Funds from this Kickstarter campaign will be applied to completing the final production of the Robert Royston Oral History, allowing us to edit, score, and animate the many video segments; to obtain and insert archival images; and to compile, edit, and publish a comprehensive transcript of interviews with Royston.
About Robert Royston
The sixteenth installment in TCLF’s award-winning Pioneers of American Landscape Design Oral History Project will examine the extraordinary life and career of landscape architect Robert Royston (1918–2008), one of the nation’s truly gifted postwar practitioners. Born in San Francisco and raised on a farm in the Santa Clara valley, Royston excelled at drawing and painting at an early age. In 1936 he enrolled in the landscape design program at the University of California, Berkeley’s, College of Agriculture, where he was mentored by H. Leland Vaughan, who encouraged him to experiment with the new approaches to landscape design expressed in the groundbreaking work of Dan Kiley, Garrett Eckbo, and James Rose, and to supplement his studies with interdisciplinary coursework in studio art, architecture, and engineering. As a result, Royston developed a distinct design vocabulary of layered, nonaxial spaces and bold, asymmetrical forms, yet based his approach on using those forms to create highly functional landscapes—never an exercise in art for art’s sake.
During college, Royston worked part time in the offices of Thomas Church, another of the profession’s pioneering designers, and would become a full-time employee after graduating in 1940. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Royston returned to the Bay Area in 1945, where he partnered with Garrett Eckbo and landscape architect Edward Williams in Eckbo, Royston & Williams, eventually opening and managing the firm’s San Francisco branch office. He began teaching part time at his alma mater, U.C. Berkeley, in 1947 but resigned in 1951, refusing to sign a loyalty oath.
Royston’s early work primarily comprised residential sites and gardens in Northern California, but amid the postwar economic boom his practice soon expanded to include parks, plazas, and planned residential communities, often in collaboration with well-known Bay Area architects, such as Joseph Allen Stein, John Funk, Joseph Esherick, Campbell and Wong, and Robert Marquis. Royston’s innovative park and playground work of the 1950s included Krusi Park in Alameda (1954), Pixie Place in Marin County (1954), and Mitchell Park in Palo Alto (1956). Begun in 1960, his design for the 52-acre Central Park, in Santa Clara, included an amoeba-like, two-acre lake, a 75-foot-tall, open-air pavilion, and a playground with a three-dimensional maze.
Royston started a new firm in 1958 with partners Asa Hanamoto and David Mayes, which ultimately became Royston, Hanamoto, Alley & Abey, now headquartered in Mill Valley, California. The firm completed a multitude of projects in the United States, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, and Malaysia, ranging from residential gardens to the design of communities and new towns, including the 5,500-acre Sun River community in Oregon (1969) and the well-known plan for North Bonneville, Washington (1974). Other notable projects include master plans for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1969), the Los Alamos National Laboratory (1980), the Stanford University Linear Accelerator (1961), and Parque Recuerdo Cemetery, in Santiago, Chile (1981), as well as various site plans for facilities at the University of California, Berkeley (1977), Stanford University (1964), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (1967).
Royston received many awards and honors during his long career. He was named a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1973 and an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 1986. He was also the recipient of the ASLA Medal, the society’s highest award, in 1989.
About TCLF’s Oral Histories
TCLF’s oral histories document the lives and careers of pioneering landscape architects in their own words, creating a permanent and invaluable first-hand account of the significant cultural landscapes they helped create. Each oral history examines a designer’s personal and professional history, their overall design philosophy, and how that approach was carried out in their most emblematic projects. The video segments include never-before-seen archival footage, new photography, and on‐location videography, all seamlessly edited and musically scored. Now fifteen in number, the oral histories are made available free to the public on YouTube and tclf.org. TCLF’s YouTube channel has garnered nearly 350,000 views, and its website receives more than one million unique visits annually.
About The Cultural Landscape Foundation
A non-profit established in 1998, The Cultural Landscape Foundation has a mission to “connect people to places.” TCLF educates and engages the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards. TCLF achieves this mission through the ongoing development of its three core programs:
>What’s Out There®, North America’s largest and most exhaustive database of cultural landscapes;
>Pioneers of American Landscape Design®, an in-depth multimedia library, inclusive of video oral histories, chronicling the lives of significant landscape architects and educators;
>Landslide®, an ongoing collection of important landscapes and landscape features that are threatened and at-risk.
Your gift to TCLF is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law and will ensure that TCLF's programs and ongoing initiatives collectively tell the stories of our nation's rich landscape heritage.
Risks and challenges
When documenting and advocating for outstanding works of landscape architecture, time is always the greatest adversary. Royston passed away in 2008, and many of his most significant projects were completed more than 50 years ago. For those that still survive, documenting the built work and design intent is of paramount importance because when landscapes are threatened, documentation matters most. As with many landscapes of the postwar era, the prospect of outright destruction is a constant threat to Royston’s legacy, as are threats of insensitive development or thoughtless alterations. These critical funds will allow us to move quickly to finish the project and will help make visible and more accessible the legacy of this significant postwar designer.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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