It Takes a Village to Create a Garden
Before Andy Cao arrived at Cornerstone fresh off a Leob fellowship at Harvard, I wondered what to expect. Would he be some holier-than-thou Designer with a severe case of badassitude? And his design team: a coterie of crackpots from LA, impossibly trendy in head-to-toe black?
I needn’t have worried. It’s easy to see why Andy’s successful. In addition to his amazing talent, he’s a really nice guy. And the design team? Also really, really nice (mostly) guys. And the rest of us: volunteers, donors, and cheerleaders, a motley albeit usually nice group. Meet the team…
Xavier Perrot is the “perrot” of cao | perrot studio. He lives and works in Paris and was awarded “Emerging Young Landscape Designer” by the French Ministry of Culture in 2008.
Stephen Jerrom is cao | perrot studios in-house photographer and long standing creative consultant. He’s also the studio’s Sounding Board/Voice of Reason and says “sometimes my job is to just say no”.
I spent an evening stringing thousands of crystals onto wires with The Guys from Portland. They are friends of Andy’s who go way back. They all work at Atelier Dreiseitl, a landscape architecture firm based in Germany with offices in the US. They are:
Michael Moyers – family man and chicken farmer. His assessment of the project so far? “It’s hard on your hands.”
Nathan Hilmer – crankin’ the iTunes, Nathan thinks the gardens at Cornerstone resemble sketches because “they’re each like an aspect of landscape architecture distilled into a single idea.”
Zeljka Carol Kekez is a principal at Atelier Dreiseitl who has worked with Andy for years. A true multi-tasker, she holds an MBA as well as design expertise.
Others from the Atelier Dreiseitl crew who had to return early to the office (someone has to keep the lights on, after all) are Charlie Brucker, Eric Bode, and Matt Noyes.
The Architect – is J.P. Paull of Bodega Architecture in Portland. He worked with Andy on an award-winning project for Laurent-Perrier in Paris. “It’s always a surprise to see the materials shape the ideas and vice versa during each installation.”
The Young Turk – Originally from Mexico City, Christian Berman observes common elements in both Mexican and Asian art. You’re in good hands when a designer expounds upon magical realism in art at the mere mention of Garcia Marquez.
Matt Moffitt is The Intern. If you never watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, put it at the top of your Netflix queue and envision Matt walking out with the espresso machine. He’ll be a senior in landscape architecture next year at Penn State. VIEW
The Barbacks, aka Teresa Raffo and Chris Hoagie, the owners of Cornerstone. They are also experienced dirt shovelers, water wallahs, pond-liner-layers, and general on-call project grunts.
Dawn Smith is the Cornerstone Garden Manager and in the past few weeks has done everything from sourcing eco-friendly railroad ties to harvesting prickly pear cactus at a local ranch. She’s still limping from cactus spines in her legs and thinks the project “is hard on the entire body.”
A lot of heavy lifting is being done by Los Muchachos, Rigo and Chavo, on Cornerstone’s permanent garden staff. Rigo’s specialty is concrete, and he did an amazing job overseeing the new tinted walkways. Chavo is a professional painter and construction foreman. He’s also very artistic: a great fit for Cornerstone.
Friends, Benefactors and Heroes – Big appreciation goes out to the following folks, without whose help White Cloud (Bai Yun) and Red Lantern would never have gotten off the ground:
Scott Wilson, the owner of Pond and Garden Nursery in Cotati
Tony Giaccio from Napa Valley Wine Train
Brad Buckley at The Abalone Farm
Cliff Bar Foundation
Meg, James, Grace and Luisa Ellsworth
Carl Ostroff and Joan Cotton
Geraldine Caldarola, Jeff Lapic, and Gerald Raffo
Stay tuned for a project post-mortem and “up next” missive, to follow after everyone’s caught up on their zzzzz’s.
Click here to find out more about the grand opening event: