When landscape architects – and for that matter, a number of public figures from city park supervisors to national government officials – think of zoo design, the first name that pops into their head is Grant Jones of Jones and Jones in Seattle.
“Zoos are just an extension of the type of practice we have, in that we have specialized in the aesthetics of landscape design and have, through our experiences in other fields, been able to adapt that experience to zoo design,” Jones said in a recent interview.
A extremely sensitive person, Grant Jones has spent his professional career dealing directly with the natural environment and has developed a keen interest in those factors that affect that environment.
The son of an architect who was expected to “follow in his father’s footsteps”, Grant Jones received his Architecture Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1962, but somehow his heart wasn’t in architecture, he was seeking something else’ He turned to poetry and spent two years studying with people like Theodore Radke, a major poet. “The larger landscape is what I saw and wrote about and what I needed to keep relating to,” Jones said. “I then had the privilege of working with Rich Haag who encouraged me to go back to school and get my master’s degree in landscape architecture.”
He went back to school at Harvard and in 1967, he received the coveted Fredrick Sheldon Travelling fellowship from Harvard which enabled him to travel troughout Europe and South America, a trip that influenced his future in the field of landscape architecture. He had an opportunity to study successful adaptations by humans to different climatic conditions and studied how humans worked with nature in their everyday lives.
“Working with nature” was the key ingredient and Grant Jones was set for his future in his profession…master planning, environmental studies--from rivers to zoos--and the overall interface between man and nature. Scenic highway design, as an aesthetic value, and river studies took his primary interest after he established his own office in Seattle in January of 1970 with a partner, IIze Jones.
One of his favorite projects is the work they did on the Nooksack River in the northwest corner of Washington State. “The realm of the river from watershed regions to branches or segments of the river were studied in order to understand the whole. It was fascinating,” he concluded.
“You look at the river like a story, know it, understand it, see the shape of the channels, bends and the bars, study it in a wholistic way by going down the river and looking at everything and then inventing a classification system for all the land you are experiencing while on the river.”
That first river experience has led to many other “river experiences” as a landscape architect, such as the Greenway Study of the Roanoke River in Virginia, the plans for Eagle Island State Park in Idaho, and many others.
Then there are the zoos and arboretums. Jones and Jones has in their list of projects, zoos from Honolulu to Dallas, from Chicago and Detriot to Tacoma, Washington, from Kansas City to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and of course, one of their prime projects, still being constructed, the San Diego Zoo.
In the realm of arboretums, Jones and Jones has worked on the Dallas Arboretum, the Union Bay Teaching and Research Arboretum at the University of Washington and the university’s Arboretum in Seattle’s Washington Park, among others.
Studying the natural environment, and the relationship of man to it, has given Grant Jones a most distinctive insight into design, an insight which transcends commercial landscape design and focuses on the world of aesthetics.
He has lectured throughout the country and written many articles about his work and his concepts. He has won many awards for his projects and served honorably since the 1970’s on many ASLA projects from being a member of the ASLA Task Force on “Landscape Architecture into the 21st Century” to being on several awards juries.
Grant Jones, FASLA, is, without question, one of America’s “Masters of Landscape Architecture.”