Renowned local landscape architect dies at 93

Lawrence Halprin, a nationally renowned landscape architect who helped design some of The City’s most high-profile open spaces, died Sunday. He was 93.

Although he was born in New York City, Halprin had a profound effect on the public landscape of many West Coast cities, notably San Francisco, where he was instrumental in shaping Ghirardelli Square, Levi Plaza and the United Nations Plaza.

After serving in World War II — where he narrowly survived a kamikaze attack on his battleship during combat — Halprin moved to San Francisco in the spring of 1945, at first working under the tutelage of landscape designer Thomas Church. In 1949, Halprin opened up his own firm in The City, where he stayed until 2006, when he moved his business to Larkspur.

During his 60 years working in landscape design, Halprin helped revolutionize the industry by becoming one of the first architects to involve all potential users — from the public to policymakers — in the creative process, according to Stephen Koch, a landscape architect who is the co-founder of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy.

“He basically had an understanding of everyone’s agenda, so his designs were never exclusionary,” Koch said. “He didn’t put something up just for decoration — he wanted people to actually interact with his designs.”

Along with creating designs that promoted interaction with the public, Halprin was also known by his penchant for introducing scenes from nature into urban spaces, said Nancy Slade of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, who cited the creation of the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio — with its streams, vegetation and rock formations — as an example of that method.

The digital arts center, completed in 2005, was the last of Halprin’s major projects in The City. Other works include Ghirardelli Square, the U.N. Plaza, Stern Grove and Levi Plaza on The Embarcadero — a creation that was the architect’s most important contribution to San Francisco, according to Koch, who added that Halprin was working up until a month before his death.

Details about Halprin’s death were not immediately available.

Open spaces

Some of Lawrence Halprin’s design work in San Francisco:

  • Levi Plaza
  • Stern Grove
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • United Nations Plaza
  • Letterman Digital Arts Center

    wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

The San Francisco Giants celebrate team legend Willie Mays' 90th birthday before taking on the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on May 7, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Willie Mays returns to the ballpark for a special birthday bash

Giants celebrate No. 24’s 90th in an intimate party for a few thousand friends

The Port of San Francisco, which controls much of the The City’s waterfront, faces potential layoffs due to a financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)
In a financial ‘crisis,’ SF Port officials lobby for stimulus funding

Looking to right their financial ship, Port of San Francisco officials are… Continue reading

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Most Read