Garrett Eckbo was born in Cooperstown, New York to Axel Eckbo, a businessman, and Theodora Munn Eckbo. In 1912, the family moved to Chicago, Illinois. After Eckbo’s parents divorced, he and his mother relocated to Alameda, California where they struggled financially while he grew up. After Eckbo graduated from high school in 1929, and later Marin Junior College, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in landscape architecture.
While Eckbo was at Berkeley he was influenced by two of the programs faculty members, H. Leland Vaughan and Thomas Church, who inspired him to move beyond the formalized beaux-arts style that was popular at the time. Eckbo graduated with a B.S. in landscape architecture in 1935 and subsequently worked at Armstrong Nurseries in Ontario near Los Angeles where he designed about a hundred gardens in less than a year. After working at the Nurseries, he was restless to expand his creative horizons and entered Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design by way of a scholarship competition, which he won.
Eckbo, along with fellow students Dan Kiley and James Rose resisted and began to "explore science, architecture, and art as sources for a modern landscape design" (Treib & Imbert, 1997, p.182). Eckbo began to take architecture classes with the former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius, who was then head of the architecture department while continuing to take classes in the landscape architecture department. Gropius and Marcel Breuer introduced Eckbo to the idea of the social role in architecture, the link between society and spatial design. (Goedeken, 2002). Eckbo was also influenced by the works of several abstract painters, mostly Wassily Kandinsky, but also László Moholy-Nagy and Kasimir Malevich. Eckbo would convey a sense of movement in his designs by the layering and massing of plants as inspired by the artists’ paintings. He received his MLA degree from Harvard in 1938.
In 1940 Eckbo joined with his brother–in-law, Edward Williams to form the firm Eckbo and Williams. Five years later Robert Royston joined the firm. The very successful firm of Eckbo, Royston and Williams designed hundreds of projects including residential gardens, planned community developments, urban plazas, churches and college campuses. He would eventually form the highly successful firm Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams, (EDAW) in 1964. Leaving the firm in 1979, he first formed the firm Garrett Eckbo and Associates and finally Eckbo Kay Associates with Kenneth Kay (Treib & Imbert. 1997, pp. 183-185).
Eckbo published numerous journal articles and books over the years. In 1950 he published the book Landscape for Living. The book was a compilation of his thoughts and work in landscape architecture and is considered a seminal book in landscape architecture (Goedeken, 2002).
Eckbo also taught at the
School of Architecture at the University of Southern California from
1948 to 1956. He was the chairman of the Department of Landscape
Architecture at UC Berkeley from 1963 to 1969.
Goedeken, E. A. (2002). "Garrett Eckbo". American National Biography Online October 2002 Update. Retrieved Sep 24, 2004.
Schwenk, K. (2001). "Garrett Eckbo: Pioneer of Modern Landscape". UNM-Quantum 2001. Retrieved August 30, 2004.
Partial List of
San Diego Projects
Francis, M. & Hester, R. T. Jr. (eds): The Meaning of Gardens. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press; 1990. ISBN 0-262-06127-9
Rogers, E. B.: Landscape Design: a Cultural and Architectural History. New York, NY: Harry Abrams, Inc.; 2001. ISBN 0-8109-4253-4
Treib, M. & Imbert, D.: Garrett Eckbo: Modern Landscapes for Living. University of California Press; 1996. ISBN 0-520-20779-3