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Using All Eight Intelligences
Profile: Herb Schaal, FASLA, Founding Principal of EDAW Fort Collins

Interview by Leslie McGuire and Carrie Gregory

The Red Butte Botanic Gardens in Salt Lake City also include the Terrace Gardens. This is another national ASLA award winner for Herb Schaal and EDAW's Fort Collins Office. "The Terrace Gardens include a culinary garden, medicinal garden and fragrance garden," says Herb. "It's like designing a dozen gardens at once because there's a dozen themed environments within one garden.
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

Playworld Systems Teak Wharehouse

Anyone who has ever slept in a tree knows its dreams, has felt its slow respiration, has exchanged carbon dioxide and oxygen with it while listening to the sap move and hearing the songs it sings. One learns the levels of interconnectedness in the universe. That intertwining of the knowledge of animal, vegetable and mineral, that comprehension of all the different harmonies is what Herb Schaal brings to his landscape designs.

Herb Schaal, FASLA, Founding Principal of EDAW Fort Collins

Herb Schaal, FASLA, landscape architect and founding principal of the Fort Collins EDAW office, has just won (in addition to all his other awards) the 2008 Designer of the Year Award from the American Horticultural Society. "I was in Washington DC at the presentation and said, 'This is very special to me because the first time this award was given was to Tommy Church. My father knew Tommy and took me to his office one day (His dad was a landscape architect) and Church talked about how to design a site. He said to look at the entire area, pick the best spot, and then DO NOT put the house there. Put the garden there.'"

"I gave a talk to the American Public Garden Association last year on trying to get directors to think of their facilities as more interactive and using the same principles that we use in children's garden design, to make the entire public garden a more fun and interesting place. So you can touch, modify and can get involved with gardens, not just walk through and look. We're trying to carry that attitude into parks and zoos, stressing family experience."
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

A Very Human Genius

Herb Schaal has always followed those words during his career. "It is so important to capture the local sense of a place. His designs have so many layers of meaning, such a range of inclusions that analyzing a site he's designed is like examining the layers of an onion," Herb says.

And, by the way, Herb actually did sleep in a tree for six weeks during his sophomore year at college. He'd lost his room at the boarding house where he was living, and there were only six weeks to go until the end of the term. So, he built himself a tree house in a canyon, ate all his meals out, studied at the library until 10 PM--so he had light--and showered at the gym. Apparently, he learned a great deal by listening to the many wisdoms of his tree, because he's brought so much balance and harmony to his designs.

"My father came over from Germany to build gardens. He knew Garrett Eckbo and Tommy Church. He actually worked on some of Tommy's projects. So when I grew up, I had to go into the field with my dad and it was a great experience. I didn't realize it at the time; in fact, I resented it, but I learned how to set a rock and how to build a fence, thread pipe, pour concrete, and dig holes. It was great background for me."

"The whole idea of children's gardens at botanic gardens was to give young urban families a safe, accessible, nature experience for the whole family. We've done over 20 designs for children's gardens now, including this Norfolk Children's Garden. Every one that we have built, and some that haven't been built, have won design awards. These projects have allowed us to be innovative."
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

Learning By Living While Creating

He got his degree from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. "We learned design from Dick Moore; and it was about finding a current reason for form, not copying some historical precedent. So, that's just been ingrained in me as a designer from the beginning - finding the rationale for form. Dick Moore went on to become the Department Chairman at North Carolina State, so when my training was completed, I called Dick and told him I wanted to do more schooling. Should I come? He said definitely. But when I got to North Carolina State he asked me to start teaching. Pretty amazing for somebody who didn't feel well prepared to practice!"

