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Lawrence Halprin Exhibition at the National Building Museum in D.C.


Lawrence Halprin teamed with the NPS, ESA and GFDS Engineers to renovate and improve the Yosemite Falls corridor. Work included creation of a handicapped-accessible trail leading to the viewing plaza and a main bridge; removal of the asphalt parking lot and revegetation of the area; habitat restoration throughout the 52 acres, including stream banks and elimination of abandoned trails; construction of new restrooms and a shuttle bus stop; new picnic area; reconstruction of four bridges and the removal of two; two new boardwalks over sensitive habitat; and installation of educational exhibits, orientation maps and directional signage.
Photo: (C) Phillip Bond, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

A traveling exhibition - "The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin" - will debut November 5, 2016, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. ( The exhibit coincides with the centennial anniversary of Halprin's birth (July 1, 1916--Oct. 25, 2009) and features 56 newly commissioned photographs by leading landscape photographers of dozens of Halprin's major works.

Lawrence Halprin's influential career spanned more than five decades. Born in Brooklyn, Halprin studied at Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. In 1944, Halprin was commissioned in the Navy and assigned to the USS Morris, a destroyer that saw extensive action in the Pacific war. After the war, Halprin settled in San Francisco, doing a four-year stint with Thomas Church, where he collaborated with architect George Rockrise on the Dewey Donnell Garden in Sonoma, California. He opened Lawrence Halprin & Associates in 1949, working at first on residential gardens, campuses and housing projects. By the mid-1960s, his firm was focused on redesigning major urban landscapes. That work, which included parks, plazas and pedestrian malls, brought him international attention.

The exhibition shows Halprin's work from his early residential projects in the 1950s, to mid-career projects like Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, and the landscape design for the Sea Ranch community in Sonoma County; the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and projects like the 2005, $15 million renovation of the 33-acre Stern Grove recreational site in the Sunset District of San Francisco, and the popular Yosemite Falls corridor.

The exhibition is organized and curated by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) ( in collaboration with the National Building Museum, and will remain on view through April 16, 2017. The National Building Museum's presentation of the exhibition will include original drawings and other artifacts that will not appear at subsequent exhibition venues.

Halprin, an ASLA Fellow, received numerous awards, including the ASLA Gold Medal (1978), ASLA Design Medal (2003), induction into the 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.


One of Lawrence Halprin's iconic projects was the Portland open space sequence for Keller Park, which opened in 1970. The fountain was named for Ira Keller, who headed the Portland Development Commission.
Photo: (C) Jeremy Bitterman, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation


Lawrence Halprin at home in Sea Ranch, Calif.
Photo: (C) Charles A. Birnbaum, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation


Lawrence Halprin won the 1974 Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial design competition, but it took more than 20 years for Congress to fund the project. The memorial is across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial. It was dedicated on May 2, 1997 by President Clinton.
Photo: (C) Rogey Foley, courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation

"In the tradition of great artists, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin created a new and influential language," said Charles Birnbaum, TCLF's president and CEO.

"Landscape architecture is one of the major design disciplines that come under the aegis of the National Building Museum, and this exhibition highlights a key figure in the history of that discipline," said Chase Rynd, Hon. ASLA, president and executive director of the National Building Museum. "Halprin helped to change perceptions about American cities and urban landscapes at a time when such places were often neglected."

A full-color printed gallery guide will accompany the exhibition with information about each of the sites, as well as a complementary online exhibition presenting additional photography and a video oral history with Halprin. Thanks to the generosity of the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives, which holds the Halprin archives, the exhibition will include personal artifacts, drawings, sketches and photographs. Additionally, selected sketches from Halprin's personal collection (courtesy of Edward Cella Art & Architecture in Los Angeles) will be on display.

The exhibition, part of TCLF's "Landslide" series, calls attention to "at-risk" works of landscape architecture and landscape features, and will include photographs of some of Halprin's most iconic projects: Sea Ranch in northern California (photography by Saxon Holt); the FDR Memorial in D.C. (photography by Roger Foley); several private gardens, including recently rediscovered 1950s-era projects; and photographs of the dance deck he created for his wife Anna (photography by Tom Fox). Anna was considered a pioneer of postmodern dance.

This is the third TCLF-organized exhibition hosted by the National Building Museum, and the second to debut at the museum. As part of the foundation's "What's Out There" program, TCLF organized a months-long series of free, expert-led tours of Halprin-designed landscapes across the U.S. and in Jerusalem. Tours began in July and extend through October, and were open to the public. Sites featured included Sea Ranch in Sonoma County, Calif.; two recently rehabilitated landscapes--Park Central Square in Springfield, Missouri, and Manhattan Square Park in Rochester, New York; Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, which has been closed and under threat for several years; and Capitol Apartment Towers in Sacramento, which will be demolished later this year. Many of the tour guides worked for or with Halprin and shared intimate knowledge of the sites. Other guides have worked to save or extend the life of Halprin designs through research, documentation and public engagement. They include landscape architects, architects, archivists, city planners, and historians.

The exhibition is presented with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Hubbard Educational Foundation.

As seen in LASN magazine, November 2016.

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