Peter Rothschild Reflects on Nicholas Quennell

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Peter Rothschild Reflects on Nicholas Quennell

Peter Rothschild Reflects on Nicholas Quennell

Peter Rothschild and Nicholas Quennell
Peter Rothschild (center) and Nicholas Quennell (right). Photo courtesy of Quennell Rothschild & Partners

On September 30, 2015, TCLF launched the twelfth installment of its award-winning Pioneers of American Landscape Design oral history series documenting the life, work, and design philosophy of noted landscape architect Nicholas Quennell. An account of Quennell’s prolific career and colorful life, as told by Quennell himself, is captured in 34 richly illustrated video clips on TCLF’s YouTube channel. Another component of Quennell’s oral history are the reflections and recollections about him recorded by myriad friends and colleagues. The following are Peter Rothschild’s verbatim reflections on Nicholas Quennell, his friend and business partner for nearly 50 years:

Half a century spans a significant part of one’s life. Nicholas and I will celebrate our fiftieth year together later this year. Partner, friend, mentor, confidant, and collaborator describes but a few of the many ways Nicholas helped me to define my life, and the lives of all who work with us.

We met at Vollmer Associates, Nicholas recently having left the Halprin office in San Francisco to move to New York, and me in my first job. We struck up a friendship as the radicals in the office, “long hairs” in an otherwise straight-laced world, suburban commuters, three martini lunches, and shirts and ties (required).

Nicholas and his girlfriend Dakota Daley lived in the Chelsea Hotel where I hung out for most of that summer. Through them I was introduced to the epicenter of New York pop culture: Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Arthur C. Clarke. It was a heady, creative atmosphere inspiring aesthetic iconoclasm as well as alternative lifestyles and culture. It was here that he founded Nicholas Quennell and Associates, the genesis of our 50-year partnership, in a small room on the second floor of the hotel.

During those first years together, while introducing me and our growing staff to radical design ideas and a fundamental skepticism about previously accepted principles and methods, Nicholas selflessly shared responsibilities in the office, inspiring all who worked there to participate at every level. His inspirational talent was to collaborate, to support our collective efforts, and to promote an atmosphere of office-wide ownership of every project we undertook. Throughout his career, Nicholas’ willingness to collaborate at every opportunity became a defining element in his creative talent and the keystone of our practice. At the age of 20, I found myself encouraged to think broadly about each of our commissions, flying all over the U.S. and meeting with clients to help create memorable works.

Through the ensuing decades, Nicholas provided seminal leadership in creating an international reputation for our firm, directing our efforts on projects from New York to Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Cape Town, the Périgord, San Diego, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Hartford, New Haven, Raleigh, Syracuse, and innumerable other places. Consistently, we approached each project with humility, open-mindedness, and a willingness to consider unusual solutions to the unique challenges posed by each assignment. Nicholas led and supported us throughout.

His leadership extended far beyond the office. For the Municipal Art Society of New York, the NY Chapter of the ASLA, and the National Association of Olmsted Parks he injected vitality and vision where none existed before. As President of the New York City Art Commission, appointed by the mayor, Nicholas’ influence and creative intelligence was realized throughout the city and in policy initiatives that will live on for decades. His diverse and important legacy, manifested in so many different areas, provides lasting benefit and inspiration. It is an honor to have called him my partner and friend.

         -Peter Rothschild
         August 30, 2015

Quennell Rothschild and Associates
Quennell Rothschild Associates staff. Photo courtesy of Quennell Rothschild & Partners