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Pioneer Oral History: Rich Haag, FASLA

Acclaimed landscape architect Richard Haag, FASLA, is the subject of a new video oral history produced by the Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). This is the 11th Pioneers of American Landscape Design® video oral history, which TCLF launched in 2003 to document, collect, and preserve firsthand information from pioneering landscape architects/educators and the first to chronicle a Pacific Northwest practitioner. ASLA is the Educational Partner for the series.


 Haag, a noted educator as well as one of the nation’s most important postwar landscape architects, has been in practice for more than 50 years and is esteemed for his innovative design solutions that balance environmental, ecological, and cultural values at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington; Seattle’s Gas Works Park, a formal industrial site; and numerous other locations. As design critic Alexandra Lange recently wrote, “Richard Haag basically made industrial-chic landscapes happen.”

The project documents Haag’s life and career from his arrival in the late 1950s to found and teach in the landscape architecture department at the University of Washington to the present. He worked with the two towering practitioners in the field from the last half of the 20th century, Dan Kiley and Lawrence Halprin (the latter also the subject of a Pioneers oral history), his notable students include Grant and Ilze Jones and Laurie Olin (also the subject of a Pioneers oral history), and his career is rich in activism and commitment to innovative design solutions. Always a captivating storyteller, Haag shares recollections about his education, friendships, and travels with seminal educators Stan White and Hideo Sasaki. Among his many recollections are stories of his work with Victor Steinbrueck and the “Friends of the Market” to save Pike Place Market and the subsequent design of Victor Steinbrueck Park; the evolution behind his revolutionary design for Seattle’s Gas Works Park; and his years of collaboration with Prentice Bloedel to create a series of contemplative and spiritual spaces at Bloedel Reserve. The oral history was filmed twice on location in Seattle, in 2004 and 2013—and the project includes recollections by 15  friends and colleagues.

“Rich Haag is in the pantheon of great postwar landscape architects and a vital connection between so many other important practitioners,” says Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s founder and president. “He is also an innovative designer, an esteemed teacher and mentor, and a leading environmental conscience of the landscape architecture profession.”

The goal of the Pioneers of American Landscape Design® video oral history  series, which has been supported by three separate grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and received ASLA’s Award of Excellence in Communications in 2010, is to make these practitioners’ stories available to future generations of stewards, designers, researchers, and heritage travelers. Production is currently under way of an oral history with Nicholas Quennell.

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