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About Cultural Landscape Management

In 2005, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) commissioned a Cultural Landscape Management Plan from the Office of Cheryl Barton, a landscape architecture firm based in San Francisco. The plan inventories and assesses the outdoor features of the site and proposes management strategies for the future stewardship of the grounds. The methodology for the plan is based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Cultural Landscapes.

 The plan includes

  • Site history and chronology
  • Documentation, analysis and evaluation of changes in the landscape
  • Identification of the “period of significance” (1936–1993)
  • Identification of the“character-defining features” (prominent or distinctive aspects of the landscape that contribute significantly to its physical character) that have  historical significance and are relatively intact
  • Treatment recommendations
  • Rehabilitation priorities, including proposed phases of work

This 45-page, illustrated document lays the groundwork for rehabilitation of the gardens, and provides for program uses of the grounds and gardens. Business planning in 2006 addressed the first phase of improvements, with an emphasis on upgrading the main public areas between the main house and Playhouse and improving the plantings and privacy screens along shared property boundaries. Toward that end, an arborist was engaged to survey and prepare treatment proposals of the major trees.

The cascade area, c. 1938. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Period of Significance: 1938–1993[1]

Shangri La’s period of significance, from 1938 to 1993, encompasses Doris Duke’s (1912–93) years in residence. Three main periods of development have been established for Shangri La:

  • World War II era: 1937–1946
  • Postwar era: 1946–1975
  • Late twentieth century to the present: 1975—2005[2]

Architectural and landscape elements from each period reveal the design intent of architect Marion Sims Wyeth, landscape architects Robert and Catherine Thompson, and horticulturist Richard Tongg, as well as Doris Duke’s own aesthetic sensibilities.

Significant grounds features include the pool and cascade, located along the main east-west axis between the living room and Playhouse; and the Mughal garden, a brick-paved alléewith an ornamental water feature (chini khana falls) and a canal that extends to a large fountain at the west edge of the property.

Given Doris Duke’s tendency to alter many aspects of the buildings and grounds over the years, it would be inappropriate to restore/reconstruct all features to one particular moment in time. The landscape has been rehabilitated in recent years by the grounds and maintenance staff, and ongoing capital improvements ensure that the structural and aesthetic aspects of the buildings are preserved.

Preservation is an ongoing process, thus, the actions of and decisions made by the Foundation in regards to site stewardship will continue to evolve in parallel with the life of the site.

Current environmentally conscious practices include monitoring chemical use at salt-water features, improving irrigation to minimize water waste, recycling fresh water from the Mughal garden to water other plants on site, and using local green-waste compost.

[1] HSR, 2008: 4.

[2] CLMP, 2005: 6-14.

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