PepsiCo grounds combine art and landscaping

Let’s face it, corporate office campuses can sometimes be pretty generic. Even when they feature high-quality landscape designs, and even when the maintenance standards are exceptional, there can be a somewhat bland feel to the grounds. That’s often because the headquarters building itself is usually the focal point of the property, with the grounds just there for window dressing.

At the PepsiCo world headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., a modern-looking office building designed by Edward Durrell Stone, the architect of the famed Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is an impressive sight. However, the real beauty on the 168-acre corporate campus is found in the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden, which flows through and anchors the highly manicured lawns and landscape of the property.

The layout of the PepsiCo building, designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone in 1970, has windows facing all of the gardens with no views of parking areas.

The collection of 20th century sculptures by famed artists numbers about 45, made up of smaller pieces within the headquarters building courtyard, as well as “monumental” sculptures that make a bold statement throughout the rest of the grounds. Landscape Architects E.D. Stone Jr., Russell Page and Francois Goffinet contributed to the design of the property.

The true credit for this impressive coming together of art and landscaping goes to its namesake, Donald M. Kendall, who was CEO of Pepsi when the company moved out of Manhattan to the suburbs of Westchester County in 1970. Kendall, who personally selected the sculptures, according to a New York Times review of the gardens, “sought to create an atmosphere of stability, creativity and experimentation. He envisioned as essential to that ambience a museum without walls, where works of art could be enjoyed by the employees, the community and the public.”

The result is a very unique corporate campus; one that offers an imaginative workplace and which, rather than remaining hidden behind gated walls, actually welcomes the public (free of charge) to come in and tour the sculpture gardens. There are large expanses of open lawns, trails, a lake and picnic areas. The grounds also include basketball and volleyball courts, as well as soccer and baseball fields. These facilities are for use by employees only.

Crews work to maintain the grounds and sculptures without disrupting employees or visitors to the grounds.

Carmine Labriola Contracting Corporation, based in Scarsdale, N.Y., is responsible for grounds maintenance, as well as horticultural services and site improvement at the grounds immediately surrounding the PepsiCo headquarters building, as well as the sprawling sculpture gardens. The firm reports to the facility manager at PepsiCo.

During the growing season, the gardens maintenance crew consists of 32 full-time employees. These workers focus on maintaining the turf and landscape plantings throughout the site.

Some parts of the property feature huge, open areas of turfgrass with good sunlight and circulation. In other areas, the staff must work around obstacles such as trees, gardens and, obviously, sculptures. Accordingly, the crews use different types of mowers. The large areas are mowed with Exmark 60-inch rotary mowers, trimmed with Husqvarna 21-inch rotary mowers and edged with Redmax string trimmers.

Carmine Labriola Contracting follows a 100 percent organic land care program, the most important element of which is setting mowing heights a bit on the high side: grass is maintained at 3.5 to 4 inches. The primary areas of the sculpture garden around the lake and building are mowed twice a week, returning the clippings to the lawn areas.

PepsiCo’s world headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., play host to the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden, a collection of 20th century artwork in a meticulously maintained landscape setting. Exmark, 60-inch, rotary mowers are used on the open expanses of lawn while tighter areas around trees and statues are maintained with Husqvarna, 21-inch, rotary mowers.

Each year, three applications of a True Organics 4-4-2 fertilizer are made, along with six applications of compost tea, which is brewed on-site. High traffic areas are aerated and topdressed four times per year to help relieve compaction, and the entire property is aerated near the end of each growing season, in late August, followed by compost topdressing and seeding. Weeds, such as dandelions, plantain and crabgrass, are removed by hand. With the exception of a single broadleaf spot spray for clover, no chemical or pesticide applications have been made over the last three years.

Because the grounds encompass both a workspace and a public space, maintenance crews make a concerted effort to avoid interfering with either. Typically, the blowers are finished by 8:30 a.m. with the walks and roadways. The mowing in employee café patio areas (beside the headquarters building) is completed by 11:30 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. to prevent disturbing employees during lunch.

Beyond those restrictions, the maintenances crews operate five days per week, with a smaller crew on Saturday mowing the parking lot islands, mowing around the air conditioner intakes and blowing the parking lots. The result, for visitors and employees alike, is a peaceful experience.

Adding to the sense of serenity is the fact that all employees park their cars away from the buildings, which not only keeps the cars out of view, but gives the employees a good excuse to walk through the gardens every day. Once inside, the layout of the building, designed by Edward Durrell Stone has windows facing the gardens, with no views of parking areas.

The lawns at PepsiCo are managed using an organic lawn care program, with grass mowed at 3.5 to 4 inches.

A visitors’ center welcomes those new to the sculpture garden, and paths lead guests through the grounds. Most striking is the “Golden Path,” which features a gravel and asphalt base with chocolate colored pebbles held in place with liquid asphalt. The paths, bordered by wood edges, are raked weekly and edged as necessary.

While PepsiCo employees operate the visitors’ center and handle jobs such as security and electrical engineering, contractors are brought in to perform the various maintenance and renovation required on the property. In addition to Carmine Labriola Contracting’s work on the lawn and landscape, tree services are provided by The Care of Trees; Aqua Lawn, Inc. oversees the irrigation system; Rosedale Nurseries installs nursery plantings; and Doug Kwart is responsible for sculpture maintenance.

The result of the visionary design, the inspirational sculptures and a whole lot of maintenance work is a corporate office grounds like no other.

Patrick White is a freelance writer and editor who is always on the lookout for interesting and unusual stories. He can be reached at pwhitevt@aol.com.