In the summer of 1966, renowned American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) and his wife, dance pioneer Anna Halprin (born 1920), began a series of experimental, cross-disciplinary workshops in northern California that offered a new approach to environmental awareness. Drawn from architecture, ecology, music, cinematography, graphics, choreography, and lighting, Experiments in Environment brought together artists, dancers, architects, and environmental designers in avant-garde environmental arts experiences.
Lawrence Halprin was a prominent figure in American landscape architecture, urban design, and environmental planning. He is renowned for his design of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (Washington, D.C.), Ghirardelli Square (San Francisco), Sea Ranch (Sonoma County, CA), Stern Grove Amphitheater (San Francisco), Levi's Plaza (San Francisco), Bunker Hill Steps (Los Angeles), and many others.
For several years in the mid-1950s, when his own design firm was a fledgling, Halprin served as Berkeley's supervising landscape architect. Halprin designed Sproul Plaza.
From June 27 to July 22 that summer, they engaged multi-sensory activities in alternating environments according to loosely structured, written guidelines—from movement sessions, to blindfolded awareness walks, to collective building projects, to choreographed journeys in urban plazas, parks, and rail cars. As an article in Progressive Architecture magazine described, “They built their own ‘city’ on the shore of the ocean and recreated the impact and atmosphere of a metropolis in a multimedia presentation. Dancers became architects and architects became dancers.” The series continued in 1968 and 1971.
Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971 presents to the West Coast public for the first time original photographs, films, drawings, scores, and other archival documentation of the workshops, which were staged in the streets of San Francisco, on the shores and cliffs of Sea Ranch (a coastal community designed by Lawrence), and on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. In an observation reflective of Sixties culture, Anna Halprin said, “I want art and structures which express individual creativity and collective living. I want all the personal responses of my company members to be evident in themselves and also to unite into a communal experience.”
For more information about times the exhibit is open contact the California Historical Society at 415-357-1848.