Rest In Peace

In memoriam: Landscape architect Ron Herman

Landscape Architecture Obituary West
Ron Herman, San Francisco-area landscape architect, has passed away. (Courtesy Portland Japanese Garden)
Ron Herman, San Francisco-area landscape architect, has passed away. (Courtesy Portland Japanese Garden)

The award-winning San Francisco Bay Area landscape architect Ron Herman has passed away. 

The University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design (CED) announced Herman’s passing in a post on its website earlier this week. Herman, an alumnus of the school, graduated in 1964 with a Bachelors in Landscape Architecture. The designer practiced in the Bay Area for over 35 years and created over 400 full-scale gardens during this time. Herman’s designs included some of the country’s largest and most intricate residential gardens, including Japanese garden-inspired designs for the 25-acre site surrounding the home of Silicon Valley billionaire Lawrence Ellison.

Herman grew up in Hollywood, where his father owned a plant nursery. As a child, Herman helped his father install gardens at the homes of rarefied clients, including celebrities Phil Silvers and Steve Allen. After graduating from CED, Herman studied Japanese garden design at Kyoto University in Japan for three years. While there, Herman grew inspired by the tension between regimented and organic forms inherent in traditional Japanese garden design. Herman brought this sensibility back home, imbuing his works with a mix of formal and informal sequences of spaces and plantings. 

Like his father, Herman’s list of clients included a whos-who of celebrities and prominent individuals and companies, including the professional football player Joe Montana, Neil Young, and Ellison’s company, Oracle. Herman also designed the garden for the East Wing addition by I.M. Pei to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

In a 2002 profile, Herman summed up his philosophy to SF Gate: “A successful garden doesn’t show itself all at once…there needs to be an integration or relationship between indoors and out—such as a room that opens onto the garden.”

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