I pulled into a parking lot in a generic part of Costa Mesa, California. I was directed to walk between a corporate high-rise and a TGIFriday’s, and then right into Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario. It’s a 1.6 acre public garden in between a couple of office towers and a parking garage on what used to be a lima bean farm. From the brochure:
The California Scenario is an abstract metaphor of California’s diverse natural environment and is considered to be one of Noguchi’s significant contributions to Landscape Architecture. The garden begins at the thirty-foot-high sandstone triangle named “Water Source”, travels through a stream filled with water and stones, and ends at “Water Use”, a granite wedge. “Forest Walk” takes visitors past a patch of California redwoods while “Land Use” is an eight-foot-high knoll, topped with a simple form of Sierra white granite. “Desert Land” features a symmetric mound with desert plants. The sculpture “Spirit of the Lima Bean”, is composed of twelve-foot-high carved granite boulders, educating visitors about the earlier use of the site. The “Energy Fountain”, is twenty five-feet in diameter and made from granite bricks and stainless steel.
I walked all around and it really is built to be beautiful and interesting from every angle. It even works with the shiny mirrored buildings and not against them. But my favorite spot was a bench on top of a small grassy hill surrounded by redwood trees. The trees effectively block out the buildings so that you’re left with a view of only the sculpture garden’s contents and sky.
There’s not a ton of info on the Noguchi website, but there is a really cool process mock-up here.
I also discovered the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana which had a great exhibit of traditional thangka painting. The above is a small detail of a larger work. I was originally sad that all the big museums were out of my reach in and around Los Angeles, but I discovered that Southern California has some hidden gems. More on the food later.