Burton, Pamela

Pamela Burton

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  • UCLA, 1975


  • Pamela Burton & Company


California, Santa Monica, landscape


Career in Architecture

Pamela Burton’s projects include private residences and public landscapes in California, Idaho, New York, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. They include campus master plans, campus 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, 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.”[6]

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.[1]: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.” [7]

Many projects from the 1990s are located within the native California chaparral 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.” [8]

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 palate of plant materials. La Mesa Residence integrates a series of small courts with their adjacent spaces: library, dining, study, and living. At the Yahoo 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.[1]: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.”[9]

She served for six years on the Design Review Board at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She currently serves on the Design Review Board of the University of California, Riverside and the Architectural Review Board of the city of Santa Monica.[10]

Major Buildings and Projects

Press and Awards


Burton, Pamela Private Landscapes: Modernist Gardens in Southern California, Princeton Architectural Press.

Burton, Pamela Burton’s Way, Western Interiors and Design, May–June, 2006 p. 47-52.

Institutional Affiliations

University of California, Los Angeles