Garden in the Sky

Background information

Sentaro Iwaki, 1977. One-half acre. 120 South Los Angeles Street. New Otani Hotel.
The small stroll or shuyu garden on the terrace of the New Otani Hotel in Little Tokyo is modeled after the 10 acre garden at the New Otani in Japan designed in the 16th century by Kiyokusui Kato. At the center of the Garden in the Sky, a rough waterfall and a smooth waterfall create a soft restful sound. A bamboo Yotsume Gaki fence borders a narrow pond at the bottom of the waterfall while black pebbles embedded in concrete in the broad pond against the hotel's restaurant suggest a beach. Stone lanterns, including an elaborate Nigatsudokala lantern next to the entrance from Weller Court, are used primarily as ornament during the day rather than to light the path in the evening. The skyline from the modern office towers on Bunker Hill, integrated into the design by the principles of "shakkei" or borrowed scenery, makes a striking contrast to the quiet natural setting of the garden. Quarried on the island of Sado in central Japan, precious red rocks from the rock collection of the founder of the New Otani, the late Yonetaro Otani, are placed throughout the garden. Though the Garden in the Sky has many elements found in traditional Japanese gardens, the source of the waterfall is not toward the east as is customary, and the path is asphalt rather than the typical asymetrically placed stones or beaten earth and gravel.

The $50,000 garden, commissioned in response to the Community Redevelopment Agency's percent-for-art policy for projects in Little Tokyo, was part of an extensive art program for the hotel's interior spaces. Among the works in the main lobby is a waterfall sculpture by Philip Vourvolis and paintings by Katherine Lui, Peter Erskine and the late Matsumi Kamemitsu which were all inspired by the Garden in the Sky.



The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, January 1998.

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