Lawrence Halprin, Designer of Movement

Lawrence Halprin, an American icon of modern landscape architecture, was married to Anna Halprin, a talented choreographer and modern dance advocate. She was his muse.

    David Paul Morris/Getty Images
Her effect on Lawrence has not been discussed much. But, like Frank Lloyd Wright's last wife, she influenced him greatly.
Lawrence Halprin, in fact, used the word 'choreography' to describe his melding of modernism, nature and movement in his many landscapes.

Planetary Dance on Mt Tamalpais, organized by Anna Halprin
Mr. Halprin (from Brooklyn) gave us the modern style of landscape architecture after World War 2. This style used concrete as much as it did vegetation. But he also gave us space, urban open space. I remember making the pilgrimage to his Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco as young landscape arch. student...the idea of an open urban space that encouraged fun and excitement was impressive.

“Movement and choreography have always been a consistent influence on me and my work…natural movements characterized by water and natural forces and the evidence of natural change over time have led me to my endless fascination with natural processes.” - Halprin

Freeway Park - Seattle
His Sea Ranch development of 1,500 houses on a 5,000-acre stretch of coast in Sonoma County, Calif., was a wonder, preserving natural contours, views and open spaces.  He planted more than a half-million trees there.

Ecoscore for Sea Ranch - Halprin

Halprin cared deeply how people would move through a created space. Inspired by his wife, he developed a method of landscape drawing he called “motation,” from motion and notation. His 'scores' showed how space might be choreographed for movement with nodes for quiet and contemplation, action and inaction, hard and soft, yin and yang.

Ira Keller Fountain
Ira Keller Fountain, Portland, Oregon  – Photo: Phil Gilston

Halprin’s diagrammatic representations of movements through time and space were sometimes hard to follow. His motations were ideas for actual moving parts – such as water in fountains.

Motation Drawing – Lawrence Halprin
Motation Drawing – Lawrence Halprin
Seminary South Park Fountain Score
Score for the choreography of water flow in a fountain by Halprin designed for Seminary South Park

Mr. Halprin’s favorite project was the 7.5 acre Roosevelt memorial in Washington, DC.  Mr. Halprin’s concept of four outdoor rooms and gardens with waterfalls, quotes and statues was completed in 1997. As seen in the photo below, even the stones seem to dance....

part of FDR memorial



  1. Wow! Wonderful. I can't find any words to discribe my delight.

    1. Hi Andrew! Your word, 'delight' is ample enough. thanks for your comment.


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