Paula Hayes

Born 1958: Concord, Massachusetts

Master of Fine Art, Sculpture in 1989: Parsons School of Design, New York, NY

Bachelor of Science in 1987: Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

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Paula Hayes brings several things to the landscape. With her background in sculpture she has found success in more than just planting plans.

Based in NYC, Paula’s earlier work in the late 90s, have been presented with a sense of satire and well meant agitation.

This attitude of nature evolved into her ‘Plant Packs’ that she advertised as fashion and style conscious. They were ‘back packs’ filled with plants meant to give city dwellers and eco-manic urbanist their fix of nature while riding the subway, stuck in the desolate and polluted mishmash we call American urbanism.

In an interview with the New York Times: “I wanted to make the garden magical and hopeful,” said Ms. Hayes, 50, whose fantastical herbaceous art pieces like hand-blown terrariums have made her an art-world darling. “A healing place that’s part of our story. The other thing I was after is this idea of visitation. You know, aliens.”

In her private garden designs, Paula continues to seek out new ways to combine sculptural juxtapositions with plants and the broader landscape. She is enamored by mixing highly artificial items with highly earthy organic shapes and materials: bright pink plastic chairs spread next to stripped logs or a deep edge of evergreen trees.

“I try to create an ecological feeling, but one that also includes people,” she says. “I would also suggest that industrial materials are not inherently evil. In every project you are forced to contend with complex, inharmonious elements. I try to bring those elements together in my work, to interweave all that complexity.”

Hayes talks about addressing the ‘particularities’ of place in her work, and then drawing out a basic conceptual framework from that. “I like to match the creative temperament of the client and the microclimate of the site,” she says, summing up the traditional role of a garden designer with an avant-garde twist!

Hayes explains her resulting palpably sculpted landscapes as, “In combination with all those things which hare uncontrolled, all those random interactions, I try to create extremely considered arrangements which function almost like a large-scale ikebana. It’s a combination of natural and uncontrolled, with the highly crafted.’

I was first drawn to Paula’s work , specifically her 2004 Santa Fe garden, because of her compositions of light yellow grasses, round tuffs of conifers and bright masses of lilacs. These three colors, varying forms, and arranged textures set in the rolling Santa Fe landscape creates such a peaceful and pleasing space. At the same time, in addition to creating wondrous landscapes she also dabbles in bird houses, sculptures, terrariums, necklaces, silicone planters, writing, and lecturing as well. As far as I know she had no formal training as a landscape architect, joining the seemingly growing group of prolific designers who simply have the EYE for design and aren’t cramped by the Rules of landscape design. I think as designers we must become sensitive to our whims and pursue every itch and random idea, because this alone is what makes us (and our designs) unique and worth all the effort!

To end, a short clip of her work.

Video seen at:thought2form

Her website: Paula Hayes

She is show cased in the book Avant Gardeners by Tim Richardson

Image source: NY TIMES



  1. I really like that her design is a blend of the naturalistic and human impositions. I can appreciate prestine landscapes untouched (or so it seems) by people, but I think it’s important to embrace the fact that it’s our nature to change the landscape. This emphasis, I think, highlights the idea that our ‘industrial materials’ have an undeniable relationship with the environment and we should strive for harmonious beauty as opposed to control and destruction.

  2. I agree with Jen. I think that Hayes’ designs walk a fine line between being too wacky to meld with a naturalistic setting, but just modern enough to grab your attention and study the forms.

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