Donnell Pool

1948 • Sonoma County, CA

Overlooking the northernmost reaches of San Francisco Bay, the kidney-shaped pool at the Donnell Garden was completed in 1948. Designed by Church, in collaboration with Halprin while he was employed in the landscape architect’s office, the pool’s form interprets the salt marshes in the distance and may have been one of the country’s first biomorphic pools. Its distinct shape, along with the abstracted sculpture by Adaline Kent, has become an icon of mid-century Modernism and California living.

A concrete terrace surrounds the pool, while changing rooms and a lanai (a Hawaiian word typically interpreted as breezeway) are situated at the perimeter of the garden. The designers incorporated native oak trees into the site plan to help protect users from the wind.

Thomas Church (Photo by Lawrence Halprin)

Sandra Donnell and Justin Faggioli are the dedicated owners of the Donnell family garden, which architectural historian Marc Treib suggests is "the most famous garden of the twentieth century." Today, more than 60 years since the garden’s creation, the Donnell family continues to honor this design legacy by maintaining and protecting the original landscape design. For years the garden has been available for student tours and has greatly influenced multiple generations of landscape architects. In 2003, TCLF presented Donnell and Faggoli with a Stewardship Excellence Award in honor of their continued stewardship efforts and the superb example their work sets.  Under the family’s continued stewardship since the project’s creation, it has been maintained to the highest degree – this is the gold standard.



Design Team

Thomas Church (landscape architect)
Lawrence Halprin (lead designer)
George Rockrise (architect)


N/A- Private residence

N/A- Private residence


Info ScaleNational Register of Historic Places

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Featured Photographer

Millicent Harvey
Harvey has worked as a commercial and fine art photographer for more than three decades. Her clients include landscape architects, architects, and local and national publications, where she employs an eye for composition and technical proficiency to deliver compelling images. She draws inspiration from the desert landscape of the American Southwest, and currently resides in Palm Springs, California.