The Art of Rocks

It was a busy, exciting summer here at High West Landscape Architects. We’ve been hard at work designing, drafting, exploring, and building all around Truckee, Lake Tahoe, and Reno. Summertime in the Tahoe region always goes by in a flash, and before we all know it, the aspens are fluttering their yellow leaves and the nighttime temps drop into those crisp, refreshing 30’s.

We recently got out to one of our current projects located on Tahoe’s majestic east shore. As landscape architects, we feel we have an important role in bringing a project to fruition. When we take on a project, we aim to provide a 360 degree perspective, merging the built environment with the landscape and with the clients’ vision. We are on site prior to construction, understanding the topography, the plant material, protecting boulders and site elements, and in a sense directing the preservation of the natural beauty.

This site in particular is nothing less than breathtaking with wide, sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and lots of unique, sculptural granite boulders throughout the landscape. Characterized by steep drop offs intertwined with native plants, the entire site is peppered with these large chunks of rock. These boulders have become an exciting and intriguing element for us to work with. Their differing colors, shapes, textures and sizes have procured an excitement as to how we can preserve these within the site. We can use them to shape a particular view, to mark an entrance, to act as a backdrop, or to outline a perennial garden. We can use them as walls and throughout the patios, as places to sit, as elements to climb on, or as ledges to hold a drink or two. It is truly a chance for us to get creative and cultivate a unique place for the homeowner.

In order to be thoughtful in our placement of these large, miraculous chunks of earth, we went out to the site to catalog many of the boulders. Armed with a few measuring tapes, a site plan, our cameras, and an openness to figuring out the best way to inventory, we took pictures of each rock, wrote descriptions, gave them a numbering system, and put together a “rock catalog.”


One of the more memorable rocks we came across was this one below:

This particular gem had hollowed out voids - as if someone used another rock to grind nuts or seeds on the boulder. There also happens to be a Huckleberry Oak (Quercus vacciniifolia ) tree on site, which made us think that this rock could have been used by people years ago to grind down acorns fallen from the tree. While we can only speculate, we do know that Lake Tahoe has a deep and old Native American history, specifically with the Native American people. History, landscape, and ecological design all worked into one.

Check out a few of the other granite aggregates we found on site and stay tuned for more updates as we bring our designs to life.