The Huntington Library’s famed Chinese Garden will undergo its final construction phase this fall and complete its journey to becoming one of the largest of its kind in the world.
This $23 million phase is the third and final phase in the garden’s master plan and is expected to be completed by February 2020. The Huntington Library announced the project last week and plans to have a formal groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 28, at which the project’s donors will be recognized.
“Over the course of the past 15 years, we’ve been gradually implementing that master plan. Now we’re more or less completing that plan,” said Phillip Bloom, curator of the Chinese Garden and director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies at the Huntington Library, in a telephone interview.
The garden, also known by its poetic name “Liu Fang Yuan,” or “the Garden of Flowing Fragrance,” will increase from 3.5 acres in size to 12 acres when all is said and done. Its first phase — eight tile-roofed pavilions surrounding a 1-acre lake — opened in 2008 and, in 2014, two pavilions and a rock grotto were added as part of the second phase.
This third phase will add an exhibition complex on the north side of the garden, which will include a traditional scholar’s studio alongside an art gallery. A large café with outdoor seating also will be added, allowing the current café to be changed into a tea and small bites shop. The phase also includes a streamside corridor and pavilion, a hillside pavilion in the garden’s highest point and a large event space overlooking the lake.
With additional fundraising, the Huntington Library also plans to add a courtyard with miniature bonsai-esque landscaping and several other acres of gardening.
About $19 million has been raised for the bulk of this phase, including a $3 million donation by former San Marino city councilman and mayor Dr. Matthew Lin and his wife, Joy.
“It very quickly became one of the two or three most popular attractions here at the Huntington, but it’s also opened up a whole new community of support who previously had not been a part of the Huntington,” Bloom said on originally adding the garden. “In constructing the Chinese Garden, we’ve been able to make friends with all sorts of new people. One of the neat things we’ve seen is that the people who are donating to the project are almost treating the project as an extension of their own back yard. It’s really been a wonderful community-building site for the Huntington.”
As with the prior phases, this project will partner American and Chinese architects, contractors and craftsmen to ensure the garden remains authentic to Chinese traditions of architecture and landscape design while also meeting state and federal safety and access regulations. Los Angeles architect Jim Fry developed the detailed construction plans for the expansion, based on the conceptual designs of the Suzhou Institute of Landscape Architecture Design in China.
The Irvine-based construction engineering firm of Snyder Langston will oversee building construction; BrightView of Calabasas will be the landscape contractor. As before, Chinese artisans from the Suzhou Garden Development Co. Ltd. — wood carvers, roof tiling experts and stonemasons — will work on site for several months to ensure authenticity down to precise details.
“This is a long-held dream, to put the finishing touches on a project that has engaged thousands of visitors and scores of individuals — from donors and diplomats to staff, scholars and volunteers,” said Steve Hindle, the Huntington Library’s outgoing interim president, in a news release. “The Chinese Garden is essential to our mission in that it expands our research and educational programs and provides extraordinary inspiration that extends across cultures. We are profoundly grateful to those who have made it possible.”
Donors will be recognized with plaques at their applicable sites, both by their actual names and their chosen poetic names for the garden. Bloom said the introduction of the garden 10 years ago has provided Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles area a link to their cultural histories.
“It’s brought together many different types of people who might otherwise not have that much contact with each other,” he said. “It’s great because you can walk through the garden and see a history of Chinese migration in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s a very interesting thing from a sociological perspective.”
The Chinese Garden will remain open throughout construction. For more information, visit huntington.org.