Cornell's 1999-2000 distinguished arts awards go to Lawrence Halprin, an influential landscape architect, and Dennis Chang, a classical musician
By Linda Myers
Lawrence Halprin, a landscape architect in San Francisco whose work helped shape modern landscape design, is the winner of Cornell University's 1999 Distinguished Alumni in the Arts Award. Kuei-Chuan Dennis Chang '99, a recent student in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences with a focus in music and dance, won the 1999-2000 Distinguished Student in the Arts Award.
The alumni award, which is given annually by the Cornell University Council Cultural Endeavors Committee, was presented to Halprin on Oct. 12 in San Francisco by Professor Herbert Gottfried, chair of Cornell's Department of Landscape Architecture on behalf of Cornell President Hunter Rawlings. The corresponding arts award for a student, which includes a $1,000 stipend, was presented to Chang by Percy Browning, outgoing chair of the committee, during commencement ceremonies last May.
Halprin, who is perhaps best known for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1930s, a period that saw the emergence of modern landscape architecture. His training included a B.S. in plant science from Cornell in 1939, an M.S. in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin in 1941 and a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University in 1943. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was a combat officer in the Pacific during World War II. In 1945 he settled in San Francisco with his wife, Anna Schuman, a dancer who developed the San Francisco Dancers Workshop.
In the 1950s Halprin became involved in a new way to design public spaces, using them to link the public and private spheres. Over the past 50 years he has helped redefine landscape architecture as an expansive field that encompasses the organic wholeness of life, rather than a series of formally designed plantings and embellishments.
Halprin has applied his talents and artistry to the design of urban parks, plazas, commercial and cultural centers and other public spaces around the world. In his urban renewal projects he employed expressionistic slabs of concrete that resemble High Sierra rock formations and fountains that mimic waterfalls in natural settings. He collaborated with forward-thinking architects and looked to such varied sources of inspiration as his wife's choreography, the music of
contemporary composer John Cage and the writings of psychologist Carl Jung. He also experimented with "happenings"-- art events that make use of spontaneity and engage bystanders -- and workshops to involve ordinary people in the design process.
The Roosevelt Monument, which Halprin worked on for over 30 years, embodies many of his ideas: calm enclosures, reflection, procession, varied pace and bold form. His contributions to the field are referenced in such well-known critical works as Invisible Gardens: The Search for Modernism in the American Landscape, by Peter Walker and Melanie Simo (MIT Press, 1994). Now 83, Halprin is still interested in ideas, new social context, ecology and, in his words, "art that deals with the essential human condition."
Halprin now lives in Kentfield, Calif.
The multitalented Chang demonstrated expertise in dance and piano during his undergraduate years at Cornell. He choreographed "For Three," which was performed at the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance's Spring 1998 Dance Theater Concert. He also performed Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3 in concert with the Cornell Symphony Orchestra in May 1999. He gave a solo piano recital at Cornell in April 1999, performing works by Beethoven, Chopin, Bartok, Schumann, Bach and Ravel. He also accompanied singers in voice recitals at Cornell in 1997 and 1998, performing works by Ravel, Schumann, Handel, Mozart, Prokofiev and Richard Strauss. And he was nominated for the Otto Stahl Memorial Prize for Piano Performance in 1998.
The faculty in the Cornell departments of Music and Theatre, Film and Dance praised Chang for his "sparkle in class" and his "desire to learn" as well as his virtuosity in several of the arts.
Chang, who consistently made the dean's list at Cornell, is pursuing a master of arts in musicology and master of music in piano performance at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Cornell Council Cultural Endeavors Committee members are alumni and friends of the university with an interest in the arts. Recipients are Cornellians who have achieved prominence in the arts. Past award winners have included musician Steve Reich and visual artist Susan Rothenberg.