Architectural Archives

  • Robert M. Hanna (photo by Becky Young)

  • Robert Hanna, Richard Haag, and others, Seattle c. 1963

  • Robert M. Hanna

Robert Mitchell Hanna Collection (282)

The Robert Mitchell Hanna Collection contains materials related to his professional work as an architect and landscape architect as well as materials associated to his personal life and education.  The collection documents Hanna's work with RM Hanna Landscape Architects (1995-2005), his early work as an architect and landscape architect in Washington State (1962-65), and student work from the University of Washington (1955-59). Additionally, the collection contains personal papers and student work of Robert Hanna and his second wife and partner Beverly Briggs.   

Biographical / Historical Note

As a landscape architect concerned with creating open space in cities, Robert Mitchell Hanna achieved national recognition by constructing serene landscapes in some of our nation's most populous urban centers.  Born in Deming, New Mexico in 1936 and subsequently raised in Seattle, Washington, Hanna earned a BA in architecture in 1959 from the University of Washington.  Following a three year apprenticeship with architect Dan Miller (b. 1923), Hanna worked in the office of landscape architect Richard Haag (b. 1923).  This experience shifted the course of his career to landscape design and provided the first opportunity for professional collaboration with his future partner Laurie Olin (b. 1938).  Formal training in landscape architecture followed, beginning with his graduation from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1967 and culminating with a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 1976.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Hanna became the driving force behind a renewed focus on the material realities of design within the context of ecological planning. Joining the faculty at the invitation of Ian McHarg in 1969, his focus on the human experience of landscapes, both rural and urban, complemented McHarg's emphasis on regional analysis. As chair of the new Design of the Environment program in 1974, Hanna recruited Olin to Philadelphia to teach design where the two would later join in professional practice. Hanna remained a professor at the University of Pennsylvania until his death in 2003.

In 1976 Robert Hanna and Laurie Olin formed the partnership Hanna/Olin (1976-1995) to design the grounds of I. M. Pei and Partners' Johnson & Johnson Headquarters.  Internationally recognized for their work creating landscapes that are socially and ecologically responsible, Hanna/Olin's twenty year partnership realized designs for Battery Park City (1980-86), Bryant Park for the New York Public Library (1988-1992), Westlake Square in Seattle, Washington (1989), the Ellis Island National Monument (1992), and the Los Angeles Downtown Strategic Plan (1992).

In 1995 Hanna established an independent practice, RM Hanna Landscape Architects (1995-2005), to be more directly involved in the design process. Although his office now had fewer than five people, the scope of his work did not decrease. Projects with this office include Australia’s Central National Area (1995-2002), the Landscape Plan for the University of Washington Tacoma (1992-2000), and Tianfu Square Master Plan in Chengdu, People’s Republic of China (2000).

Following Hanna's death in 2003, his wife Beverly Briggs continued RM Hanna Landscape Architects until 2005.

Scope & Content Note

The Robert M. Hanna Collection comprises the contents of the office of RM Hanna Landscape Architects at 324 South 21st Street in Philadelphia, PA. The collection contains materials associated with Robert Hanna's personal life, his career as a young architect practicing in Seattle, and the bulk of the collection comprises office files and drawings of the work of RM Hanna Landscape Architects (1995-2005).  All materials related to Hanna's work as a founding partner of Hanna/Olin (1976-1995) remain in the collection of the Olin Partnership with the exception of public relations documents describing significant Hanna/Olin projects (II.D).

Series I comprises the personal papers of Robert Hanna (1935-2003) and his second wife and partner at RM Hanna Landscape Architects Beverly Briggs (1948-2007).  Hanna's sketchbooks created while he was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (1976) can be found in this series as well as materials related to Hanna’s teaching at the University of Pennsylvania.

Series II contains materials associated with Hanna’s professional practice.  The bulk of these materials are related to projects completed after the founding of RM Hanna Landscape Architects in 1995 and includes office files and drawings for the Central National Area Urban Design Study in Canberra, Australia.  Project summaries and photographs covering the work Hanna completed as a partner in Hanna/Olin and RM Hanna Landscape Architects has been arranged in the Office Promotional Materials sub-series.  The Published Materials about Robert Hanna sub-series contains all of the articles kept by Hanna written on his work arranged in chronological order from 1973-2001.

Series III contains design drawings from this collection that have been separated for storage purposes.  Hanna's student work from the University of Washington, early professional work in Seattle, and comprehensive documentation of the work of RM Hanna Landscape Architects have been arranged by project title. 

Series IV comprises slides and photographs from this collection that have been removed for storage purposes.  Included are images of the work of Robert Hanna from throughout his carrier as both a landscape architect and teacher as well as photographs and slides from his personal life.  A selection of the photography of Hanna’s first wife, Becky Young, who was the first photography lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, can be found in the Personal sub-series.

Series Overview

I. Personal Papers
    A. Robert Hanna
1. Personal
     2. Teaching
3. Correspondence
    B. Beverly Briggs
1. Personal
2. Education

II. Professional Practice
   A. Project Files
   B. Office Files
1. RM Hanna Landscape Architects
2. Beverly Briggs
   C. Reports
   D. Office Promotional Material
   E. Published Materials about Robert M. Hanna

III. Design Drawings
   A. Material Stored in Boxes
   B. Material Stored in Flat Files

IV. Materials Separated for Storage
    A. Slides
1. Personal
2. Projects
3. Teaching
    B. Photographs and Negatives
1. Personal
2. Projects
3. Teaching