top of page

Barrio Viejo Tour - Tucson Convention Center Gardens by Garrett Eckbo

Join my on a Strolls and Stories Tour of the Barrio Viejo where we stroll through the Tucson Convention Center Garden designed in 1970 by the famous landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. Unfortunately the Tucson Convention Center complex displaced an entire historic barrio neighborhood...more on that in a moment.

The TCC Gardens by Eckbo represent an Urban Canyon and feature stepped terraces with both formal and informal features. Eckbo's design inspiration was both Sabino Canyon and the top of Mount Lemon in the Santa Catalina Mountains, located directly north of Tucson. The gardens are an attempt to bring the mountains into the city center with this modernist urban canyon!

Eckbo designed the gardens with the intention people would participate in the gardens with impromptu gatherings to express ideas. Eckbo loved abstract modernist art and he attempted to layer plants in gardens like the brush strokes of an abstract painting. The TCC Garden water features have rapids and still pools much like Sabino Canyon. The river feature on the north side of the garden appears to represent the many natural springs that bubbled up out of the ground around Tucson until the 1880s, and appear to depict the Native American water canals that historically irrigated fields near present day “A Mountain.”

The Tucson Music Hall on the Tucson Convention Center complex has recently been renamed the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall! Linda Ronstadt was born and raised in Tucson and is considered the most successful female musical artist of the 1970s!

In 1968 the City of Tucson implemented an urban renewal project. The city claimed eminent domain on many buildings around downtown Tucson resulting in vacant lots that would remain until the 2010’s. I often say this was a 40 year mistake. This included bulldozing an entire neighborhood, The Barrio Libre where the TCC sits today.

The Barrio Libre was a lively close nit neighborhood made up predominantly of Latino & Chinese Americans. The city had claimed eminent domain on the adjacent Barrio Viejo as well…the neighbors banded together and protested the bulldozing of the Barrio Viejo, after watching their neighbors in the Barrio Libre displaced with a lost since of community. Luckily the Barrio Viejo was saved, and today is largest collection of Mud Adobe structures found anywhere in the United States! Still today we laminet the loss of the Barrio Libre, yet enjoy Garrett Eckbo's modernist garden.

Join me on a Strolls and Stories Tour for our Barrio Viejo Tour to stroll the Barrio Viejo and hear the fascinating stories and tales of the neighborhood, learn about the Barrio Libre, and meander through Garrett Eckbo's modernist Tucson Convention Center Gardens. Book a tour today and we will chat about all of this and sooo much more!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page