Lester Albertson Collins was born and raised in New Jersey. In 1938, he earned a degree in English at Harvard, then traveled in the Far East with fellow student John Ormsbee Simonds, before pursuing a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture degree, graduating in 1942. Collins served in the British Eighth Army from 1942 to 1945, and then returned to Harvard, first as a professor of Landscape Architecture and then as Dean from 1950 to 1953.
Collins settled in Washington, DC, in 1954, and in 1955 joined the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania firm of Simonds and Simonds [John and Philip Simonds] as a Washington partner. Collins’ connection to the Graham family of Dade County resulted in the firm’s development of the Miami Lakes Master Plan, which led the way for a new type of town planning for Florida. Collins continued to consult for the firm when Collins, Simonds and Simonds became Environmental Planning and Design in 1970. His individual practice included such notable projects as the 1977 redesign of the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden and the Enid A. Haupt Garden in Washington, DC. His most celebrated project is Innisfree, in Millbrook, New York., whose development he directed for forty years. This commission allowed him to best expresses his minimalist ideas and his knowledge of Chinese design principals.