Toad Hall rises in Santa Barbara

Sunset  –  June 28, 2005

Set against a mountain backdrop at the Santa Barbara BotanicGarden, a two-story domed structure woven out of willow branchesrises beyond a wildflower meadow.

If you ever spent a childhood afternoon constructing a fort outof a backyard’s found materials―cardboard boxes, crates, ordowned branches and twigs―this structure will come as avision of what you dreamed your improvised creation might be. Nomere hut, it combines a hint of Taj Mahal-style grandeur with a Wind in the Willows whimsy.

In honor of that childhood classic, the structure’s creator,Patrick Dougherty, dubbed it Toad Hall. The North Carolina artisthas created more than 175 installations worldwide, but this is hisfirst on California’s Central Coast. It will remain up for abouttwo years. Spend some time studying its interlocking and twistingbranches. Watch kids running through its doors andchambers―and try to imagine their imaginings. ―MatthewJaffe

INFO: The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden ($7; 1212 Mission Canyon Rd.; 805/682-4726).

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