Photo by: R. Kehlmann
San Francisco Bay Area landscape architect Patricia O’Brien (M.L.A. ‘75) passed away in her sleep on the early morning of April 26. She was a beloved alumna of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning and will be sorely missed.
O’Brien taught as a lecturer and later as an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape and Environmental Planning from 1979 to 1999. She was also a practicing landscape architect with her own firm, and left an indelible mark with numerous projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of her notable designs include the Arrivals Lobby at the San Francisco International Airport and the San Francisco Giants Stadium at ATT Park (formerly Pac Bell Park).
One O’Brien’s most well-known designs is the 2001 redesign of the Wurster Hall courtyard, today a centerpiece, meeting ground, and commons for the Wurster community. O’Brien’s design was selected from among five submissions from distinguished LAEP graduates in a competition to re-imagine the courtyard.
Louise Mozingo, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, then chair of the courtyard committee, noted that “the challenge was to respond to a modernist building, but make the courtyard humane and approachable.” O’Brien’s winning design “pulled you in” with its modernist aesthetic and inviting lawn space, situated in a sunny patch. Her design key terms “movement, social, and privacy” thoughtfully responded to the expansion of the shop and the library into the courtyard, and the way individuals in those spaces would interact with the space.
Harrison Fraker, then dean of the College, had this to say about the redesign: “Recognizing that, beyond its use, the courtyard would be viewed primarily from above, she turned the landscape into a stunning 5th facade for the building, giving design a powerful and appropriate design presence in the College. She not only revealed formal subtleties in the building, but also created a truly multi-use and aesthetic asset for the College. This is the work of a masterful landscape architect.”
O’Brien is survived by her husband, Steven O’Brien (B.Arch. ‘69). Both are Cal Bears, and longtime supporters of CED.