A Tribute to Harold W. Lautner, FASLA (1902-1992): MSU Landscape Professor 1946-1970

Harold W. Lautner came to Michigan State University (MSU) in 1946, as Charles Parker Halligan was retiring. Mr. Halligan had led the landscape architecture program for around 39 years.

Harold Lautner, FASLA in the Quonset hut studio classroom (where Wells Hall is today) with from left to right: Fred Bair Jr., Richard Lowe, Harold Lautner, and Euguene Martini (from Dr. Burley’s collection of photographs, used by permission).

Dr. Jon Bryan Burley, FASLA, School of Planning Design, and Construction, Michigan State University  

Dr. Wen Bin, College of Landscape Architecture and Art, Hunan Agriculture University, China and College of Landscape Architecture, Beijing Forestry University, China 

Harold W. Lautner came to Michigan State University (MSU) in 1946, as Charles Parker Halligan was retiring. Mr. Halligan had led the landscape architecture program for around 39 years . In 1946, MSU was the Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. Harold was to lead the program from 1946 until 1970 (24 years). 

Harold graduated from Traverse City High school and had gone to Michigan Agricultural College (as MSU was known then) to study landscape architecture, graduating in 1925 . He Worked in Chicago for the American Park Builders as a landscape construction superintendent for golf courses, cemeteries, and land subdivisions. He attended Harvard University and graduated with a master’s degree in City Planning and Planning Research in 1936. During World War II, he was a principal landscape architect in the Defense Division of Federal Works in Washington, D.C. When Harold arrived at MSU in 1946, he was appointed the head of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the landscape architect of all university property.

After retiring, Harold Lautner published From an Oak Opening: Megauniversity 1946-1969,  and From an Oak Opening: a Record of Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969 . During his time at MSU, Harold guided the administration to develop a land-use planning/zoning ordinances for the campus that is still referenced today.  Lautner noted that Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. claimed that the MSU campus was probably the best example of the type of landscape characteristic of the American University . Harold was proud of this statement. Harold had fought to keep the character that O. C. Simonds (1855- 1931) and T. Glenn Phillips (1877-1945--MSU’s first landscape architecture graduate in 1902) had envisioned and developed.

Just as Harold W. Lautner had transformed the landscape architecture program, starting in 1946, more changes were forthcoming after his retirement. During his time at MSU, he led landscape architecture as one of the premiere programs in the world.  

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