Longwood Gardens Main Fountain Garden


General Design

Kennett Square, PA, USA | West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture | Client: Longwood Gardens Inc.

Brilliant. To do something so contemporary in the fountains, like the way the lighting works. That’s where I think the creativity comes in.

- 2018 Awards Jury


Lead Designer

  • West 8
  • Beyer Blinder Belle
  • Fluidity Design Consultants
  • L’Observatoire International

Landscape Architect

  • West 8


  • Urban Engineers
  • Landis Inc.
  • Irrigation Consulting Inc.
  • Keast & Hood Co.
  • Bancroft Construction
  • The revitalization project also involved numerous Longwood staff members as well as additional outside consultants.


The Main Fountain Garden revitalization builds upon Longwood's first-ever physical master plan, which was completed by the landscape architect in 2011. The original astonishing design by Pierre du Pont was honored, and yet, the fountain garden was re-imagined. It plays a key role in the park as it is the first and most dramatic encounter of the vast gardens which span 1.077 acres. The 83-year-old fountain infrastructure has been replaced with the latest technology, visitor's access to the garden and horticultural elements are improved and make the fountain garden an entirely new experience. These changes are in line with the garden's ambition of becoming one of the greatest gardens in the world. While the restoration included corporeal retrofits, it is the visitor-oriented design approach that truly brings it closer to its goal. The Fountain Garden is coherent throughout and manages to merge traditional design and values with sustainable, contemporary design practices and needs alike. The Main Fountain Garden achieves a renaissance for the gardens while retaining its identity as recognizably "Longwood".


Longwood Gardens is located in the Brandywine valley of Pennsylvania, close to the city of Philadelphia. Their history is rich and reaches into the 18th century. Formally founded by Pierre S. du Pont in 1907, Longwood Gardens started out as a single flower garden which quickly soared in popularity. Encouraged by the many delighted visitors, the founder decided to expand. Ever since, the area and variety of gardens increased year by year. In 1927, construction of the Main Fountain Garden was concluded.

The design team's work on the Main Fountain Garden builds upon Longwood's first-ever physical master plan, which was completed by the landscape architect in 2011. Longwood Gardens strives to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts. The master plan embodies this aspiration and reflects the vision of the gardens to become 'a world apart, a place accessible to all'. It is a visionary document tasked with transforming it into one of the greatest gardens in the world. The plans for transformation are balanced by a safeguarding of Longwood's historic legacy. Meanwhile, they provide solutions for a number of critical concerns, such as growing visitation, aging facilities, disorganized logistics and overburdened infrastructure. The aim was to harmonize the design of the garden's public spaces with the original design, to enhance the Main Fountain Garden's horticultural elements and to create new gardens that would provide enhanced amenities for Longwood's guests.

The spirit of founder Pierre du Pont has been distilled, and knowledge and understanding of the place and its history were accumulated over three years. The revealed richness of tradition in combination with an appropriation of du Pont's engineering background informed the design choices towards infrastructural improvements, which are the drivers for the innovative landscape design. In return, innovation and legacy would be the drivers for the next 40 years of design, operations and planning at Longwood. The design team is well aware that great gardens are not created overnight. This awareness was fundamental to the planning process and, consequentially, the legacy of the gardens will be strengthened and revealed gradually over time.

Upon its creation in 1927, the Main Fountain Garden was a state-of-the-art construction. Thanks to the sensible approach and the high attention to detail during the revitalization project, the garden can enjoy this status once again. The new system offers more power and a wider range of programs, which will only incite greater awe amongst the visitors. The Main Fountain Garden is now the most dramatic encounter in the 1,077 acres of gardens at Longwood.

Longwood Gardens, and the Main Fountain Garden in particular, were missing one important characteristic: accessibility. Only a few paths spun across the landscape and invited people to take a stroll and explore the gardens in their entirety. Like the rest of the park, the Main Fountain Garden now offers better access for guests, which makes their experience in the gardens much more intimate and engaging. Especially the elegant south wall with its twenty wall-mounted fountains, which was closed for the public for the last twenty years. Throughout the five-acre main Fountain Garden, 4,000 pieces of carved Italian limestone were completely restored. The 83-year-old fountain infrastructure was replaced with the latest technology without harming the integrity of the work. The modern systems pump 300,000 gallons of water around 380 fountains, allowing for a more efficient performance and longer running time during the year. It also offers new choreographies that include water jets up to a height of 175 feet. Due to increased control over the jets, they are programmed to perform unique undulating, spinning, and flexing effects as well as a state-of-the-art flame feature. Thanks to the replacement of the old lighting system, the water shows can be emphasized with a more colorful LED-system.

In line with the master plan, new innovative additions were also made, such as the Grotto, which can be entered from passageways on either side of the loggia. It is composed of a vaulted central hall with a circular water curtain in its center. The grotto is lit by natural light that is allowed to enter the space through a limestone lattice-like wall and an oculus – keeping the light dim and offering a sense of mystery. It fits right in and seems as if it has always been hiding there. A newly constructed trellis bridge connects to the fountain terrace and allows guests to look over the surrounding gardens. The Main Fountain Garden also features new seating areas, including a seating wall along the fountain and a seating area with tables and chairs is located behind the trellis bridge. The lobby of the pump house was renovated and is now home to original exhibits from the pump system that powered the garden from 1931 till 2014. The overall landscape has been improved as by means of enhanced horticultural displays and expanded fully accessible walking areas. The Main Fountain Garden was stitched into the greater context by creating new gravel path connectors to the neighboring Topiary Garden and Idea Garden. The major pathways are lined with over 2500 billowing and verdant boxwoods by the name of "Green Beauty". They are only slightly more voluminous than they used to be in du Pont's times. The invasive Norway Maples were replaced with Tilia Cordata "Greenspire", a Linden variety as seen in the great gardens of Paris and Versailles. This is also where the new Fountain Garden benches find their inspiration, combined with contemporary understandings of ergonomics and style.

Longwood Gardens has limited access to water sources and hence an efficient water management system is crucial. The electricity for the gardens is produced up to 50% by local solar panels, while the rest is purchased from hydro-electric power plants. During the planning, energy efficient thinking was omnipresent, in order to make most of the precious energy.

The landscape architect had the privilege of serving as master planners and landscape architects at Longwood Gardens since 2009. During this time, the team has gotten to know the culture, staff, traditions and seasons at Longwood, and walked every corner of the 1000-acre site. The Fountain Garden rehabilitation was performed in collaboration with a water design consultancy, preservation architects and masonry restoration experts, and as such, it created a new model for how interdisciplinary projects such as these can unfold. The gardens were endowed with custom details that are neither historicist nor kitsch, but rather bring a contemporary flair to the fountain garden which can be recognized in the details throughout the garden. In order to enhance the overall visiting experience, the design encompasses opportunities to relax in the shadows or the sun, to sit down and to touch and feel the water. In a nutshell, Longwood's Main Fountain Garden achieves a renaissance for the garden while retaining its identity as recognizably "Longwood."


Product Sources: SOILS

  • (various)

Product Sources: HARDSCAPE

  • Polycor

Product Sources: LIGHTING

  • (various)

Product Sources: FURNITURE

  • Landscape Forms

Product Sources: FENCE/GATES

  • Custom

Product Sources: IRRIGATION

  • Rainbird


  • Custom

Product Sources: GREEN ROOFS

  • Custom