Theses Master's

Reassessing the Public Spaces of Isamu Noguchi

Kirby, Alexandra Eve

This thesis discusses the three extant public spaces designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi within the United States. Noguchi’s artistic career, including his sculptural explorations, playground proposals and theater set designs, greatly influenced his limited landscape work. His artistic elements set him apart from traditional landscape architects of his time, making his sites evocative and symbolic, yet challenging to maintain and adequately interpret. The most vulnerable of these sites are his public plazas and parks, designed late in his career, which are subject to the vagaries of ever-changing political, cultural and economic factors. Through investigating Noguchi’s three existing public spaces in the United States, recommendations are set forth to encourage a broader understanding of the artist’s contribution to the urban fabric within the respective communities to promote lasting preservation measures. Additionally, California Scenario (1982), often hailed as Noguchi’s landscape masterpiece, offers lessons in its ongoing care and preservation as a privately owned public space. Through archival research, site visits, and interviews with current stewards and stakeholders, each site has been thoroughly assessed for integrity, use and existing conditions, culminating in a survey of Noguchi’s public landscapes. This thesis examines both the individual and collective significance of Noguchi’s sites and identifies best practices for future interpretation and maintenance of these and of the broader scope of modernist public spaces.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Freeman Jr., Robert B.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 13, 2013