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Representing Cornell Bridgers and Troller (CBT), I worked with Welton Becket and Associates on the UCLA Master Plan in 1958. Among other nodal points, the North Campus Court was established.

In about 1960, Chancellor Franklin Murphy called Ralph Cornell and me into James Westfall's Office of Architects and Engineers on campus. He specifically mentioned the North Campus Court, which was then a seedy-looking asphalt parking lot, and declared, "Gentlemen, I want you to design the finest sculpture garden in the world!" He added, "Do not be hypnotized by the sculpture garden in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City" to our instructions.

This was quite an order, so I went on the road with my camera for several weeks to see if I could find examples of landscapes which might fill my head with enough ideas to begin a new, unique sculpture garden.

Shortly afterward, when these ideas were beginning to gel, Jim Meares from Welton Becket's office, Jere Hazlett from the campus Office of Architects and Engineers, and I went to the top of Bunche Hall and looked down on the proposed site to the north. At that time, the five buildings that surrounded the site were either newly finished or under construction.

I presented my idea as far as I had taken it at that time, which was to create an environment for the sculpture to develop in an entirely different way than the traditional type of garden: I proposed that every element within the garden be a segment of a total art form in itself, such as the basic grading (mounds and hollows), walks, study pods, and planting forms.

These ideas were accepted with enthusiasm, and Jim suggested that this treatment extend the full width of the court, from building wall to building wall. Jere wanted to see bench rest areas along the freeform walks. These later evolved into the sculpture pods with wooden seats.

Initially, I drew up the basic design, which was to guide the effort through a series of paper and cardboard models which were to be shown to the Campus Planning Committee. I was encouraged to proceed with these ideas, and with more study and support from my staff as well as Jere and Jim, the final forms began to take shape.

By this time, the design team and I had realized that we needed more help with the main north-south walk form and the sculpture study pods. So, I brought in Malcom Leland, a talented sculptor I had known in earlier years. He provided several models for these elements, which provided the breakthrough for the final design work.

Dr. Murphy was supportive throughout, although in the formative phase Ralph Cornell and many of my staff associates thought I had lost my senses. But nothing succeeds like success, and by the time the working drawings were nearly finished, most jumped on the bandwagon. Dr. Murphy frequently came down in bathrobe and slippers early in the morning to observe the progress of the construction.

I was fortunate enough to have two men on staff who caught on to the ideas early-Klaus Hagmann and Juerg Branschi, both from Switzerland, who worked at CBT during this period of time. Even the workmen contributed their superior skills as the concrete work proceeded and offered ideas for texturing and tooling. From that time on, nothing could stop it.

Quincy Jones, architect of the North Campus Research Library, yielded to my suggestion to open the moat wall around the library on the east to allow for visual access. The resulting psuedo-bridge, which flares at both ends, allows greater freedom of access and egress.

I had become disenchanted with the standard light posts of those days, which consisted of 8-foot black posts with white globes on top. As an alternative, I found a dozen large, fine old Jacaranda trees in 6-foot boxes into which I put the lighting directly, doing away with the 8-foot poles. This proved highly successful, and no light standards are seen or compete with sculpture in the garden. Bill Bridgers designed the slot-type lights on the inside walls of the psuedo-bridge form leading to the art building to the north.

Finally, the planting and lights were installed, and sometime in 1963 the garden was dedicated and the ribbon was cut. By this time, almost all of the early detractors had joined the ranks of the supporters, and many even claimed to be responsible for the work. So, as I said before, nothing succeeds like success.


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June 18, 2019, 8:37 am PDT

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