If you visit the second floor of Wurster Hall, passing by what was once the barren light court, you’ll find a bit of whimsy. The new installation, Bill’s Beach, honors the legacy of influential landscape architect, ASLA Fellow, and LAEP alumnus Bill Callaway. Designed by SWA co-founder and former LAEP Chair Peter Walker, FASLA, (BA Landscape Architecture ’55), the playful and provocative memorial will spark recognition among friends who knew Bill Callaway best, and inspire curiosity in those who never had the good fortune to meet him.
Among his many accomplishments and accolades, including the AIA Honor Award, ASLA Medal, and most recently the Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, Pete Walker is noted for co-designing with Michael Arad the National September 11th Memorial. “The thing about a memorial is you have to recognize it — recognition is part of the memory. So I wanted a courtyard that isn’t like any other courtyard in the world, in honor of Bill,” explained Walker. “I think people will see that it’s something odd, something surreal, and then maybe they’ll be curious and drawn to learn more.”
In 1957, recently graduated from Harvard, Pete Walker co-founded Sasaki Walker and Associates, now known as SWA Group. Bill Callaway joined the firm in 1967 having just received his BS in Landscape Architecture from Berkeley.
From the beginning, Callaway and Walker were not only colleagues, but also close friends. In 1983, after serving as principal, consulting principal, and chairman of the board at SWA, Walker established his current firm, PWP Landscape Architecture. Callaway’s career continued at SWA, spanning 45 years as managing principal, president, CEO, and chairman of the board.
Bill Callaway’s influence as a designer and a skilled and fair-minded business leader touched many. As CEO, he led SWA though a period of enormous growth, resulting in an ASLA Landscape Architecture Firm Award. In 2007, he received the organization’s highest honor, the ASLA Medal. Beyond these achievements, Callaway is most keenly remembered for his passion for the field of landscape architecture, his generous mentoring of and respect for those with whom he worked, and his friendship.
Skip Stevens, Branch Manager at BrightView Landscape Development, was a young superintendent at BrightView when he first began working with Callaway and SWA in 1988 on the Arizona Center project. “Speaking from the heart, Bill was instrumental in fanning my passion for landscape design and understanding the importance of collaboration between contactor and architect. He was the consummate mentor, professor, and nurturer,” Stevens explained. BrightView acted as the general contractor for Bill’s Beach, donating labor and materials.
Joe Brown, FASLA, former Chief Innovation Officer at AECOM and CEO of EDAW, also shared reflections. “Bill led SWA through a tumultuous period of leadership change in the seventies, that resulted in qualitative and material success with rewarding career paths for staff. Bill and I established the landscape architecture CEO Roundtable for large firms and/or international practices, based on these experiences. We both felt that this forum was necessary to elevate the profession.”
Brown continued, “He was a humble man and had a great story about always ordering a glass of the cheapest red wine in a restaurant. The more fancy, the more cheap. He could not stand pretension if he tried. This made him the most accessible and honest and real friend I could have wished for.”
This lack of pretension, a sense of humor, and friendship became the inspiration for Walker’s Bill’s Beach design. As one of Callaway’s closest friends, Walker drew from a wealth of memories.
“Steve Calhoun [Founding Director of Tract Consultants and long-time friend of Callaway], Bill, and I travelled all over the world together,” Walker recalled. “As we became older, Bill would sit in a big chair as the rest of us went off. Returning, we always found him in that chair, often with a glass of wine or a martini in hand, as if he was holding court. He was a funny guy — we would laugh, we would have very animated conversations. It was one of those friendships that was almost like the movies.”
Describing the details of the light court’s design, he continued, “I thought, what could symbolize those experiences? A fanciful landscape that implied being by the beach or on vacation made sense, which is why we chose these artifacts of vacationing, friendship, and getting together.”
A host of admirers, including vendors and suppliers, contributed to the installation at CED — a testament to the profound impact Callaway had on so many whose lives were enriched by his friendship. “It wasn’t just his friends and colleagues, it was also the people he worked with in the field. He was just one of those lovable guys that everyone knew and so, wanted to help,” noted Walker.
At the dedication ceremony on February 3, 2018 in Wurster Hall, CED Dean Jennifer Wolch recounted the history of the light court and the litany of ideas from 1965 that were put on the back burner… for 52 years.
Thanking everyone involved, Wolch concluded, “Finally, we have a playful and provocative installation that is meant to be seen and not heard, a spot of bright color against a grey concrete building, a place with a narrative about a beloved and distinguished alumnus with a great sense of humor and joie de vivre. Visitors, faculty, staff, and students alike will approach it with curiosity and wonder, and learn something new and unexpected about the history of this college and the legacies of its brilliant alumni.”
The donors who contributed to Bill’s Beach include:
Gerdo Aquino, FASLA
Michael Bade, AIA (M.Arch ’85) and Rebekah Wolman (B.A. English, ’79)
Thomas Balsley, FASLA
René Bihan, FASLA
BrightView Design Group
Joe Brown, FASLA, and Jacinta McCann, FAILA, FASLA
James Burnett, FASLA
Steve and Kathleen Calhoun, Tract Consultants
Heather Capen and Brennan Cox
Bill Clarke, PE LA, and Diane Clarke
Andrea Cochran, FASLA
Scott and Julie Cooper
Chris Dimond, FASLA, and Ruth Dimond
Marco Esposito, ASLA (B.L.A. ’84)
Rodney Friedman, FAIA (B.Arch ’56) and Sherlie Friedman (B.A. Decorative Art ’56)
Doug Hoerr, FASLA
Roy and Olivia Imamura
Gary Karner (B.L.A. ’58), FASLA, and Pandora Nash-Karner
Tom Leader, FASLA (B.L.A. ’78)
Hui-Li Lee and Shen I Chiou
Sharon Owyang Lee and James M.D. Lee (B.L.A ’75)
Chih Wei Lin
John Loomis, FASLA, and Denise Loomis
Charles McDaniel, FASLA, and Marcelle McDaniel
M. Catherine Murray
Tim and Linda Peterson
Marty Poirier, FASLA and Laura Burnett, FASLA
PWP Landscape Architecture
Rhett Rentrop, ASLA
Joe Runco, ASLA, APA, and Martha Runco
Bill and Maggie Selvage
Elizabeth Shreeve, AICP, ASLA
David Thompson, FASLA
Peter Walker, FASLA (B.L.A. ’55) and Jane Gillette
John L. Wong, FASLA (B.L.A. ’74) and Mildred Sum-Wong
(Zhaojie) Jack Wu, ASLA