sevillano olive trees, that are over a century old, outside Weill Hall at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center in Rohnert Park , on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The graceful "Winged Figure Ascending," by the late, internationally recognized sculptor Stephen De Staebler, greets visitors as they approach the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.

Inside the courtyard at the entrance to Weill Hall is a grander sculptural display: 12 16-foot-tall pieces wrought by Mother Nature over the course of 118 years.

A building as striking as the finely-tuned music box designed by renowned architect William Rawn deserves an approach that conveys venerability. That was achieved with these ancient Sevillano olive trees — six on each side of the courtyard — with their gnarled trunks of multiple branches braided together over more than a century.

Green Music Center Landscaping


The olives trees, harvested from a doomed orchard in Corning, trucked in and then carefully placed in trenches beneath the limestone pavers of the courtyard, are among the most significant features within the outdoor spaces surrounding the hall.

With its barn-style door in a concert hall that opens to terraced grass seating, the center is truly designed to offer music without walls on a fine summer day. So the grounds needed to offer the same serenely simple beauty found inside the hall itself.

Observant homeowners and gardeners can glean ideas from public spaces like the Green Music Center, taking note of anything from natural architecture like trees and plantings to pathways, lighting and courtyards such as the entry to Weill Hall.

The grounds are the work of both Bill Mastick of Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning of Santa Rosa and the husband and wife team, Larry Reed and Cinda Gilliland, of SWA, an international landscape architecture firm with local offices in Sausalito and San Francisco.

Quadriga came up with the overall site plan for the 52-acre Green Music Center, including the parking lot, the front of the center and the 12- to 14-foot acoustic berms that provide a sound buffer from nearby road noise.

A total of $8.55 million of the $145 million music center project went into the grounds, from the courtyard and colonnade to the west and south lawns, site grading, structural fill, berms, signage, pathways, trees, landscape plants, lighting and outdoor sound equipment.

The long delay had an unexpected upside. The first part of the project to go in back in 2000 was the parking lot, dotted with London Plane trees. By the time the center opened two years ago, they had grown into the mature shade trees Mastick had envisioned.

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