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Moment of Silence—Robert Royston, FASLA

Robert Royston, FASLA, circa 1957

Modernist landscape architect Robert Royston, FASLA passed away Sept. 19, 2008 at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 90 years old.


In the July 2007 LASN issue, we spoke about Mr. Royston’s innovative 1957 design for Mitchell Park and its playground in Palo Alto, Calif. The park was celebrating its 50th year (please see “Nostalgia Runs Deep” His other notable park work in the San Francisco Bay area includes Krusi Park in Alameda, Pixie Place in Marin County, St. Mary’s Square in San Francisco and Central Park in Santa Clara. He designed parks as public gardens intended for all ages.

Robert Royston was born in San Francisco in 1918 and spent his early years on a farm near Morgan Hill. He enjoyed athletics, drawing and participating in school dramas, but soon focused on design and the environment.

Robert Royston graduated with a landscape architecture degree from the University of California Berkeley in 1940. As a student he worked in the office of landscape architect Thomas Church and went to work for him after graduation, playing a role in the Valencia Gardens housing development in San Francisco’s Mission District, Potrero Hills housing and the Parkmerced development near San Francisco State.

During this period he became a member of Telesis, a group of designers concerned with environmental issues in the San Francisco Bay area

When WWII intervened, he joined the Navy and served as a junior officer in the Pacific.

He returned to the Bay Area in 1945 and accepted Garrett Eckbo’s invitation to form a partnership with him and landscape architect Edward Williams. Eckbo, Royston, and Williams established offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In 1947 he began teaching at UC Berkeley. His teaching career there abruptly stopped in 1951 when he refused to sign an anti-communist loyalty oath. He then taught at Stanford University. Over his career, he taught at 25 colleges and universities.

Residential design constituted much of his early work. Sunriver in Oregon, a 5,500-acre planned community, was one of his most significant projects. Later, he branched out into park and campus work.

His design philosophy regarded space as the primary medium of design and the necessity of integrating design with how people use a particular space.

Mr. Royston became a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1975 and received the Architects Medal from the American Institute of Architects in1978. After his retirement, Mr. Royston remained active as a consultant to his firm and to the restoration of his parks.

Mr. Royston enjoyed international travel when he wasn’t at home in Mill Valley, Calif., or relaxing on his ranch in Shasta County.

For more information on his life, the book Modern Public Gardens: Robert Royston and the Suburban Park (2006) by Reuben Rainey and J. C. Miller is available. Mr. Miller worked with Mr. Royston.

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December 7, 2019, 4:37 am PDT

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