The Garden of Architect Peter Marino

Architect Peter Marino has a new book out, one that’s dedicated to the garden of his Hamptons home on New York’s Long Island. During the past two decades, he’s worked mightily to transform that property from indifferent acreage to private paradise. The new book is from Rizzoli, and it’s called, naturally enough, “The Garden of Peter Marino.” I recently interviewed him via email:

When did you acquire this garden, and what was it in its past life? The garden is 21 years old. Apart from the forest area, it was a giant lawn – really boring.

How large is it, and how have you organized it? The garden is 12 acres. The organization could be described as a series of outdoor “rooms,” all squares or rectangles, with everything organized on a single axis that goes from the cow sculpture on one side of the house all the way to the bull sculpture on the other side. I like to define spaces, so each section is its own color – purple, pink, yellow and so on – but with fragile green borders like the ragged edge on watercolor paper.

How is sculpture integrated into it, in plantings and works of art? The 42 sculptures by Claude and Francois Xavier Lalanne are a major component of the garden. The Lalannes’ surreal qualities and sense of humor are the two qualities that I want my gardens to share. In every sense, the blooming gardens are totally surreal, and I purposely let them get overgrown so they don’t look too serious. About half the sculptures were specifically commissioned for the garden. I love the surreal magic of their work.

How is this garden architecture? Spatially, there are “casual” rooms, “formal rooms” – defined by walls of spruces or hollies – and “corridors” and “salons.”

The intent of your design? Varied experiences as the season’s change, which is difficult to do with architecture, but fun to play with also in interior design.

Its inspiration? Fantasy has been a powerful element in my design for the garden. I have this “Alice in Wonderland” idea in my head that a garden should be a place of wonderment. The French use gardens to show grandeur and the English to show how things have endured for hundreds of years, but for me, they’re all about fantasy.

And color! Not enough people enjoy working with color, which delights and inspires me.

And its challenges? The biggest challenge is the five to 15 percent extinction rate every winter. And insect infection, because we use no pesticides and are totally organic. It is particularly depressing to see how nature destroys its own beauty.For more, go here.

Photography by Jason Schmidt and Manolo Yllera

J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art and design for national and international publications, and is architecture critic for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., where portions of this column first appeared. He edits a digital design magazine at www.architectsandartisans.com and is the author of “Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand“ (Routledge: 2015). He can be reached at mike@architectsandartisans.com.

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