Basic, Human, Archetypical

What is design really all about? Design, particularly environmental design, has a profound responsibility. It is, in a sense, the bearer of the cultural value system of a community. For that reason, environmental design goes way beyond the visual; it is much more pervasive. It deals with cultural issues, with context, with lifestyle, with social and economic issues; it has profound ecological ramifications and influences on the future of the planet; it deals with the whole community as well as the individual; it is contributing to a human ecology and, in that sense, it must be multi-sensory and holistic. And, I think, holistic is the operative word.

Perhaps more importantly, landscape design must go much deeper than image-making, which simply trivializes it. It is, after all, not a matter of constantly changing style, as some people think -like the redesign of new fashions each season. It has nothing to do with old-fashioned carpet bedding or modish, intricate gridded patterning on the ground, which is the more recently stylish way of doing things.

Landscape design is about social relevance, it can become poetic and symbolic, but, perhaps most importantly, it can articulate a culture’s most spiritual values.

For its best meaning, it can strive to externalize and make feasible spiritual values-for individuals, for a community, and for the whole planet. The role of the landscape designer can be similar to the role of a Shaman who, in the Dutch teacher Beuy’s words, “can transform base materials into mystical touchstones.” Beautiful term.

ln that way, landscape design is like alchemy. That is what makes it an important art form, and why, in fact, it is worthy for us to pursue this particular profession. Some of the most remarkable transformational environments l have personally experienced exhibit manifestations of spiritual values. They have altered my life.

What they seem to do is release in people something inherent inside them, something that is already there. They evoke some basic need, which lies dormant until it is evoked.

These environments speak to us at a basic, human, archetypical level, revealing to us our latent human and spiritual values.

Lawrence Halprin, Design as a Value System (1989)


Lawrence Halprin, Sea Ranch Sketches and Views (1972)


Basic, Human, Archetypical


I never use water as a barrier. I use water in cities as a living force, on some level like plants. It moves, it sparkles, it sounds good, you can touch it, you can play in it. (…)

I wouldn’t be in this work if I didn’t think it would—well, I don’t know how much it transforms people—but it can go a long way toward making their lives more meaningful and enhancing their lives. And if it’s done right, it can promote healing. A lot of healing can be done in a wonderful environment. (…)

They will feel about you that you’re going to make something wonderful for them. And they help you by expressing themselves. Not telling you how to do it, but encouraging you and accepting your vision and working with you on that kind of a level. (…)

‘Memorable’ and ‘intense’ and ‘passionate’ are words that I prefer to ‘pretty’ when I’m making places for people.

Lawrence Halprin, Notebooks 1959-1971. (1973)


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Lawrence Halprin, Ira Keller Fountain Park (1970) and Lovejoy Fountain Park (1966)


No objects

Architects make objects.

We don’t.

We make experiences.

We’re not trying to find a form.

The land is the form.

Lawrence Halprin, Notebooks (1971)


J.M.William Turner, Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps (1812)

J.M.WilliamTurner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway  (1812)

No objects

Bitter Pill to swallow

Designed environments which are thought out, formalized, and complete are usually ‘lifeless’ and unapproachable because (a) they do not invite interaction and modification to suit immediate human needs; (b) they are unable to develop and become extended through human use. (…) Oddly enough, many environments which ‘work’ well for people meet few, if any,aesthetic criteria ordinarily employed by designers. (…)

George Rand, quoted in Lawrence Halprin, New York, New York (1968)

For most designers this was a bitter pill to swallow. (…) We do not seem to be able to structure the process of change. On one hand we need citizen participation; on the other the magnitude of he physical needs of rebuilding are enormous.

Lawrence Halprin, New York, New York (1968)

Bitter Pill to swallow


Halprin_Score_Seminary_South_Foutain  halprin halprin secuencia In order to design for movement a whole new system of conceptualizing most be undertaken. Our present systems of design and planning are inevitabily limited by our techniques of conceptulizing and our methods of symbolizing ideas. We know only how to delineate static objects, and so is all we do.

Lawrence Halprin, Cities (1963)