Stewardship Excellence Awards: Focus on California

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Stewardship Excellence Awards: Focus on California

Stewardship Excellence Awards: Focus on California

As interest in cultural landscapes continues to surge in California, two events celebrated the stewardship efforts in San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

Austin Val Verde Foundation
Val Verde contains 17 acres of gardens, rare and exotic specimen trees, woodlands, and a mountain stream. Together with several other notable properties, Val Verde helped to redefine West Coast regional landscape design aesthetics in the early 20th century. Architect Bertram Goodhue (1896-1924), Val Verde's original designer, laid out the architecture and grounds in a simple, austere design. Its terraces became the masterpiece commission of landscape architect, Lockwood de Forest, Jr. (1896-1949). De Forest and his wife and business partner, Elizabeth, added and elaborated upon the existing structure of Goodhue's vision. The de Forests treated architecture as if it were landscape and landscape as architecture, unobstructed by traditional professional limitation.

Today the Foundation is attempting to preserve Val Verde as an intact historic property, otherwise it could be redesigned as an "estate subdivision" for privileged market and public access could be lost. Given the careful management this landscape requires, private ownership may not be a realistic avenue for the preservation of this venerable Golden Age garden estate that still contains the visions of its previous owners and designers. Presently there is no agreed-upon mechanism for securing the preservation of this nationally important California landscape. Today, a non-profit foundation is managing the site and dealing with the legal issues surrounding its future. In recognition of their ongoing efforts this award was presented to Gail Jansen and Board members.

Casa del Herrero Foundation
Few of Montecito's Country Place era estates have retained their design integrity. An exception is the Casa del Herrero, which had been in the hands of the original family since it was purchased by industrialist George Steedman Fox in 1922. Designed by noted architect George Washington Smith, the Spanish Colonial Revival style Casa is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is today pursuing National Historic Landmark status for its architecture, landscape architecture and collections. Casa's gardens were designed by landscape architects Ralph Stevens and Lockwood de Forest, as well as horticulturist Peter Reidel. Completed in 1933, of the now eleven-acre estate, seven are formally designed and maintained in a Spanish Moorish style.

George Steedman died in 1940 and Carrie Steedman continued to live at the estate until her death in 1962. One of their daughters, Medora Steedman Bass, then lived here until her death in 1986. In 1993, the estate and its contents were transferred to the Casa del Herrero Foundation by Medora's family, fulfilling her wish that the estate be preserved. Today it is managed by the Foundation, a non-profit organization, and made available to the public by advance reservation for tours of the house, gardens and workshop. Since the Foundation took over the care of the gardens over a decade ago, a stewardship priority has been to return the Stevens-Lockwood gardens to their former glory

Kellam de Forest
Son of landscape architects Lockwood and Elizabeth de Forest, Jr., Kellam grew up in the family residence on the shady and quiet Todos Santos Lane in Mission Canyon north of Mission Santa Barbara. Kellam was a history major in college. Following college, Kellam came to realize that television producers in the 1950s had small budgets and no research resources (unlike motion picture studios). With early clients such as Desilu, (I Love Lucy, Mission Impossible) Kellam became the leader in the field and by the 1970s was recognized as the largest independent research consultant on the west coast. After Kellam retired from the industry, he began to devote himself to raising awareness for his father's design legacy. Today, he is an outspoken and passionate voice for the historic designed landscapes of the region. In addition to educating present-day owners about the history of their gardens, armed with historic photographs in hand, Kellam is known to give testimonials at public forums such as the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission. For example, in September 2003, Kellam presented his requests that the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden be returned to its original design intent and use only native California plants.

Sandra Donnell and Justin Faggioli
are the dedicated owners of the Donnell family garden created by Thomas Church and Lawrence Halprin, for which Halprin drew the first studies in 1947. Architectural historian Marc Treib suggests that this is "the most famous garden of the twentieth century," and notes that "Church, Donnell and Halprin walked the site together and discussed the nature of the design and the design of the surrounding nature." Today, over half a century later, the Donnell family has honored this design legacy by maintaining and protecting the original landscape design. For years the garden has been available for student tours and has greatly influenced several generations of landscape architects. Most recently, Sandra and Justin have graciously agreed to allow their garden to be highlighted in TCLF's Modern Garden Icons , where it will educate and inspire future landscape stewards.

Lawrence Halprin,
a pre-eminent landscape architect of the 20th century, is renowned as a designer, educator, and innovator. He is known for distinctive urban water fountains and has designed such well-known spaces as the Lovejoy Plaza in Portland, Oregon; Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco; and the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. He has received numerous awards including: the AIA medal for Allied Professions, 1964; Appointed to the first National Council on the Arts by President Johnson, 1966; Appointed to the first Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 1967; Elected fellow in ASLA, 1969; Elected honorary fellow of the Institute of Interior Design, 1970; Awarded the ASLA Gold Medal and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1978; Awarded Thomas Jefferson Gold Medal in architecture by the University of Virginia, 1979 and most recently the President's Medal of Arts by President Bush and Laura Bush. In recent years, Mr. Halprin has donated considerable time, intellectual energies and resources to work with landscape architects, historians and park advocacy groups to preserve modern landscapes— including many of his own designs.