Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory

Underwood Garden at the College of Architecture, Planning  Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona

Location: Just south of the CAPLA East Building.
Designer: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects

The development of an addition to the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture building afforded an opportunity to design and construct a demonstration landscape which is a high-performance integration of the building and site. The project employs classic low-cost arid land design principles of water harvesting, water reuse, mitigation of desert microclimates and reduction and re-direction of runoff for passive and active storage as well creating an enchanting desert oasis.

This extraordinary project is named in honor of the Richard and Robert Underwood Family. It could not have been realized without their generosity and vision and that of the following donors:

  • Mountain States Wholesale Nursery
  • FX Luminaire
  • Rainbird Irrigation
  • Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
  • Ewing Irrigation
  • Lori Jones Woods & Lillian K. Jones
  • Arid Zone Trees
  • landscapeforms
  • Western Tree Company
  • Priois Sandblasting and Engraving
  • Kalamazoo Materials
  • Arizona Chapter, ASLA

Hosting a special event or meeting? Click the link below for details to request the Underwood Sonoran Garden. 

Request to reserve

Landscape Performance Benefits

  • Reclamation of 1.2 acres of former university parking lot into a viable Sonoran Desert landscape.
  • Demonstrates four guiding principles 1) water conservation, 2) reduction of urban flooding, 3) reduction of urban heat island effect, and a public university interpretive oasis.
  • Total integration with building mechanical systems including harvesting of roof runoff, HVAC condensate, drinking fountain graywater into 11, 600 gallon cistern.
  • 83% reduction in potable water use for irrigation during desert establishment period (first seven years). Annual potable water use reduction is approximately 230,000 gallons.
  • Expected 100% reduction in non-harvested water after establishment period.
  • Irrigation is 100% ET controlled by the University of Arizona.
  • Demonstration of 5 biomes of Sonoran Desert.
  • Establishment of 18,000 gallon desert wetland.
  • Utilizes 300 gallons/day of university well water 'blow off' (backwash from sand filter well) that previously was sent for sewage treatment.
  • Introduction of three threatened and endangered fish and two reptile species as part of reclamation program.
  • Reduction in stormwater runoff in 5 significant 'micro-basins' and 10,500~ gallon retention capacity in lower patio. Runoff is released over 14-18 hours.
  • Creation significant terrestrial/aquatic habitat with significant opportunistic repopulation with active predation activities.
  • 100% donated materials, labor and gift-in-kind and extensive cooperate efforts of landscape architect, university facilities departments and Arizona 'green industry.
  • Project serves as model for regional government's water harvesting/conservation legislation.
  • Desert Riparian channels lined with reused brick and concrete from partial demolition of building.
  • With the exception of various irrigation components and pond liner, all materials and labor were sourced from Arizona.


See the Landscape Architecture Foundation's Landscape Performance Series case study brief about the Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory.