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Lawrence Halprin Centennial Celebration Features Free Tours and a New Exhibition

Lawrence Halprin Centennial Celebration Features Free Tours and a New Exhibition

This year, the Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is debuting two initiatives that celebrate the life and work of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Halprin was, without doubt, among the foremost landscape architects of the twentieth century. His prolific career spanned more than five decades, and the innovative techniques he pioneered changed the field of the profession forever. TCLF’s initiatives will honor Halprin and his prolific career while calling attention to the need for the informed and effective stewardship of his irreplaceable legacy.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Halprin began his career in 1945 with a four-year stint working for Thomas Church in San Francisco where he collaborated with architect George Rockrise on the renowned Dewey Donnell garden in Sonoma, California. He opened Lawrence Halprin & Associates in 1949, and his oeuvre initially included residential gardens, campuses, and housing projects. However, by the mid-1960s, his firm had turned decisively to re-designing the urban landscape. A series of innovative parks, plazas, and pedestrian malls brought international notice and critical acclaim. When the Ira Keller Fountain (completed in 1970) opened in Portland, Oregon, New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable called it “one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.”

As part of the foundation’s What’s Out There program, TCLF is organizing a months-long series of free, expert-led tours of Halprin-designed landscapes across the country and in Jerusalem, Israel. Tours begin in July and extend through October, and are open to the public. Sites featured include Sea Ranch in Sonoma County, California; two recently rehabilitated landscapes, Park Central Square in Springfield, Missouri, and Manhattan Square Park in Rochester, New York; a significant project, Heritage Park Plaza in Forth Worth, Texas, that has been closed and under threat for several years; and Capitol Apartment Towers in Sacramento, California, that will be demolished later this year.

 Many of the tour guides have worked for or with Halprin over the years and can share intimate knowledge of the sites. Other guides have worked to save or extend the life of threatened Halprin designs through diligent research, documentation, and public engagement. They include landscape architects, architects, archivists, city planners, and historians.

The second initiative, part of TCLF’s Landslide program, is a traveling exhibition of newly commissioned photographs by leading photographers of Halprin’s extant work, among them his most iconic projects, from The Sea Ranch in northern California (photography by Saxon Holt) to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. (photography by Roger Floley), as well as several private gardens, including recently rediscovered early 1950s-era projects. Also included are photographs of the dance deck he created for his wife Anna (photography by Tom Fox), the famous choreographer, who fundamentally influenced Halprin’s understanding of human motion through space.

Thanks to the generosity of the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives, which holds the Halprin archives, the exhibition will include personal artifacts including drawings, sketches, and photographs. There will also be select sketches from Halprin’s personal collection, courtesy Edward Cella Art & Architecture in Los Angeles. The exhibition, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts Design Arts and the Hubbard Educational Foundation, opens at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on November 5 before traveling nationally for the next three to five years.

The tours and exhibition build upon existing TCLF programs that document Halprin’s life and work, including the extensive What's Out There database, and a video oral history with Halprin.

Halprin was awarded numerous honors such as the American Institute of Architects Medal for Allied Professions (1964), Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) (1969), ASLA Gold Medal (1978), ASLA Design Medal (2003), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978), the University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (1979), and the National Medal of Arts (2002), the nation’s highest honor for an artist. During his prolific career, Halprin showed that landscape architecture could be a force—indeed the dominant force—in re-invigorating American cities. 

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