Landscape architects design some of our favorite public and private outdoor spaces, but landscape designers rarely become household names. Cornerstone Sonoma in Northern California is a celebration of landscape architecture, and it features more than a dozen gardens designed by some of the world's leading artists and landscape designers. Located about 45 minutes north of San Francisco, the gardens feature an impressive collection of sculptures, open-air art galleries, and a wide range of conceptual installations from landscape artists and architects ranging from Andy Cao & Xavier Perrot to John Greenlee. It's a must-see stop if you're heading to Northern California's wine country. Click through the photo gallery to see some of our highlights.
White Cloud by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot
One of the most visually arresting installations at Cornerstone Sonoma is “White Cloud,” which, contrary to its name, is an ominous dark cloud with shimmering drops of rain hovering above a desert landscape. The installation was produced by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot, and it’s made from big bunches of mesh wire that are suspended from tall poles.
Red Lantern by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot
Chinese immigration is a very important part of California’s history, and the otherworldly “Red Lantern” installation by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot is inspired by various aspects of the Chinese experience in California. The piece features several sets of oversized chopsticks next to a railroad track, which references the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, leading into a large lantern-shaped structure.
Garden Play by Topher Delaney
If the blue and black wall at the rear of Topher Delaney’s installation looks familiar, it’s because it’s something you’ve probably seen countless times on the bottom of grocery store items: It’s a bar code that spells out the words “Garden Play” in Code 39. Clever, eh? The bar code stands behind vertical lines of eight slender birch trees, providing a contrast between manmade/commodified objects and the natural world.
Small Tribute to Immigrant Workers by Mario Schjetnan
Mario Schjetnan’s emotionally – and politically – charged installation at Cornerstone Sonoma pays tribute to the thousands of Mexican migrant workers who risk their lives to find work in the US. The sheet metal wall represents the border between the two countries, and it leads to a small series of vegetable planter boxes, representing agricultural jobs in California. On the opposite side is a small “Pool of Tears” that represents migrant workers’ loneliness and fears.
Daisy Border by Ken Smith
Many of the gardens and installations at Cornerstone Sonoma comment on the contrast between the natural and artificial worlds — none more so than Ken Smith’s “Daisy Border,” which consists of dozens of daisy pinwheels, which spin at a furious pace in the Northern California breeze.
The Wishing Garden by Mark Rios
At the Wishing Garden, visitors are invited to write a wish on a piece of tape and attach it to a circular metal trellis. “Each individual wish in our garden becomes part of a collective dream,” writes designer Mark Rios.
Eucalyptus Soliloquy by Walter Hood and Alma Dusolier
The Eucalyptus Soliloquy is a tribute to one of California’s most ubiquitous invasive species: the eucalyptus tree, which was originally brought from Australia to make railroad ties. The installation consists of three different walls, each of which are made from different components of the eucalyptus tree (leaves, bark and branches).
The Garden of Visceral Serenity by Yoji Sasaki
Perhaps the most relaxing garden at Cornerstone Sonoma is Yoji Sasaki’s Garden of Visceral Serenity, which visitors can enter on a beautiful path of long and narrow granite stones. At the rear of the garden is a small meditation box made of rusted metal.