Harriet Pattison, an American landscape architect, left an indelible mark on the world of landscape architecture through her innovative designs and collaborations. She was born on October 29, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, and her journey through life was one of dedication to her craft and a deep passion for the natural world. On October 3, 2023, the world bid farewell to this remarkable architect, just days shy of her 95th birthday.
Early Life and Education
Harriet Pattison’s early life was marked by a thirst for knowledge and a diverse range of interests. She was the youngest of seven children born to William Lawrence and Bonnie Abbott. Her educational journey began at the Francis Parker School in Chicago. In 1951, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Chicago.
Pattison’s academic pursuits extended beyond her B.A. as she ventured into the realms of acting at the Yale School of Drama and graduate philosophy courses at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion for music led her to Philadelphia, where she studied piano under the guidance of Edith Braun at the Curtis Institute of Music.
It was in 1958 that Harriet Pattison’s path took a significant turn when she crossed paths with the renowned architect Louis Kahn. Their meeting would not only shape her career but also mark the beginning of a personal relationship that would influence her work profoundly.
Career and Contributions
Pattison’s journey into the world of landscape architecture commenced with an apprenticeship at the office of modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley in Vermont. Her dedication and talent soon became evident as she delved deeper into the field.
In 1967, Harriet Pattison earned her Master of Arts (MA) degree in landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. During her time at the university, she had the privilege of studying under the guidance of notable figures in the field, including Ian McHarg, Roberto Burle Marx, and M. Paul Friedberg, among others.
One of her significant projects was designing a master plan for the 125-acre headquarters of The Hershey Company. This endeavor showcased her ability to envision and create landscapes that harmonized with their surroundings.
A pivotal moment in her career came when she joined the landscape architecture firm of George Patton. Here, she had the opportunity to collaborate with Louis Kahn on several groundbreaking projects. Together, they crafted iconic spaces like the Kimbell Art Museum and Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, leaving an enduring legacy in the world of architecture and landscape design.
Personal Life and Legacy
Harriet Pattison’s personal life was intertwined with her professional journey, most notably through her relationship with Louis Kahn. Their unique bond and its influence on her work were explored in the 2003 documentary “My Architect: A Son’s Journey,” directed by their son, Nathaniel Kahn.
In 2020, Pattison shared her and Louis Kahn’s correspondences in the book “Our Days Are Like Full Years: A Memoir with Letters from Louis Kahn,” published by Yale University Press. This collection of letters offered insights into their personal and professional lives, providing a glimpse into the creative minds behind some of the world’s most iconic architectural and landscape designs.
On October 3, 2023, Harriet Pattison peacefully passed away at her home in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire landscape architects and architects for generations to come.
Awards and Honors
Harriet Pattison’s contributions to the field of landscape architecture were recognized when, at the age of 87, she became a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 2016. This honor reflected her lifetime of dedication to her craft and her invaluable impact on the profession.
In remembrance of Harriet Pattison, we celebrate her passion for the natural world and her transformative contributions to the field of landscape architecture. Her innovative designs and collaborations will forever be cherished, reminding us of the enduring beauty and harmony that can be achieved through thoughtful landscape design.