In late May, a splashy fanfare heralded the first stage of a major renovation of the historic Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Even a rainy night couldn’t dampen the effect of the Main Fountain Garden’s jet spray (1,340 new jets, 379 “legacy” ones) that shot up into the sky as high as 175 feet—the height of a 15-story building. The shimmering spectacle was dramatized by a multicolor array of LED lighting, and enhanced by an eye-popping display of fireworks. It all may sound ephemeral, but the event represented an impressive collaboration between New York architects Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB); the Dutch urban planning and landscape design firm West 8; a Los Angeles–based water feature consultant, Fluidity Design; and New York lighting specialists L’Observatoire and the interdisciplinary group Pentagram.
The event marked ongoing major plans for Longwood. “This is only the beginning,” says Paul Redman, president and CEO of the horticultural- display gardens, created from 1906 to 1954 by Pierre S. du Pont, an inventor, engineer, and scion of the chemical company. Today, du Pont’s accomplishment totals 1,077 acres, organized around three connected Beaux-Arts-style conservatories, and attracts an estimated 1.35 million visitors a year to this verdant territory near Wilmington, Delaware.