Monday, May 23, 2011

Seeds of Collaborative Design

When Garrett Eckbo collaborated on the design of 1414 Fair Oaks with Smith and Williams, he was part of a practice known as Eckbo, Dean and Williams, and belonged to a group of architects and designers teaching at USC which included Whit Smith and Cal Straub and many others (Wayne Williams was Whit's student at USC, not related to Edward Williams, Eckbo's parner). At that time, in the mid-fifties, he was a landscape architect who was well-known for his published work, Landscape for Living, which stressed collaborative and imaginative modern principles of landscape design. He had studied landscape architecture during the 1930s at UC Berkeley and later at Harvard, where he encountered the modern movement and studied under professors such as Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus. The full story is here:

In 1958, Eckbo Royston and Williams divided into Royston Hanamoto and Mayes, and Eckbo Dean and Williams. In 1964, Donald Austin became a partner and the firm was recast as Eckbo Dean Austin Williams, later known as EDAW. Ultimately, the laboratory for progressive landscape design with a focus on the relationship between individual and community grew into a multinational planning corporation. Eckbo returned to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1963 to head the Department of Landscape Architecture at Berkeley until 1969. He received the Medal of Honor from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1975; he retired as Professor Emeritus in 1978, and left EDAW a year later.

The company originally founded by Eckbo, EDAW, Inc. was established in 1964 and grew to international prominence and became an AECOM company when it was acquired in December 2005. It's now an international urban design, landscape architecture and planning firm with 34 offices. EDAW’s origins date to 1939, when aspiring landscape architects Garrett Eckbo and Edward Williams formed an informal partnership to practice landscape architecture, urban design, and planning. Eckbo, a leading proponent of modernist design, and Williams, a land planner, were among the first to recognize the design and planning disciplines as a means to reconnect people to place. Eckbo and Williams were later joined by partners Austin and Davis, and the first letters of the four last names - EDAW - became the name of the firm. The practice grew in size and capabilities and was officially incorporated in California in March of 1967.

The 1414 Office Building is thus an anchor for the emerging Southern California modern movement of the time, which has ultimately evolved into an entire gestalt of integrating human experience in a dynamic landscape that demands interaction with people and their activities. This seed became a fundamental presence in the formulation of landscape architecture as part of the natural processes as well as a seamless part of the experience of the built environment, which went on to influence major projects across the globe.