The Sunset Headquarters landscape, in Menlo Park, California, was originally designed by Thomas Church, with a building by designer and developer Cliff May. The property is historically significant for its building and landscape; however, it is just as important for its association with the magazine and publishing company. Still popular as a publisher today, its place as a tastemaker in post-WWII California and the Western United States cannot be disputed. I regret to say that the property has been sold and Sunset has moved out. Some sources assure us the property won’t be changed very much, but I am skeptical of this claim, given property values in the South Bay. At least there is documentation of the property, which will reside in the Library of Congress as a result of documentation produced for the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) for the 2015 HALS Challenge competition.
I’ve looked forward to each year’s HALS Challenge. I find it’s a timely spur to pursue the very satisfying and in-depth exploration of a significant landscape. Digging in to a landscape design, so to speak, gives me an excuse to spend time understanding a place—how it was designed, where it fits in our history of landscape architecture, what it meant to people at its creation, and what it means to us now. What I learn each year continues to resonate long after I am finished with the project.