Pamela Burton, photo by Cheryle Van Scoy
Pamela Grace Burton|
September 16, 1948
Santa Monica, California
|Education||Bachelor's degree in Environmental Design and a M.Arch. Master's degree in Architecture|
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
Principal, President of Pamela Burton & Company,|
|Notable work||Pamela Burton Landscapes and Private Landscapes: Modernist Gardens in Southern California|
Pamela Grace Burton (born 1948) is a landscape architect known for her interdisciplinary approach to private and public projects, bringing together plant materials, art, and architecture. In 2006 she became a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
While attending UCLA, Burton worked at ACE Gallery and participated in the installation of earth-work artists, including Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer. Helping to construct Sol LeWitt's ephemeral wall drawings, she was inspired by the way the colors overlapped. Likewise, Robert Irwin's scrim pieces and Elyn Zimmerman's observations of nature through photography, graphite drawings, and stone and water environments informed her about working with light, space, and perception. "Landscapes are a journey. It's not just about the destination, but also about the journey of designing and walking through them... One of the most important things about any practice is cultivating awareness, something artists specialize in. Whenever we have an idea, it's always amplified by the mysterious things that are about to happen. You can only take advantage of them if you are aware of them."
Burton's awareness of architecture and landscape as complementary forms of the same process was confirmed when she took time off from studying at UCLA to visit Japan. There, in the gardens and temples, she observed the power of aesthetic simplicity and experienced the fusion of nature and architecture. "I like to think of the garden and landscape in the context of a big idea."
To demonstrate how modernist ideas were embedded in the mid-century gardens and houses of A. Quincy Jones, Joseph van der Kar, John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and many more, Burton wrote, with Marie Botnick and Kathryn Smith, the book Private Landscapes: Modernist Gardens in Southern California.
Throughout Burton's career she has been influenced and informed by where she lived -- the hills of Malibu and the valley of Ojai. She learned repeatedly that the success and value of spaces are not always seen immediately; they are felt. Many defining edges and threshold meetings can go into making a space resonant: proportions of inside and outside, light and shadow, nature and cultivation, social needs and solitude. Her living spaces became places to experiment and explore by instinct; if she fell, she didn't hurt herself. She replanted. "Burton's own garden has developed around her favorite themes: formal outdoor rooms casually appointed, flowing water, the wild world seen beyond the garden, the use of plants to narrate a human story."
In the end, a garden takes on its own layers of time and meaning, and Burton does not feel she needs to spell them out completely. She has come to be satisfied if it appears as if she didn't do anything. Arriving at that point has taken a tremendous amount of work; it is the constant process of editing that lets a garden age and endure, deepening and leaning into its own story.:p.16 "I'm passionate about places that resonate, about places that make you think and long and remember.":p.50
Pamela Burton's projects include private residences and public landscapes in California, Idaho, New Mexico, New York, Australia, Brazil, and Japan. They include campus master plans, institutional buildings and plazas, commercial developments, high-rise office towers, high-rise residential condominiums, reservoirs for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, United States courthouses, embassies, hospitals, libraries, and parks. "If we act responsibly and come to our senses, we can contribute to the balance and well-being of nature. Plants provide beauty and satisfaction. By giving back to the earth, we're making our own lives richer. The way we treat our landscapes is the way we treat ourselves."
Early projects like The Bonhill Residence show the importance of adopting a strong design that accommodates change over time. The Colton Avenue Streetscape for the University of Redlands was important for the way it helped to assimilate the campus with the surrounding community. The Cantitoe Farm project relied on ideas related to creating in-between, terraced garden rooms that could be inhabited. For the Calabasas Civic Center, the concentration was on building attractive, sustainable spaces for the community.:p.21 Asked by Dwell to critique outdoor furniture, "Burton visited several Los Angeles retailers. Her distinctive approach to analyzing each piece was both insightful and playful (she often lingers on the sound of things, particularly names, and whimsically forgoes English for Spanish." 
Many projects incorporate native California plants and have water and the conservation of water as primary to their designs. The Palm Canyon Residence in Malibu is designed as a comfortable refuge for a large family; it incorporates a pepper tree allee, olive grove, and planted steps. The School of the Arts Plaza, for the University of California, Irvine project with Maya Lin, has become a central meeting place as well as an exploration of our five senses. Red Tail Ranch in Santa Ynez relies ultimately on natural rainfall for its timeless oak grassland. The Santa Monica Public Library uses water as its primary metaphor and includes shallow pools in the middle of the courtyard to provide relief from hot summer days. "Well before LEED certification existed, Burton advocated native and drought-happy plants. A 200,000-gallon underground cistern fed by rainwater irrigates her gardens at the Santa Monica Public Library." 
Recent projects pare down landscape to its essence, with a clear hierarchy of spaces that simplifies the overall structure and can be complemented by a rich palette of plant materials. La Mesa Residence integrates a series of small courts with their adjacent spaces: library, dining, study, and living. At the Colorado Center, Burton brought to life an office complex by enhancing and rethinking its context. At the East Fork Residence, at an elevation of seven thousand feet, Burton anchored the house to structural terraces planted with flowering crab apple trees and created veils of native trees through which to view the house. In São Paulo, she created multiple refuges for office workers and the public. In all of this work, the intention was to create layers of discovery and experience.:p.123 Referring to Burton's work on Hesperides in Montecito, Donna Dorian writes, "That the house and garden have made such a brilliant transition into the new millennium has much to do with the prodigious talent of Santa Monica landscape architect Pamela Burton."
She served for six years on the Design Review Board at the University of California, Santa Barbara, three years on the Design Review Board of the University of California, Riverside and three years on the Architectural Review Board of the city of Santa Monica.