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A History of Influence and Innovation: By Robert Royston, Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey traces its lineage to some of the most influential and innovative landscape design professionals of the 20th century. One of the firm's founders and one of the profession's most highly recognized figures, Robert Royston - with Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, and Douglas Baylis - developed what became known as the "California school" of design. Absent from their work was strict adherence to historical styles, replaced by a preference for asymmetric lines and abstract forms, modern sculpture, and materials - concrete, redwood, and large boulders - that had not traditionally been incorporated into landscape design. They were designers working in a young, burgeoning state, reflecting in their work the natural and man-influenced landscape they were, at the same time, helping to create. Santa Clara Valley native Royston returned home after military service in World War II to start his own firm, partnering with Eckbo and Ed Williams. Another Cal-Berkeley alumnus - future partner Asa Hanamoto - was their first new hire for a practice primarily focused on garden design. With each partner strongly pursuing personal interests and also spreading geographically in pursuit of work, however, the group eventually disbanded. Eckbo and Williams went on to found EDAW, while Royston and Hanamoto founded, in 1958, a new firm in San Francisco where Kazuo Abey and Eldon Beck - two more Cal-Berkeley graduates - were among their first employees. Soon after architect Louis G. Alley joined the firm in 1960, he and Abey were promoted to partners. As Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey (RHAA), the firm soon branched out from the residential business, laying the groundwork for a broad practice comprised of landscape architecture, land and environmental planning in which all of the partners have found career-long satisfaction and visibility. Historic Portsmouth Square earned the firm's first of over 100 peer honors for design excellence. This site of an 800-car underground garage bordering Chinatown, also the location of one of San Francisco's oldest parks (1864), was redesigned as a rooftop garden-park - featuring a tree-covered promenade with benches, arbors, game tables, and an open area for festival events, art shows, and sculpture displays. Emulation being the sincerest form of praise, however, a prior effort - Palo Alto's Mitchell Park in 1958 - marked the firm's emergence as innovators. A daring plan integrated the official 18-acre park site with the playing fields of three adjacent schools, creating a single 30-acre recreational space with a range of active recreation opportunities, social centers for a variety of age groups, and a performance venue. Landform articulation on the previously flat site provided spatial definition and flow to the variety of activity areas. Not only their design concept, but many of the specific facilities set precedents, ultimately setting the pace, for future park and recreation planning and design. Working to the scale and in the context of buildings at various California university sites, the firm's innovative incorporation of landscaped courts, corridors contained by broad bands of trees, and earthen terraces in campus design reached a zenith with De Anza College, in Cupertino, and San Joaquin Delta College, in Stockton. Siting major buildings on raised earthen terraces allowed views of the De Anza College "campus town" from adjacent roadways, while low parking areas screened with earth berms provided pleasant access corridors from the parking lots to the central campus. Similarly sited, the San Joaquin Delta campus also featured a unique "urban-to-rural" landscape design concept in which urban formality adjacent to buildings is succeeded by unmowed banks of grass, wildflowers, native shrubs and plants suited to the arid valley. Given the firm's "town planning" concept of campus design, it is no wonder they excelled in corporate campus and community planning. From extensive involvement in the development of California's Silicon Valley in the 1960's - designing industrial parks and corporate campuses for Hewlett-Packard, Raychem and other research and development and manufacturing concerns - the firm has diversified not only its clientele, but its range of site development and land use services to include international venues in the 1980's and 1990's. For example, large-scale land planning projects, such as Oregon's resort community of Sunriver and Washington's new town site of North Bonneville, established the firm's credentials for such current work as the new town developments of Santuario del Valle and El Chamisero in Chile and high-density housing in the Philippines. Uniquely, the firm's entree into the international arena was founded on its expertise in cemetery design. Design of the Veterans Administration Cemetery in Riverside, California had set a standard for design of VA cemeteries, leading to development of other VA cemeteries in the U.S. and providing the basis of experience for the 1980 design of a Santiago, Chile cemetery known as "The Park of Remembrance" (see LASN, October 1991,"Parque del Recuerdo"), soon followed by the National Heroes Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur and other work in Malaysia and Pusara Negara. These early overseas projects demonstrated the firm's capacity for design that honored diversity in religious customs and practices, created flexibilities and changes in public policy, and ultimately positioned them for such distant and diverse work as Taman Kiara National Arboretum, Kuala Lumpur; Sentosa Island, historic Fort Canning Park, and Jurong Bird Park, Singapore; Kaohsiung Metropolitan, and angmingshan National Park, Taiwan; river corridor projects in Taiwan and Japan; and various projects in Iceland, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The 1980's and 1990's have brought not only diversity, but change and transition to the firm, as the founding principals have reduced their day-to-day involvement in business activities. The 1989 American Society of Landscape Architects' Medal of Honor recipient Robert Royston continues to consult with younger designers in the firm, and Senior Principals Asa Hanamoto, Kaz Abey and Lou Alley remain actively involved as project leaders on particularly high-profile national and international projects. Management of the 25-member firm is now under the leadership of three principals instilled with the tradition of the firm and dedicated to continuing its history of design excellence and influence - Harold Kobayashi, ASLA, who is president, Barbara Lundburg, ASLA, and William E. Fee, ASLA, AICP. "Our firm strives to be a 'model of excellence,' and while that is a lofty vision, we accomplish it by doing excellent day-to-day work with clients and by developing long-term relationships. We extend this working philosophy to the long-term working relationships we have with people within our firm," commented Bill Fee. In place - as it has been from the beginning - are the values of the founders - Royston, Hanamoto, Alley, and Abey - whose commitments to excellence in design, environmental responsibility, client service, and mutual respect, trust, and love are fostered by those who work in the firm's Mill Valley office - as "Town Architect" to the City of Palo Alto, as planners of a bird sanctuary in Singapore, and as designers of an entirely privately-funded future National Peace Garden that will significantly complement the principal memorials in the District of Columbia. Sidebar/box with graphic: Always an important aspect of the firm's work - indeed, a platform for an over-arching design philosophy with emphases on context, detail and nature - environmental planning has taken on particular importance at RHAA with the environmental movement of the 1980's and 1990's. As exceptional as the first master plan of this century for San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, rehabilitation of historic Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, conversion of San Francisco's Presidio military base to National Park Service use, and landscape design of the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Project (opposite) are, no effort may better exemplify the firm's naturalistic design approach than restoration of Carmel Beach following ravaging winter storms in 1982-1983 (above). The beauty of the inclusive Carmel Beach design - everything from beach access and walkways to bluff plantings - is that it restored the natural, pristine setting and enhanced the use of an extraordinarily beautiful section of the central California coast without intruding on panoramic bay views.

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June 17, 2019, 8:30 am PDT

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