AVENUE May 2014

Page 80

best in class

A Pioneer in Innovative LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Harmony between structure and environment interview by Andrew

J. Roth

CHRIS LAGUARDIA is the principal in charge of all LaGuardia Design projects. Best known for employing pre-existing landscapes to create harmony between structure and environment, LaGuardia last year won ASLA’s highest Award for Excellence, for saving the historic Sagaponack residence, Record House, from imminent destruction at the hands of the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. The LaGuardia solution was to relocate the stone house 400 feet inland where it could be protected by the coastal landscape of rolling sand dunes and meadows, yet still maintain the natural environment of the Atlantic Coast. These commitments to detail are LaGuardia’s hallmark—a kind of design signature that authenticates his work and allows him to tackle projects around the globe.

You are famous for drawing inspiration from the existing landscape and topography. Can you expand on how you extract creative ideas from nature? When I first walk a property, I do so as a detective. I look for clues to inform myself about how the site works. Every site has topography; and at times a site might appear flat, but that is never truly the case; every site has a pitch to it that reveals its natural drainage patterns. Working with the natural lay of the land helps define, justify and validate the design, not to mention [achieving my aim of] working in harmony with the site and not fighting it. I was always taught to look to the nextlargest context. In the Hamptons that context is the landscape. When I look out over the land, I see things, colors, textures, forms; and I like to respond to these elements in a sympathetic way so that what I do harmonizes with the greater context.

Your work has taken you from Sagaponack, New York, to Tonglu, China. Where would you like to work next, and how do different cultures inform and influence your projects? We have worked in many parts of the country, and abroad. The design process of research, analysis and synthesis, in that order, never changes for us regardless of where we are. We study the environmental, cultural, legal and economic factors for each site before synthesizing all this information into a concept. Modern architecture has had a strong influence on my career, particularly the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Luis Barragán and Norman Jaffe. Also, the early landscape modernists Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin and James Rose deeply influenced my thinking. I think it all boils down to the very basic principles of design,

1 LIVING PRETTY Clockwise from top right: 1. Minimalist courtyard garden with black granite reflecting pool, bamboo and fine gravel 2. Waterfall wall greets guests as they enter the property 3. 75-foot lap pool accentuates long, narrow property 4. Stone sculpture set in simple bed of liriope groundcover 78 | AVENUE MAGAZINE • MAY 2014