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The Great Ellipse

Moffett Towers

Sunnyvale, California



As an urban form, The Great Ellipse is the centerpiece of Moffett Towers Park. It's structure as an earthwork account for the intersection of public and private life, by mediating between the private campus of Moffett Park and the public path to a light rail station which travels through it. The abstract qualities of the form are our perception of horizon, sky, and earth. Fourteen mature sycamore trees thirty feet in diameter, line the top of the six-foot-high berm Ellipse, creating a wall of trees that imparts a greater volume and height to space. A secondary berm on the inside of the Ellipse hides the tree's connection to the ground, giving the impression of a floating canopy. The open green in the center is planted with finely mowed ryegrass in contrast to the long festuca rubra species on the large berm. The ground plane inside the Ellipse is 242 feet long by 165 feet wide. The two distinct textures and colors of grasses on the berm and on the center plane are separated by a four-foot wide granite elliptical ring of paving at grade. Four ten foot long benches with carved ends are arranged along the ring to provide seating. The walls of the earthen berm are lined with granite to lie back and create entrances to the earthwork. This is both an active and a passive space and a space to perceive as well as to pass through.


The Great Ellipse - Moffett Towers - Projects - Cliff Garten Studio

Photo Credit JD Peterson

Moffett Towers, Sunnyvale, California


Bronze, Granite, Earth, Festuca rubra, Rye grass, Platanus acerifolia   

242’ L x 165’ W

Commissioned by
The City of Sunnyvale, Arts Commission and the Jay Paul Company

DES Architects, Redwood City, CA, Tom Gilman, Principal

Landscape Contractor
Jensen Corp. Landscape Construction

Rudolph Sletten and Granicor

Client / Reference
Jeannette D'Elia, Jay Paul Company

Mark Darely, JD Peterson
San Francisco, CA