By Brad McKee
Landscape Architecture Magazine
College of Environmental Design alumnus Peter Walker, FASLA, (B.A. Landscape Architecture '55) has thought quite a lot about memorial design. With Michael Arad, he completed the World Trade Center Memorial in Lower Manhattan, which opened in 2011. But a more recent call about a memorial commission was quite personal. It came from Jennifer Wolch, the dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, near where Walker has his firm, PWP Landscape Architecture. She wanted to create a memorial within Wurster Hall to William Byrd Callaway, known to his friends as Bill. Callaway, who died in 2014 at the age of 71, joined Walker at SWA in 1967 and eventually became its CEO—and a legend to his colleagues.
Wolch “had quite an interesting space, but it was really ugly,” Walker said. “Everyone just threw stuff in it.” The space is a two-story light well for which no use was specified when the building opened in 1964. Faculty members at that time debated its best use but couldn’t agree on what that would be. “The decision was made to put all plans on the back burner,” Wolch said. “For 52 years.”
Wolch’s idea was to memorialize Callaway, and she called Walker to design it. “She knew how I felt about him,” Walker said. Walker and his wife, Jane Gillette, with Australian friends Steve Calhoun and Kathleen Clair, traveled all over with Callaway and his wife, Barbara Meacham. Walker wanted to honor those times, so he designed the space as “Bill’s Beach,” with a bronze palm tree, fake turf, and two outsized Adirondack chairs with arms holding martini glasses and an ashtray of cigarettes, beneath fair-weather clouds in a blue sky. When traveling, Walker, Gillette, Calhoun, Clair, and Meacham would go sightseeing, while Callaway “would invariably find a comfortable chair, order a martini, light up a cigarette, and hold a sedentary court,” Walker recalled. “It was one of his favorite things to do, and our pleasure to attend.”
More than three dozen of Callaway’s colleagues donated “$60,000 or $70,000” to build the memorial, which was dedicated in early February, Walker says, and installation was done by BrightView Design Group. “Being by the beach or on vacation made sense,” Walker said, “which is why we chose these artifacts of vacationing, friendship, and getting together.”