In this update of a classic estate, the clients retained the 1927 residence but commissioned LDG to completely redevelop the twelve-acre landscape. Notably, conventional features such as rose, cutting, and vegetable gardens were replaced with a series of tableaux to display the owners’ extraordinary collection of contemporary art. For the LaGuardia team, the challenge was to differentiate the respective areas while still respecting the existing collection of mature trees and observing the owners’ requirement that the views of the various artworks should not overlap. Full-sized mock-ups of the artworks were fashioned out of plywood and moved about the settings to finalize placement before footings for the bases were poured.
One exception to the rule of viewing only one sculpture at a time was observed. A monumental granite sphere by sculptor Water De Maria is clearly visible from the Corten steel boxes that sculptor Richard Serra created as a tribute to his late friend.
Distinguishing the different areas was accomplished in part by adjusting the different areas was accomplished by adjusting the grade. The swimming pool and surrounding area were sunken so that the view from the house should not be of the required, four-foot-tall surrounding fence. The LDG design team also deployed the plantings judiciously. Of course, the plantings also help to emphasize the themes and set the tone. A garden designed by Edwina Von Gal, for example, which is dedicated to displaying works by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, is tucked into a grove of ginkgo trees which are remarkably sculptural themselves as well as conveying an Asiatic theme. The pavilion that provides weather-safe viewing for this area, is fashioned from Alaskan cedar connected with an intricate Japanese-inspired joinery that includes no metal fasteners.
The planting serves pragmatic purposes as well. The De Maria sphere is set on the apex of a mounded wildflower meadow that drains on all sides into rain gardens planted with moisture-loving natives such as swamp white oaks and witch hazel. One of the most challenging, but also fascinating, parts of this project was the creation of Lay of the Land, a landform sculpture by Maya Lin. This sinuous, 385-foot long sculpture was actually created not once, but twice. First, it was painstaking mocked up with waste soil, and carefully measured as a drainage plan was worked out. Then the full-sized model was removed and the final installation assembled, complete with drainage, precisely to the measurements and sodded. Art is not only intrinsic to this landscape; at least in this instance, it is the landscape.