The Hewlett-Packard Ledge Garden is an example of the research and workshops that Herb Schaal requires. Only by talking with the client would they have come up with this completely nature driven design for a corporate setting. "It all goes back to Garrett Eckbo and his decision not to do anything ordinary," says Herb.
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

Herb later went on to teach at The State University of New York at Syracuse while getting his masters degree. One of the important things that came out of that teaching position was that landscape architects need to use their ability to draw to understand design and to evolve design. "The way drawing was being taught was not suitable for this. So I came up with a new method of drawing accurately in perspective that was quick, easy, and taught the students how to visualize design. It's called the proportional method. The method is been published widely and is taught now in most schools."

"Four years later, I was determined to move back west. I didn't have a place that I knew I was going to end up. We just packed up the car, three kids, and the U-Haul truck and drove west. I stopped in every office I could find along the way, starting with Ted Wirth's office in Billings, Montana. Ted did a lot of National Park Service work, which appealed to me, but before making a commitment, I wanted to see what else was available."

"Botanic gardens are typically places to look at and meander through beautiful compositions of plants and flowers, but not to engage them. Of course, that doesn't work for kids. Kids have to engage. They have to dig in the dirt, touch the plants, tear the flowers apart. They have to use all their five senses. They have to taste, hear, smell and touch, as well as see. We actually have developed checklists for engaging all the eight intelligences and engaging all of the five senses." (For more on the Activity Matrix checklist see LASN, March 2006, "The Best Backyard in the World")
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

Sharing the Knowledge

Says Herb, "I went up to Seattle and then down the coast. When I got to EDAW in the Bay area, the office had a whole different flavor and atmosphere than any place I'd been. It was like a hippy commune, which, of course, appealed to me.

Everybody in that office was passionate about doing something important; and doing things that were socially relevant and environmentally relevant. They had just gotten a big land use planning commission and needed to staff the work. They needed me and I liked them, so I signed up.

"These days, I probably most enjoy working for public garden clients and residential clients. They both have something in common. They both value landscape architects as artists more highly than the public sector does. They are probably the most dedicated to the outcome. They are very involved in the projects. And they're probably most like me. Many of those clients, such as the ones for this residence, end up being good friends."
Herb Schaal, Photographer

"The project was the power plant and transmission line siting study for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the biggest utility in California at the time. "The challenge from PG&E was to site a nuclear power plant on the coast, and to determine what to do with 8,000 acres of undeveloped land."

Meshing the Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water

When Herb was doing his master's work at Syracuse, he had taken an ecology course. "For my term project, I did an ecological environmental study using an overlay information system, like Ian McHarg was doing. When I showed that piece of work to the folks in the office who were just getting introduced to this way of doing work, they put me in charge of the transmission line routing study covering 385 square miles. That study proved to be a very important, successful study for EDAW and won a national ASLA award.

"When I first opened the Fort Collins Office, I to immediately went to Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG), because Garrett Eckbo, Tim Downy, and Jerry Loomis had done the master plan for the gardens in the late 60s. It was the first real modern design of a botanic garden in the country, and the only botanic garden master plan the firm had ever done. Ultimately, I got to do the design for the Rock and Alpine Garden (ASLA Merit Award 1983). I had never done anything like that before. That garden won a national ASLA award and is considered the best rock alpine garden in North America."
Herb Schaal, Photographer

"Ed Williams and Howard Altman were doing the Open Space Plan for California, which not many people know about any more. But that was one of the studies that impressed me, and still impresses me of all EDAW's work. Its purpose was to set aside open space for the growing metropolitan areas in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The work that they did set the bar high for whatever else was to come along.

"Every time we design a fence, railing, bridge, boardwalk, planting composition, or a water feature such as this one at the Morton Arboretum, we ask ourselves how many of the five senses can we engage with the design. We ask ourselves what families are going to be doing. For every element, we complete a matrix that lists what children and families are going to be doing. For example, they may be skipping, hopping, climbing, tasting, getting together as a group, or singing."
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

"The PG&E project was the next major project, and I think it's because of the land use work that PG&E came to EDAW. They gave us access to their mainframe computer to do the computing. There were no laptops or polygon systems like we have now. It was all key punched, card cell systems. I applied the GIS to transmission line routing, which the old transmission line studies never did; I believe this revolutionized the way routes are selected. This was really cutting edge. We did things like overlay soil color with vegetation color, because in the coastal chaparral, if you have dark vegetation and you go through a light-colored soil to create an access road to build the transmission line tower, you leave a white scar on the hillside. We mapped land value, growth rates of forests, population density, and archeological sites.

