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Garrett Eckbo, UC Berkeley professor known for inspiring the modern landscape movement, dies at 89
08 Jun 2000

By Kathleen Maclay , Media Relations

Berkeley - Garrett Eckbo, a landscape architect whose work on new towns, gardens, homes, parks and other public spaces made him a leader of the modern landscape movement, has died at the age of 89.

"Certainly, he's one of the stellar figures of this century in the field," said Linda Jewell, professor of landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, where Eckbo taught.

A memorial service for Eckbo is planned for Nov. 12 at UC Berkeley. The service will coincide with a landscape architecture symposium on the campus where he taught and chaired the landscape architecture department.

Eckbo's best known works include housing for migrant farmworkers in the 1940s, the plaza in Old Monterey, Berkeley 's waterfront, and "firsts" such as the downtown pedestrian mall in Fresno designed to reclaim for people the space previously devoted to cars. Other projects included the Ladera planned residential community near Stanford University and gardens for cinema greats Gary Cooper and Louis B. Mayer. Eckbo also was a major author of the state's open space master plan.

A fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, he was the first professional environmental planner and urban designer to be assigned by the government to help solve the Niagara Falls erosion problem.

Eckbo earned his bachelor's degree in landscape design from UC Berkeley in 1935, after transferring from Marin Junior College in Kentfield. He received a master's degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University in 1938.

"Art emotionalizes the intellect. Science intellectualizes the emotions. Together, they bring order to nature and freedom to man," he wrote in his 1969 book, "The Landscape We See."

"Today, one finds the center of city or town only by the increasing height of buildings, the increasing clamor of lights and signs, and the increasing congestion of traffic," he wrote. "We still build temples and palaces and many other splendid structures, but they are lost in the modern urban jungle."

Other books by Eckbo include "Landscape for Living" and "Urban Landscape Design." In 1997, the UC Berkeley Art Museum mounted a "Garrett Eckbo: Landscape for Living" exhibit.

Jewell said Eckbo's books always contained numerous illustrations of his observations and theoretical positions. Some of the illustrations reflected actual projects, others were proposals that Eckbo thought should be real, she said.

"He was always an advocate for the underclass," she said. "Everything he did had a social agenda behind it."

She called him imaginative, artistic, modest about his talent while adamant about his views and always willing to collaborate, sometimes to his detriment. "Some of his work is spotty, some of it extraordinary...," Jewell said. "I think it was because he was always so accommodating of the needs and preferences of the owner. When he had more freedom, that's when the projects were extraordinary."

At the request of UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, Eckbo wrote "Public Landscape," ranking architectural and planning successes and failures from the public arena. He described the UC Berkeley campus in 1978 as a "melange of unrelated and ill-assorted buildings."

Eckbo was a founding partner in Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams in San Francisco before going into solo practice. He joined the landscape architecture faculty at UC Berkeley in 1965 and was a professor until 1978. He served as department chair for four years.

He received numerous awards, including UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design Distinguished Alumnus of 1998, the American Society of Landscape Architects Medal of Honor in 1975, the Architectural League of New York's gold medal in 1950 and the American Institute of Architect's merit award in 1953. In 1970, he won an American Society of Landscape Architects' merit award for Lodi Park in New Delhi, India.

"He had that way of making you feel special," said Jewell. "First, last and always, I think everyone knew Garrett as a first-class human being."

Eckbo died on May 14 after a stroke. He is survived by his wife, Arline, of Oakland; daughters Marilyn Kweskin and Alison Peper of Los Angeles; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.



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