In Memory of Our Friend
An extremely talented, humble, quiet, creative design force in Southern California for many decades has left a great void in the world, and in his chosen profession of Landscape Architecture.
Sadly Ken was ultimately defeated by cancer that had attacked his body over the years, since early in his professional career. Ken was 72 when his spirit left this earth while living with his wife Kristin, at their winter home ‘La Liberte’ in France.
Ken was born in Pasadena, California in 1939, the oldest child of Walter and Virginia Wood with one brother, Win and a sister Linda. His Mother was of German heritage and his Father was English, related to the inventor Gar Wood (Hydraulics). As a young man growing up in Southern California in the 40’s and 50’s he experienced a unique time in what was still primarily an agricultural environment. As a teenager he loved animals, he raised his own Herford Steer, owned three different horses, and rode in local parades. This interest in large animals led him to California State Polytechnic College. Ken wrote:
“During my last two years of high school I wanted to study to become a veterinarian for large animals, but when I arrived at Cal. Poly., I visited the department of Landscape Architecture and was so impressed with an exhibit of the last year students, that I signed up for the courses without a second thought. I have never regretted that decision. I loved my design and related landscape architecture courses and did very well in them...”
Ken excelled in school and in work; he received his Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Landscape Architecture in 1962, and his Masters of Arts Degree in Urban Planning in 1977 from U.C.I. During that time he worked in several local offices including Eckbo, Dean and Williams (later EDAW), eventually becoming a partner with Frederick M. Lang of Laguna Beach, CA, forming Lang and Wood AILA/ASLA in 1968.
Ken started his own firm Kenneth Wood Associates ALSA in 1983, and ultimately merged his creative forces with RJM Design Group in 1989.
During his academic and very active professional career, Ken was honored with numerous awards and acknowledgements of his unique design ability. In 1982 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Environmental Design by the Cal Poly Pomona Alumni Association for contribution to his profession, service to the community, and commitment to the University and higher education. He also held the office of President of the Southern California Chapter ASLA in 1987.
As an accomplished artist, Ken exhibited his pencil drawings and watercolor paintings in the U.S. and Europe. In all of his professional endeavors, Ken was a consummate professional, a true gentleman and always exhibited the utmost integrity. Ken created wonderful landscapes in Southern California including residential, commercial, educational and public spaces. A few of his notable projects included Casa Pacifica (Western Whitehouse); University of California Irvine; Santa Ana College; Main Beach Park, Laguna Beach; and Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point, California.
In Europe, Ken continued his creative efforts working on designs for transportation projects in Norway, illustrating, and continuing as design consultant for RJM Design Group in California as Senior Associate.
The past 22 years of Ken’s life he enjoyed with his family, his wife Kristin, their daughter Kimberly and son-in-law Gunnar, and their two grandson’s Kristoffer (14) and Thomas (11), in Kristin’s native homeland of Norway. Ken continued to pursue all of his favorite past times, designing, drawing, painting, building, and remodeling their home in Oslo, a lakeside cabin in Norway, and his beloved winter home ‘La Liberte’, located on the west coast of France, which reminded him of his early childhood in California.
Ken lived life to the fullest; he enjoyed every aspect of family life. He avidly pursued his favorite sports, water and snow skiing, as well as his favorite hobby creating entire model train villages.
Ken will always be loved by his family and friends and his creativity will always be appreciated by everyone who enjoys the remarkable artistry of his drawings and paintings, and the creativity of his landscape spaces.
Ken had enormous health challenges throughout his life, but he very seldom complained. He rarely voiced negative comments about anyone or anything. Only two issues caused him any serious concern; one social and one technological. He was adamantly opposed to the increasingly litigious environment of Southern California and its impact on the design professions. He also worried about the disconnect and de-humanization of the design process due to advances in computer technology.
Ken personally touched and influenced my career, as he did many of us. His passing leaves a great void in our profession.
- Robert Mueting