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Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971
SEP 19, 2014 - DEC 13, 2014

In the late 1960s, American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and avant-garde dance pioneer Anna Halprin organized a series of experimental, cross-disciplinary workshops in San Francisco and along the coast of northern California that brought dancers, architects, environmental designers, artists, and others together in a process designed to facilitate collaboration and group creativity through new approaches to environmental awareness.

Held over the course of several weeks, the Halprin workshops took place between the urban context of San Francisco; the dance deck and surrounding wooded areas of the Halprins’ Kentfield home in Marin County (Lawrence Halprin and William Wurster, 1951-54); and the Halprins’ cabin (Charles Moore, Lawrence Halprin, and William Turnbull, 1965-66) at Sea Ranch—a coastal community for which Lawrence Halprin designed the master plan (1962-67). From movement sessions on the Halprins’ dance deck, blindfolded awareness walks through the landscape, collective building projects using driftwood, and choreographed journeys diagramming everyday use and experience of urban plazas, parks, and rail cars, participants engaged in a series of multi-sensory activities in alternating environments according to loosely-structured, written guidelines in the form of open “scores.”

Organized with The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, this exhibition presents archival documentation of the workshops to the public for the first time, as well as plans, drawings, and original photographs of the architectural sites at Kentfield and Sea Ranch, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year

Anna Halprin (1920-present) is a dancer, choreographer, and pioneer of avant-garde dance. She founded the San Francisco Dancer's Workshop in 1955 and the Tamalpa Institute in 1978. Anna has created 150 full-length performance works, including Trance Dance, City Dance (1965-78); Parades and Changes (1965-67); Circle the Earth (1981); andPlanetary Dance: A Call for Peace (1987). She is the author of three books on her own work and contributed to Taking Part: A Workshop Approach to Collective Creativity (1975) and The RSVP Cycles: Creative Processes in the Human Environment (1969). She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts (1970); the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1997); a National Endowment for the Arts “American Masterpieces” award (2008); and the Doris Duke Impact Award (2014), among others. Halprin’s work was included in the 2011 exhibition, West of Center: Art and the Countercultural Experiment, 1965-1977, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado. In 2014, she performed Festival d’Automne à Paris at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. Her work is included in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Performance and Design.

Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was a leading figure in American landscape architecture, urban design, and environmental planning during the second-half of the twentieth century. Halprin’s best known works include Lovejoy Plaza, Portland, Oregon (1961-67); Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco (1962-68); Sea Ranch, Sonoma County, California (1962-67); Skyline Park, Denver, Colorado (1970-74); the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C. (1976-1997); and Lower Yosemite Falls (2005), among others. He was awarded the AIA Medal for Allied Professions (1964); a presidential appointment to the first National Council on the Arts (1966); the ASLA Gold Medal (1978); and the National Medal of the Arts (2002), among others. Halprin’s publications include Cities (1963); The RSVP Cycles: creative processes in the human environment (1969); Notebooks: 1959-1971 (1972); Taking Part: A Workshop Approach to Collective Creativity (with Jim Burns, 1974); and A Life Spent Changing Place (2011), among others. Lawrence Halprin’s archives are located at The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, and his work is included in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The vitrines for Experiment in Environement were designed by Mark Wasiuta and Adam Bandler and originally produced by GSAPP Exhibitions at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation for the exhibition Environments and Counter Environments: "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” MoMA, 1972.


“Driftwood Village—Community,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 6, 1968. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania