Redwood and
Here you see cactus, redwood trees and office building in one glance–a juxtaposition that visually articulates the California situation indeed!

One of the midcentury’s renowned designers, Noguchi was also a sculptor and landscape architect. It may surprise you then to learn that you could find his work tucked away in Costa Mesa, California, in a installation known locally as the Noguchi Garden.

When California businessman Henry Segerstrom—locals may recognize his name from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts—approached Noguchi to design a garden tucked between office buildings, a mall and the freeway, the project at first seemed uninspiring. But Segerstrom persisted and allowed Noguchi artistic license to design what he pleased.

cactus aloe and Palo Verde at the Noguchi Garden
Gravel, cactus, aloe and Palo Verde reflect the native flora of arid Southern California.

Noguchi designed a sculpture garden to represent the California landscape. Rather than a green, grassy garden, the California Scenario is mainly sandstone. A triangular fountain delivers water into a stream that runs underneath the sandstone. The stone underscores the importance and scarcity of water.

Redwood and cactus in Noguchi Gardens
Here you see cactus, redwood trees and office building in one glance–a juxtaposition that visually articulates the California situation indeed!

A mound of cacti incorporates the state’s desert flora while another part of the garden includes redwoods, whose stateliness graces the central and northern coast of California. In a nod to the particular ground on which the garden now stands, a pile of round granite stones, whose shapes resemble lima beans, acknowledge that the now developed land here was once a lima bean farm.

Noguchi Garden Costa Mesa California
In the foreground is the shadowy backside of the lima bean rock sculpture, and a single stone in the background calls attention to the stone’s original shape. According to The New Yorker, Noguchi originally wanted five stones from Joshua Tree but was denied permission. Instead, he used 15 granite stones from Yucca Valley and Arizona. If you visit, look carefully on the stones for the artist’s initials.

Working within the confines of the space while also being true to it, Noguchi provided an unassuming, honest and thoughtful space. While not an oasis in terms of a verdant reprieve, it is an oasis from the sameness and busyness of its surroundings, providing instead a minimalist and unique space, reflecting California’s natural scenes in a thoughtful way.