Longstaffe-Gowan, a British designer who studied landscape architecture at Harvard University before going on to complete a Ph.D in historical geography in London, savored the opportunity to tackle his first-ever job in the US. The job, as he described it to Gothamist, provided “the opportunity to create a garden for a space that was destined to have a garden from the early 20th century, but lay fallow for almost 115 years.”
Creating such a garden had always been part of Morgan’s plans, which halted at his death in 1913, Longstaffe-Gowan explained. He noted that some of the antiquities now on view were intended for such use. “So it’s wonderful to pick up the baton where JP Morgan left off,” he said.
If Morgan commissioned plans for the garden, though, nothing appears to have survived his passing, leaving Longstaffe-Gowan and his team to formulate designs of their own. “The aim, really, was to try to create a garden that didn’t obstruct the building, because it’s such an extraordinary edifice,” he said. “It’s the most outstanding example of the neo-Renaissance in the whole of America, and it’s one of the finest buildings in New York.”
Accordingly, the garden plants were kept low to accentuate the building and elaborate on its details. “We wanted to reference as much as possible the historic building,” Longstaffe-Gowan explained, “which references itself buildings from the Renaissance in Italy.”
One more overriding concern, Longstaffe-Gowan said, was to make the garden “very European, because JP Morgan spent his life trying to bring European culture to America,” he explained. “I thought it was incumbent on us to follow that through, and to make a garden that seems, on the surface at least, to be a little bit more European than many New York gardens.”
The Morgan hosts its Garden Family Fair and Free Community Weekend June 18th and 19th; Free tickets can be reserved now at themorgan.org.