Lawrence Halprin Oral History Project

Lawrence Halprin Oral History Project

By Aaron Britt
As a San Franciscan I'm very fortunate to live every day with the work of landscape architecture pioneer Lawrence Halprin, who passed away last October. Yesterday I was descending the towering, winding staircase down the east side of Telegraph Hill, and it spit me out on Sansome Street just west of Levi's Plaza. Never one to miss a chance to wander around one of Halprin's cleverly designed spaces, I took a few extra minutes to walk the Plaza on one of the city's first truly glorious spring days. As ever, it was lovely, the geometric fountain revealing terraces of green space. The whole space is so snugly nestled between vast Telegraph Hill and the nearby Bay.

For those without immediate access to Halprin's work a new resource hit the web this month, and is worth the time of anyone interested in landscape design. The Cultural Landscape Foundation has been running a series of oral histories of important American designers. The entry on Halprin went up earlier this month. A trove of interviews with the man, photos, and commentary, Halprin's oral history is most notable for how strongly his voice is heard.

Whether it's the man himself on Levi's Plaza (right), describing how he chose granite outcroppings to suggest what the gold panners who sported the company's early dungarees would have sat on, or Halprin talking about the sketches he made of the destroyer on which he served during World War II, his grace, humility, and great reverence for design come through.

Sunset at Sea Ranch, 1977, by Lawrence Halprin. Image courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

There are also wonderful galleries of photos of Halprin's most important projects such as Sea Ranch, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Freeway Park.

By all means, take a tour through the variety of videos and images dedicated to remembering Halprin's work, but don't pass up the CLF's three other oral history projects on Carol R. Johnson, Edward L. Daugherty, and M. Paul Friedberg.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.