PepsiCo’s Iconic Sculpture Gardens Re-Open on a Grand Scale

Just in time for viewing amazing spring blooms, the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens in Purchase, New York, which have been closed since 2012, are now brilliantly restored and re-opened. The three-year restoration was completed in June, but security issues at the site of PepsiCo’s World Headquarters required more time for public access to be ironed out– and now, the gardens are back to their full splendor, just in time for summer.

Located about a 45-minute drive north of Manhattan, the PepsiCo gardens were first planned in 1970 around buildings designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone. The surrounding landscape was originally laid out by the architect’s son, E.D. Stone, Jr., whose land spanned more than 150 acres that had once been a polo field and air strip.

A few years later, PepsiCo’s CEO, Donald M. Kendall, commissioned legendary British landscape designer Russell Page, then age 74 and at the end of his long career, to re-design and extend the gardens to improve the relationship between the sculpture collection and the landscape.

Photo: Pepsico

Page had previously completed a series of projects in the U. S. and was well-known for designing the famous 70th Street Garden at the Frick Museum in New York City. But integrating the sculpture collection with the PepsiCo buildings– seven, stark, square building blocks rising in a low three-story profile– was a huge challenge.

Dozens of monumental sculptures as well as smaller pieces are on view, including awesome sculptures by 20th Century masters such as Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, and Auguste Rodin.

To complete the design job, Page created drawings and plantings for 3 months in the spring and 3 months in the fall every year, for five years, from 1980 to his death in 1985. In the first spring they planted some 350 trees alone. He rented rooms near the PepsiCo’s headquarters and worked constantly on the grounds directly with the staff.

During this period, tragically, he became quite ill with cancer and struggled with exhaustion (the sculpture garden was his last major work). As a public garden, he hoped it would be one of his more enduring achievements– and today, the work speaks for itself.

An Artist’s Palette

In his youth, Page wanted to be an artist, starting off in London at art school in the 1920’s. His training– and his whole approach to landscape design– was as a painter. In his classic book, The Education of a Gardener (first published in 1962), he describes garden designing as “…my art gallery of natural forms… my palette.”

For one of his larger gardens, the story goes, he began by tracing an outline of a lake, walking the grounds with a bag of talcum powder that had a hole cut out at the bottom. Once he had the outline drawn, the rest of the design took shape around it. The outline of the lake created the first “bones” of the garden.

At the PepsiCo site, a large lake also plays a fundamental role in the design as trees provide a kind of “living architecture.” Dozens of monumental sculptures as well as smaller pieces are on view, including awesome sculptures by 20th Century masters such as Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, and Auguste Rodin. Each is carefully placed in dialogue with the larger landscape.

The bright red, 31-foot high Calder sculpture titled “Hats Off”, which greets visitors at the entrance to the garden, was made in 1971 in Waterbury Connecticut, near Calder’s home. Its color is set off by the dark blue spruce trees behind it. Weighing in at about 6 tons, it is best appreciated by walking around and through the sculpture. (When standing underneath, looking up, it seems as though figures are throwing their hats in the air.)

Page said that he used the trees in the landscape “as sculptures” and the large sculptures “as flowers”– coordinating and connecting the design with a “Golden Path” that winds through the landscape like a ribbon. While walking along the path, everywhere you stop, there is a new perspective.

In the newly-opened spaces, six sculptures have been put in restricted areas, and there’s a new addition by Lenora Carrington titled, “Music for the Deaf”.

Scale, proportion, spatial relationships, and composition are key aspects of Page’s design. He explains: “Whether I am making a landscape or a garden or arranging a window-box, I first address the problem as an artist composing a picture; my pre-occupation is with the relationship between objects whether I am dealing with woods, fields or water, rocks or trees, shrubs and plants or groups of plants.”

With the recent make-over, Page’s basic design continues to prevail but has been managed for more than 30 years by Belgian master-landscaper François Goffinet, who studied and worked under Page at the Royal Horticulture Society in England. In the newly-opened spaces, six sculptures have been put in restricted areas, and there’s a new addition by Lenora Carrington titled, “Music for the Deaf”.

The Lily Pond Garden

Within Page’s landscape design, there are eleven small specialty gardens. One of these, the Lily Pond Garden, is a wonderful example of a restful, practical, and more intimate space within the larger grand garden. There are three pools featuring lilies and lotus flowers have green lawn paths bordering them, all laid out in a rectangular space with a hedge on one side.

On another side, there is a lovely perennial border in cool colors, like the pools, and at the far end a shaded bench, trellis, and pergola with wisteria vines. From this vantage point, one can rest in the cool shade, viewing the ponds, and in the distance, the stark, main corporate building.

A Similar Garden in New York City

The 70th Street Garden at the Frick Museum in New York City was designed by Russell Page in 1977. Compared to his later work for PepsiCo, The Frick Garden is soft and intimate, very much like the Lily Pond Garden at PepsiCo. (See our previous coverage.)

Page once said that the Frick garden should be viewed as if it were an Impressionist painting. Even though it has a very formal structure with gravel paths and boxwood, functioning as the garden’s “bones”, it is basically a little flower garden with plants that change year round. The main feature, like the PepsiCo version, is a rectangular pool in the center lawn with lilies and lotus.

New Mobile Garden App

The restored sculpture garden is now open to the public only on Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM through October 31. School groups are permitted on other days and can arrange special visits.

A very useful downloadable map of the garden is available online here. In addition, a newly-launched, free PepsiCo Sculpture Garden App for iPhone and iPad provides a self-guided audio tour for each of the sculptures and other interactive resources.

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For more information on the PepsiCo Sculpture Gardens, visit the organization’s website.

 

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