In the years following World War II, there were few sights more ubiquitous in Southern California than that of the Japanese gardener. What was less commonplace, however, was the opportunity for any one gardener to move beyond their perceived societal role. In most cases, the work of a Japanese gardener was limited to maintenance-related tasks, with little allowance for creativity or individual artistry. ❧ One such gardener, Howard Oshiyama (1917-2003), rejected the notion that his career would be confined to mowing lawns and blowing leaves. He transcended the limited scope of the ethnic gardening industry to become a landscape contractor, planning and installing landscapes during the heady postwar years of Southern California’s architectural renaissance. His most important collaboration was with architects Conrad Buff III and Don Hensman, with whom he would work for nearly forty years. Their partnership culminated in the plan for the landscape of Buff & Hensman’s King Residence, constructed in 1979 in Pasadena, California. Following the installation of an initial landscape plan completed by the architects, Oshiyama continued to maintain the property for almost a quarter of a century, making sensitive alterations and additions to the landscape until his death in 2003. ❧ Having received little formal education in landscape design, Howard Oshiyama relied upon his own instinctive interpretations of the tenets of Japanese garden design. As a practicing Zen Buddhist, he recognized the aesthetic principles inherent in the design of Japanese gardens, but it was the spiritual beliefs the principles embodied, and to which he subscribed, that gave his landscapes their true meaning. ❧ While Howard Oshiyama gained the personal and professional respect of his peers for his spiritual approach to the landscape, widespread recognition of his artistry in landscape design went unacknowledged and his body of work as a designer has been largely ignored. His work at Buff & Hensman’s King Residence highlights his mastery of landscape techniques and demonstrates the impact of his ongoing stewardship. This thesis explores the contributions of Howard Oshiyama to the field of postwar landscape design by highlighting his work at Buff & Hensman’s King Residence, provides a context within which to understand and evaluate his work, and makes recommendations for the future preservation of the King Residence landscape. ❧ Chapter One of this thesis provides a historical overview of the development of the western banks of the Arroyo Seco, where the King Residence now stands. Chapter Two details the design and construction of the King property by architects Conrad Buff III and Don Hensman and the subsequent stewardship of the landscape over time by Howard Oshiyama. Chapter Three addresses the history of Japanese American gardeners in Southern California and provides a context in which to consider Oshiyama’s career and accomplishments. Chapter Four explores Howard Oshiyama’s life and work, the philosophical beliefs and historical landscape motifs that informed his aesthetic, and the evolution of his career-long collaboration with Buff & Hensman. Concluding comments evaluate the significance of Oshiyama’s contributions to the King Residence landscape, provide suggestions for further research, and make recommendations for the future stewardship of the King property.
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