No Name Garden

Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Los Angeles, California

Calvin Abe (artist, landscape architect, and our firm's founder) was invited to install a temporary landscape as part of a month-long exhibition at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC). Mr. Abe was given the unique opportunity of using the interior gallery space as well as the adjacent plaza designed by Isamu Noguchi. Dedicated to creating landscapes that make a contribution to the public, Calvin Abe is fundamentally interested in increasing people's relationship with the environment and transforming that experience. Prior to receiving JACCC's invitation to exhibit, he had challenged himself to create an inspiring, thoughtful, and spiritual garden, didactic in form and content. The site for the exhibit was perfect for that garden. He built a temporary landscape installation that transformed the plaza into a park and changed the community's awareness and thinking about the space.

Combining elements and references from American and Japanese culture, the installation deals with creating a common ground, and the inside-outside relationship between the landscape and architecture. There are four key elements in the installation: 

·      a circle of green grass, which refers both to the idealized American landscape and other notions such as the wholeness of things;

·      a line through the circle composed of upside-down sod, symbolizing the life cycle, death, and a return to dust;

·      a 3-foot wide blue indoor-outdoor carpet (symbolizing water and an idealized path) which extends from the line, through the circle, to the edge of the plaza and inside the gallery;

·      and finally, at the end of the line, a cone of compost is enshrined inside the gallery, communicating the cycle of growth/decomposition/growth which shapes the world.

A simple gesture - a circle of turf bisected by a blue path - turned Noguchi Plaza into a park and changed the community's awareness and thinking about the space. As we hoped, people reacted with questions and comments, and by participating in planned and spontaneous outdoor activities.