RIP – LAWRENCE HALPRIN


EXPIRED: 10/25/09 – Lawrence Halprin, 93, grew up in New York and spent three of his teenage years in Palestine on a kibbutz. Then in 1944, Halprin assigned to the NAVY destroyer the USS Morris in the Pacific. The ship was totally destroyed  by a kamikaze attack.

Now, you would think that surviving the destruction of a Navy vessel hundreds of miles at sea would put you off of water a bit, but not Halprin. He was sent to San Francisco on leave. And  following his discharge, he decided to stay in the city by the sea, and to inegrate water into his life’s work as an urban landscape architect.

Halprin’s wife, accomplished avant-garde dancer Anna Halprin, is a long-time collaborator, with whom he has explored the common areas between choreography and the way users move through a public space.

Together, their work is marked by attention to human scale, user experience, and the social impact of designs, in the tradition of Frederick Law Olmsted. Halprin was the creative force behind the interactive, ‘playable’ civic fountains most common in the 1970s.

Unfortunately you either love his work or you hate it. For example, in Portland Oregon, “Ira’s Fountain” is loved and well-used, while the transient-ridden United Nations Plaza in San Francisco is deemed a fiasco.

One community has attemped to have one of his public spaces bull-dozed because it’s odd configuration. Meant to encourage exploration, it has meandering paths and cul-de-sacs that some feel have contributed to a recent murder.

Others have fallen victim to neglect, and are in states of disrepair. Critics argǔe his pieces have become dated and no longer reflect the direction their cities want to take. Budgetary constraints and the urge to “revitalize” threaten some of his projects.

So, sadly, Halprin’s works may be passing not long after he, himself.

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