We've done children's gardens from as small as the Betty Ford Garden, which is an eighth of an acre, to 4 acres at the Morton Arboretum; and from budgets of around $300,000 to $7 million. Each one of them is a major design effort. And we're not satisfied with making these like a dozen different gardens. They all have to weave together artfully, so it's one garden expression with a lot of parts all integrated artistically."
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

Reciprocity in All Things

"However, although I really enjoyed my chats with Garrett Eckbo commuting across the Bay Bridge from Berkeley, I hated the traffic. I hated what it was doing to my personal life, coming home late, never having time for anything, and I wanted to get back to a more bucolic setting. I told them I would have to live in a place where I was comfortable; not in the city. And they said, 'Well, we'll do it. Make us an offer.' It's always nice to be wanted!"

Herb eventually picked Fort Collins, Colorado and worked out of the basement of the house for awhile. "I immediately went to Platte River Power Authority, who was interested in siting a new power plant near Fort Collins. I showed them the work we had done on PG&E. I also proposed on eight parks for the City of Arvada, which is a suburb of Denver. I had only done one park in my life.

Ultimately, I got to do the Rock and Alpine Garden.

"One of my priorities was to try to get a project with the National Park Service. So when the project came up for the Grand Canyon, we went after that as well and got that job. We worked on new trails, restoring areas disturbed from water pipeline construction. We were now firmly established with the Park Service, which is still paying off today."

For the Gateway Science School in St. Louis, "We created this educational landscape where everything in it had an educational metaphor. The paving patterns had the golden mean. The sandbox was a three, four, five triangle. Adjacent to the edges of the triangle were squares, so that the sum of the square of the sides equals the square of the hypotenuse. You could actually count the squares along the sides, add them together and sure enough, that was the number of squares that came off the hypotenuse. The garden was just full of stuff like this so they could teach math outside."
Dixi Carrillo, Photographer

The Beauty of Interdisciplinary Design

Herb is most proud of the EDAW's two week Summer Student Program started in the 70s at his ranch, which won the ASLA President's Award. "I bought teepees for the students to sleep in. The first week of each year of the program was input week. The second week was output. It was wonderful because EDAW was so interdisciplinary that I'd have archeologists, historians, engineers, foresters, and biologists."

"In the 90s I was finally able to focus on public gardens. When people ask me what EDAW stands for, my answer is Every Design A Winner. When I start a project, I still try to figure out what it is about what we're going to do that will make it a winner. I believe that's why Fort Collins is the most award-winning office in the company. It's all in the attitude."

"Our public garden work is scattered throughout the country, so it causes us to have to go to new places such as this Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. We always research those new places before we go. We always include a week-long workshop there with the client so that when we come back to the office, we know exactly what we have to do and we don't have to reiterate with the client. We do all that in that first week."
Herb Schaal, Photographer

Respecting Each Tenant of the Planet

His design ideas come from his "search for a reason." Says Schaal, "I was always looking for a source for form, not going back to copying stuff or relying on tradition. So that was always in me to search for a current reason for form. As for his archetypal designs, "I design for my legacy, but also for the public and the clients. The finished site has to be satisfactory to the client. It has to be satisfactory to us. But our goal is to make it satisfactory to the users. But we don't compromise on any of that triad.

"When I think about all the things I've been able to do over my 37-year career with EDAW, it's amazing. I've gotten to go inland in China and Australia. I've gotten to do work in 90 percent of the United States.

"I've become friends with governors, American ambassadors, the Rockefellers, and young, up and coming people in the profession. What more could you ask?"

