Capturing the Artistry of Landscape Architecture - 27 East

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Capturing the Artistry of Landscape Architecture

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Landscape designed by Justin Quinn.  NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn. NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn.  NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn. NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn.  NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn. NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn.  NEIL LANDINO Jr.

Landscape designed by Justin Quinn. NEIL LANDINO Jr.

author on Apr 9, 2024

Pink and white petals are unfolding from their fuzzy bud scales, hyacinths scent the air and daffodils brighten up damp spring days at Robert Dash’s Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack.

While the gardens don’t open to the public until April 19, Madoo has hosted its “Winter Lectures: Capturing the Garden” for over 20 years, and this year was no different.

“April is Landscape Architecture Month,” said Madoo Executive Director Alejandro Saralegui inside a refurbished 1740 barn, now used for art exhibits, concerts, and lectures.

The third installment of “Landscape Designers and Photographers in Conversation” featured landscape architect Justin Quinn, who is the principal of James Doyle Design Associates, and photographer Neil Landino Jr. on Sunday, April 7.

For the final talk, Saralegui wanted to incorporate a larger design firm from out of town, and James Doyle Design Associates fit the bill. Both Madoo Conservancy and James Doyle Design Associates are celebrating 30th anniversaries.

In 2022, James Doyle Design Associates published a coffee table book, “Intersection of Nature and Art,” which Quinn and Landino worked on together, as well as countless design projects.

Quinn grew up in eastern Connecticut and currently lives in Woodbury with his wife, Martina, and three children.

His road to landscape architecture followed a stint in the United States Army as an infantry officer. “Like many of us, 9/11 had a profound impact on me,” he told me after the talk. “I joined the Army a few weeks later.”

“Military service shapes you in all sorts of ways, conflict and struggle are constants, and good problem-solving is essential,” he said. “Landscape architecture at its core is a balance between creativity and creative problem solving, and my time in the service laid a foundation for thinking outside the box.”

Serving in the military also grounded Quinn. “Seeing how others can remain optimistic while living in sometimes dire war torn conditions certainly offers a bit of perspective,” he said.

He became interested in design when he tagged along with a contractor friend to a business lunch where a landscape architect shared some of his drawings. “I was intrigued by what I saw,” he said.

Quinn met Saralegui at an event in the city and Madoo has been on his radar ever since. “The organization is a great promoter of garden preservation and garden design education, which is obviously of interest to me and my colleagues,” Quinn said.

James Doyle Design Associates has worked on a handful of East End projects over the years. Currently they have projects in Sagaponack and Sag Harbor.

On the East End, landscapes are often refined but stylistically different. “I do see an underlying agrarian influence in many areas,” he said.

In the past, meadows were a hard sell, but not so much anymore. “Now you don’t have to sell clients on diverse pollen meadows,” he said during the talk. “I’m pretty excited about that.”

Still, he’s a sucker for the perfect Hamptons hedge.

Landino spent some time in the mental health industry as well as academia before becoming a portrait photographer.

His wife, Brooke Cooley, is his art director on interior shoots and his assistant on exterior shoots. “She’s got a great eye for light,” he said. “And telling me where something ‘pretty is happening.’”

“Brooke is also the owner of Bespoke Caramels,” he said, taking the opportunity to plug his wife’s confections. “They’re the best handmade caramels in the country. We’ve tasted a lot of competition.”

Professionally and recreationally, the photographer has always been drawn to water. “Simplicity in the form but so complex in its patterns,” he said.

Like weddings, June is the preferred month for landscape architecture photography, in order to catch the herbaceous plants in flower.

“We’re in the Hamptons two or three weeks every summer, always for clients,” he said. “Typically, when we take time off, we head to anywhere that’s off-season. The Hamptons in October are dreamy and quiet.”

Art plays a big role in Landino’s photography. “I like the way the Hamptons projects can get a little edgy and match the art scene,” he said.

Landino was shooting antique furniture for Connecticut Cottages & Gardens when he was asked to do a portrait of James Doyle, who founded his landscape design firm in 1993 and had been quietly creating his own masterpiece at home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“I showed up at the gates, without enough batteries,” he told the audience, to giggles.

Doyle strolled past the flowing grasses and arrived at the gate surrounded by a golden light. Thankfully, Landino was able to go back to photograph Doyle’s heavenly landscape.

“I was the first person to photograph his gardens,” he told the audience. “He put his heart and soul into the land.”

“You nailed this,” Doyle told Landino of their first project together. Doyle was so impressed, he hired Landino to photograph for his firm.

In the meantime, Quinn read the first piece in Cottages & Gardens and was so impressed, he decided to join the design firm himself.

“I saw a level of craft and expertise as it relates to plant selection and composing materials,” Quinn said. He could tell by looking at the work that it was an office where design rules.

“I should work for this firm,” he thought to himself at the time.

“Now I own part of this firm,” he told the audience.

The first project Quinn and Landino discussed was a home on Bluff Road in Amagansett. “The project had no sense of space when we got there,” Quinn said. “It could have been anywhere.”

The design budget was a modest $5,000. Two drawings were created very quickly and approved, which was not the usual process for Quinn.

Although Quinn and his colleagues have to work within a set of parameters such as budget, space, and client wish lists, Landino has no such restrictions in this dance between collaborators.

“I go completely unrestrained,” Landino said. “I show up and there’s no more dirt or mud or construction crews.”

Quinn kept the design scheme simple. He surrounded the existing privet hedge and stand of native trees, including oak, sassafras and wild cherry with boxwoods trimmed into a round shape, and Japanese forest grass.

One of the most striking images to come out of that project is a photo of trees.

The stark bark of the trees and dappled leaves form the focal point. Sunlight strikes golden grasses in the foreground, with graduating shades of green moving toward a dark background created by a privet.

“Simplicity, but there was so much of it. It was difficult to layer all the material together,” Landino said. “Like total candy. Such a vibe you want to sleep in it.”

The duo got lucky and were able to spend two days on site, with post-beach sunsets offering great light and summer storms providing just the right amount of moodiness.

“It was the most romantic weekend I’ve ever spent,” Landino said. “Sorry Brooke.”

“And I’m following you around like a puppy dog,” Quinn said.

After the talk, Dash’s famous bloody marys were served in the Red Living Room. If you want to replicate it at home, his recipe contains Sacramento tomato juice, key lime juice, Worcester sauce, horseradish, ground black pepper, Sagaponack Distillery vodka and an asparagus stirrer.

You may have trouble replicating the rich red color of the room, still decorated with Dash’s furniture. “The color was mixed by Bob,” Saralegui said. “It’s not a Benjamin Moore color.”

Saralegui whipped up some deviled eggs, and his partner Kendell Cronstrom, a longtime editorial director at Cottages & Gardens, made sweet and savory rosemary and lemon cookies.

If that sounds good, check out the highlight of the season, “Much Ado About Madoo,” a garden market and cocktail party fundraiser on June 15. Most other days, admission is free.

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