Richard Haag, FASLA, Hon. AIA
Somewhere I saw a publication of Bayer's early work, and I was just overwhelmed. On a trip, I went far out of my way to visit this site in Aspen, and I just stood there. Disappointed. It was a great piece, but it could have fit it in the room I'm standing in now. The photograph was a trick - it gave the piece an expansiveness that didn't exist.
But I did admire Earthworks at Mill Creek Canyon. Every year I would take my students there. Sometimes we would go to the wilds of Portland or San Francisco, but we would always go visit the Earthworks.
Bureaucrats! It's beyond human resources to set a 10,000 year regulation. There are too many variables at play. Even if they're right, the whole damn system would be overcharged. They can't be serious about this - people have only been building for 5,000 years - the pyramids aren't even 5,000 years old.
Richard Haag, FASLA is one of the most influential landscape architects in America. His work is recognized for its creativity, sensitivity to the natural environment and adaptive use of existing structures and landforms. Haag is the only person to twice receive the prestigious President's Award for Design Excellence given by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), once for Gas Works Park in Seattle and again for The Sequence of Gardens at Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA. With degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (B.L.A.), and Harvard Graduate School of Design (M.L.A.), he founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington in 1963. Haag was awarded a Fulbright in Japan for two years and was Resident at the American Academy in Rome. As lead designer at Richard Haag Associates, he has created a body of professional work encompassing over 500 design and planning projects. He continues to lecture internationally, while practicing at his firm in Seattle.
Gas Works Park is perhaps one of Haag's best-known and most controversial works. The history of the site stretches back to 1906, when the Seattle Gas Company constructed a plant on the shores of Lake Union to extract gas from coal. The plant was shut down in 1956; the old refinery towers stood silent for years. But in 1963, as Seattle was in the process of making payments to acquire the land for a park, Haag submitted the site as a design problem in a national competition in landscape architecture for undergraduate students. The fact that not one of the 130 proposed designs involved saving the plant's old towers reflects the prevailing mindset at that time: everyone assumed the structures would be demolished and the site restored to a conventional, "natural" state.
Haag was asked to develop a plan for the park in 1970. After spending hours of time roaming the site, he came to a radically different solution, one that literally came to him in a dream. He decided the structures should be saved--not for historical purposes, but rather, for purely aesthetic reasons, to provide an interesting visual anchor for the park design.
1, 2. Garden of Planes: Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, is an adaptive conversion of an obsolete swimming pool, surrounded by a “Japanese Teahouse” and soft, green, organic earth forms. Two graveled geometric pyramids, one positive with a 2 foot high elongated ridge grows from a common plane of an equilateral negative pyramid, terminated 6 feet below. The visitor can walk around this yin yang construct and discover one or two planes are hidden from view. This paradox is similar to the enigma of the “hidden stone” at Ryu-anji, near Kyoto (there are 15, but one is always unseen). The sculpture is a special koan of seven syllables and an ode to the most basic landscape experience: prospect and refuge encoded in our DNA.
Post scriptum: After winning the highest possible landscape architectural design award, the Garden of Planes was leveled, sacrificed for a banal half copy of a traditional stone/ raked sand garden.
3, 4 Gas Works Park: Seattle, Washington (description above).
5, 6. Jordan Park: Everett, Washington. Dredgings from a yacht turning basin were destined to defile the tide flat (now prohibited). These spoils were formed into a sequence of interlocking spaces that result from a multi-faceted series of earth sculptures, with varied planar slopes but each leveled into a ridge along the summit. A common central ‘stage’ accommodates community fairs, performances and pageants before 300 people seated on the mounds. The earth forms calm the prevailing winds capture the suns warmth. The 20-foot summit of the master pyramid offers prospect and refuge, is evocative of a widows walk to monitor the ebb and flow of ships, the sun and the storms.
Jordan Park was completed in 1972, contemporary with Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake and Morris’ X in the Buffalo, N.Y. Park.