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January 22, 2016 – July 3, 2016

Experiments in Environment

The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971

In the summer of 1966, renowned American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) and his wife, dance pioneer Anna Halprin (born 1920), began a series of experimental, cross-disciplinary workshops in northern California that offered a new approach to environmental awareness. Drawn from architecture, ecology, music, cinematography, graphics, choreography, and lighting, Experiments in Environment brought together artists, dancers, architects, and environmental designers in avant-garde environmental arts experiences.

Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971

How do you perceive the environment?

In the summer of 1966, renowned American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) and his wife, dance pioneer Anna Halprin (born 1920), began a series of experimental, cross-disciplinary workshops in northern California that offered a new approach to environmental awareness. Drawn from architecture, ecology, music, cinematography, graphics, choreography, and lighting, Experiments in Environment brought together artists, dancers, architects, and environmental designers in avant-garde environmental arts experiences.

From June 27 to July 22 that summer, they engaged multi-sensory activities in alternating environments according to loosely structured, written guidelines—from movement sessions, to blindfolded awareness walks, to collective building projects, to choreographed journeys in urban plazas, parks, and rail cars. As an article in Progressive Architecture magazine described, “They built their own ‘city’ on the shore of the ocean and recreated the impact and atmosphere of a metropolis in a multimedia presentation. Dancers became architects and architects became dancers.” The series continued in 1968 and 1971.

Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966–1971 presents to the West Coast public for the first time original photographs, films, drawings, scores, and other archival documentation of the workshops, which were staged in the streets of San Francisco, on the shores and cliffs of Sea Ranch (a coastal community designed by Lawrence), and on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. In an observation reflective of Sixties culture, Anna Halprin said, “I want art and structures which express individual creativity and collective living. I want all the personal responses of my company members to be evident in themselves and also to unite into a communal experience.”

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

“Driftwood City,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 4, 1966. Pictured: (left to right) Lawrence Halprin, Anna Halprin, and architect Charles Moore. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

“Driftwood City,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 4, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

“Skyscraper Event,” San Francisco, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 19, 1968. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

“Driftwood City,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 4, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

“Driftwood City,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 4, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

"Market Street Walk,” San Francisco, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 8, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Joe Ehreth.

“Ritual Group Drawing,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 8, 1968. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

“Blindfold Walk,” Kentfield, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 2, 1968. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

"Driftwood City Discussion,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 5, 1966. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

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Organized by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago.

Also on display are Selections from the Collection: Countercultural Art and Lifestyle Movements, an examination of artistically and politically engaged, collaborative lifestyle movements that flourished in the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s, around the time of the Halprin workshops, including posters, flyers, newspapers, and other ephemera drawn exclusively from the collections of the California Historical Society, and a contextual exhibition familiarizing visitors to the broader careers of Lawrence and Anna Halprin—both organized by the California Historical Society.