Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario Garden

The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, New York, has marked the thirtieth anniversary of famed modern artist Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario with a new exhibition. The public garden, commissioned by developer and philanthropist Henry T. Segerstrom, is located in Costa Mesa, California. The exhibition explores the design of Noguchi’s garden through photographs, models, and video.

In 1979, Segerstrom asked Noguchi to design a public garden to enhance two office towers built on family land once used as a lima bean farm. While Segerstrom initially wanted a lush retreat, Noguchi instead created a simple stone plaza with a few green spaces. The Noguchi Museum writes that the artist first conceived the project as an “abstract metaphor for the state of California, from the Sierras, to the desert, to the woods. In addition to including redwoods and cacti, among other native plants, it encompasses a number of individual elements designed by the artist to evoke some of California’s salient characteristics.”

The garden features a crack filled with water and stones, which functions as a stream beginning at the thirty-foot-high sandstone triangle named “Water Source” and ending at “Water Use,” a granite wedge. “Forest Walk” takes visitors past a patch of California redwoods and “Desert Land” features a “symmetrical mound planted with a variety of cacti, agave, and other desert plants.” The sculpture “Spirit of the Lima Bean,” twelve-feet-high carved granite boulders, educates visitors about the earlier use of the site.

Segerstrom and Noguchi worked on the project for two years. Today, it’s a well-visited (and well-maintained) site open to all. In fact, Segerstrom “personally ensured” California Scenario was well-preserved over the long-term. 

The exhibition is open through October 24, 2010. Learn more about the garden and artist Noguchi’s stone and light sculpture, and furniture work.

Image credit:  (1) Aerial view of California Scenario. Courtesy Michio Noguchi ca. 1995 / The Noguchi Museum, New York, (2) California Scenario featuring Water Use (foreground), the Desert Land, and Water Source and Energy Fountain (far-ground), 1982. Courtesy Gary McKinnis / The Noguchi Museum, New York

2 thoughts on “Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario Garden

  1. Michael Murray 05/31/2010 / 9:26 pm

    You might want to mention that Ken Kammeyer, ASLA, worked very closely with Mr. Noguchi on the plant materials. Mr. Kammeyer, who has a practice located in Corona, CA, has been on the faculty of UCLA Extension Landscape Architecture program since its inception in 1978, and continues to teach plant materials classes.

  2. anna friesen 07/21/2011 / 1:00 pm

    An exhibition consisting of models of the garden, video on the topic of Noguchi and Segestrom’s collaboration, Noguchi’s light sculptures, and his galvanized steel pieces is currently at the Laguna Art Museum,Laguna Beach, CA, July, 2011. Check the website for actual exhibition dates

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