The Red Butte Children's Garden, along with the Gateway Science School garden also designed by Herb Schaal, are two of the earliest children's gardens on the county. Says Herb, "Both of these gardens were huge successes. They more than doubled the membership of each institution and, in some cases, quadrupled the visitation to the gardens because they changed the demographics of the people who came to botanic gardens.
Dixi Carrillo Photographer

The Eight Intelligences:

According to Harvard professor Howard Gardner's groundbreaking Multiple Intelligences Theory written in Frames of Mind (1983), the original seven intelligences were verbal/linguistic; mathematical/logical; spatial; kinesthetic; musical; interpersonal; and intrapersonal intelligence. The eighth, Naturalistic Intelligence, deals with sensing patterns and making connections to elements in nature. Primary examples of people having naturalistic intelligence are John Muir, Rachel Carson and Charles Darwin. "Naturalistic intelligence involves the capacity to make consequential distinctions in nature--between one plant and another, among animals, clouds, mountains, and the like." (From "Multiple Lenses on The Mind", Howard Gardner. Copyright (C) Howard Gardner, 2005; Paper presented at the ExpoGestion Conference, Bogota Colombia, May 25, 2005)


Hewlett-Packard Birch Courtyard, Fort Collins, Colorado
CCASLA 1981, Merit Award

Alpine Rock Garden, Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado
ASLA 1883, Merit Award

Community Garden Square and the Morrison Horticultural Center at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado
CCASLA 1985 Design Awards Program, Presidential Honor Award

Landscape Program, Grand Canyon National Park
CCASLA 1987 Design Awards Program, Merit Award

Little Dry Creek Greenway, Englewood Colorado
CCASLA 1988 Design Awards Program, Honor Award

Ameri Flora '92 Entry, Discovery Plaza, Columbus Ohio
CCASLA 1992 Merit Award

Hewlett-Packard Ledge Garden, Fort Collins Colorado
CCASLA 1994, Merit Award

Planning the Green Zone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
CCASLA 1994 Design Awards Program, Honor Award

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, Colorado
CCASLA 2000, Land Stewardship Award

Gateway Science School Courtyard, St. Louis, Missouri
CCAASLA 2000 President's Award of Excellence

Hershey's Children's Garden, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland, Ohio
CCASLA 2000 Merit Award

Olson Family Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
CCASLA 2000 Honor Award

Zellerbach Garden of Perennials, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
CCASLA 2002 Merit Award

Lena Meijer Garden Master Plan, Frederick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan
CCASLA 2002 President's Award of Excellence

Children's Environmental Garden and Accessible School House garden at Betty Ford Alpine gardens, Vail, Colorado
CCASLA 2003 Honor Award

The Morton Arboretum Children's Garden Master Plan, Lisle, Illinois
CCASLA 2003 Honor Award

Lena Meijer Children's Garden, Grand Rapids, Michigan
CCASLA 2005 Merit Award for Design

University of Kentucky Arboretum Children's garden Master Plan, Lexington, Kentucky
CCASLA 2005 Merit Award for Planning and Urban Design

High Plains Arboretum, Cheyenne, Wyoming
CCASLA 2006 Merit Award

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, Maine
CCASLA 2006 President's Award of Excellence

The Morton Arboretum Children's garden, Lisle, Illinois
CCASLA 2006 Honor Award for Design

South Fork Lodge On the Snake River, Idaho
CCASLA 2006 Honor Award for Design

University of Wyoming Prexie's pasture, Laramie, Wyoming
CCASLA 2007 Honor Award

Agilent Technologies Landscape master Plan for Sustainability, Loveland Colorado
CCASLA 2007 Merit Award

Cheyenne Botanic gardens, Children's Village for Sustainable Living master Plan, Cheyenne, Wyoming
CCASLA 2007 Merit Award

The Morton Arboretum Children's garden, Lisle, Illinois
Illinois Chapter of the AIA 2007, one of 150 Great Places in Illinois

American Horticultural Association
2008 Designer of The Year


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