Image courtesy: Portland Japanese Garden
We are saddened to report that College of Environmental Design alumnus and award-winning landscape architect Ron Herman (B.L.A. ‘64) passed away in July. He was one of this year’s distinguished alumni honorees at the 2018 CED Soiree in October.
A major influencer on both the design and evolution of private gardens in North America, Herman had a 35-plus year career in landscape architecture, creating more than 400 full-scale garden designs including many of the West Coast's largest and most intricate residential gardens.
A California native, Herman was raised in Hollywood. Growing up, he helped his father plan gardens for celebrities such as Phil Silvers and Steve Allen, and then earned a degree in landscape architecture at UC Berkeley. After graduation, Herman traveled to Japan, where he studied at Kyoto University for three years.
Herman's time in Japan influenced his approach to landscape design. Japanese gardens are often more minimalist and spiritual than their Western counterparts, characteristics that mark much of Herman's work. He was noted for his skillful ability to blend the disparate strands of modernism, Japanese garden design, and the “California style” of landscape design which emerged in the 1960’s at UC Berkeley; one of his trademarks was the use of rare materials, from 800-year-old Chinese cobblestones to industrial bronze and glass.
He kept close ties to Japan, visiting frequently on several research grants and maintaining fluency in the language. Herman taught a course on Japanese gardens at UC Berkeley several times over over a ten-year period, the latter years in which he co-taught alongside Professor Emeritus of architecture Marc Treib. Herman authored numerous papers on Japanese garden design and co-authored with Treib A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto, often noted as an authoritative text on Kyoto’s historic landscapes.
At any given time, Herman was involved in designing large estates throughout the country for leading business, sports, entertainment and society figures, including former 49er Joe Montana, singer Neil Young, and a 25-acre Japanese style garden for Oracle founder Lawrence Ellison. He also designed the garden for I.M. Pei's East Wing at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and is responsible for the design of Oracle's Northern California campus.
A collection of illustrations, drawings, and other works by Herman currently reside in the Environmental Design Archives at CED.