A private Bridgehampton sculpture garden by LaGuardia Design Group opens to the public on Saturday, June 18 for a Garden Conservancy “Garden Masters” tour.
Managing Director and Founder of LaGuardia Design Group, Christopher LaGuardia, will lead the tour of the 12-acre Ocean Road estate, which is divided into several garden areas and is dotted with contemporary and modern sculptures by world-class artists. There are many surprises throughout the property, he said in an interview last week.
LaGuardia said the garden is an exceptional place that he has worked on for nearly 20 years. “Recently, like five or six years ago, we had a big push there,” he added.
In 1980 the current owners purchased the property, including a 1912 mansion known as Minden.
“They moved in and renovated it and turned it into an art collection, both inside the house and out — a real blue-chip art collection,” LaGuardia said.
The landscape is intentionally left open near the road to allow the public to view part of the collection, including a piece by sculptor Richard Serra.
“Then, in the background, there’s an expansive, park-like setting with these sculptures in it, and there are different gardens that represent different artists,” LaGuardia said.
Next to the house is a garden dedicated to sculptures by the late artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. There are ginkgo trees, a pond and about 12 pieces of noguchi. The garden also includes a gazebo to sit and view the garden, LaGuardia said.
Another garden area is dedicated to Walter De Maria, a minimalist artist and composer known for land art. “This is an amazing garden,” said LaGuardia. “There is a small indoor museum, then an outdoor garden which includes this 60 ton sphere.”
The museum houses other pieces by De Maria and is situated so that guests can take a look at the artist’s garden sphere.
LaGuardia Design Group collaborated on an earthwork with artist Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
“That’s how ownership itself became art,” LaGuardia said. “I mean, you can’t sell this piece – it’s embedded.
The piece is called “Lay of the Land”.
“That’s really the centerpiece of the backyard,” LaGuardia said. “…It’s made out of grass, and it’s this very serpentine piece that’s about 300 feet long. It really is a beautiful, beautiful piece all year round.”
LaGuardia said that when he first started on the property, he began landscaping around the art — as is often the case when landscaping sculpture gardens. But the owner told him to take the art away. First the landscape would be designed, and the owner would then decide where his sculptures would fit best.
“There’s a nice movement to that,” LaGuardia said. “There are paths that wind around you and pull you through the landscape one after the other. You can experience a lot. It probably takes about 45 minutes to walk through the garden, but once you’ve made it, you feel changed. You just got inundated with so many different things.”
At the front of the property, most of the trees are basswood and are likely more than 100 years old, according to LaGuardia. At the back is a stand of centuries-old horse chestnut trees. Other old, stately trees include large Japanese maples and cryptomerias.
“There’s a nice mix of old and new, but watch out for the really old ones,” he advised visitors. “And of course the chestnut trees at the back are quite a nice grove and there’s a Donald Judd sculpture in there.”
He noted that the horse chestnuts are no longer planted as ornamental trees because they look “shabby” in August – but they are blooming now.
Weeping katsura and 100-year-old hydrangea trees are other notable features he mentioned that are unique to the property.
The LaGuardia Design Group also designed the property’s swimming pool. To ensure sight lines are not compromised, the pool has been sunk 3 feet deeper. The pool area is also a garden in itself and contains sculptures.
LaGuardia said the idea is to maintain long lines of sight and not create visual barriers. It was also important that none of the sculptures overlapped in the field of view.
“So you only see one piece,” he said. “You don’t see contradictory things in a given field of view. So it’s very controlled how we do it.”
LaGuardia Design Group also sunk the tennis court to integrate but also hide it in the topography.
“The layout has a lot of topographical nuances,” LaGuardia said.
The house is on a ridge, at a high point, and the lawn rolls towards it. Behind the house the land slopes down to a farm field beyond.
“I think anyone who hasn’t been there will be really happy with this tour,” LaGuardia said. “It’s quite a treat.”
After the Ocean Road Tour, guests will head to the LaGuardia Design Group office at Water Mill for a book signing and a lunch in the studio’s garden, served by The Golden Pear.
Included with admission to the tour is a copy of the design studio’s monograph, Contemporary Gardens of the Hamptons: LaGuardia Design Group 1990-2020. The Ocean Road Garden is one of the gardens featured in the book.
Guests can peek into the design group’s studio and view ongoing projects.
The cost to join the tour is $275 or $250 for Garden Conservancy members. Register at gardenconservancy.org. Call 845-424-6500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.