Robert Herrick Carter, an early landscape architect who for four decades led a tireless campaign for more open space and vegetation in Los Angeles, died of cancer Tuesday at his son’s home in Westlake Village. Carter, whose life’s work remains visible from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles Zoo to International Airport to the San Fernando Valley, was 69.
The field of landscape architecture was relatively unknown when Carter began his career in the mid-1940s. His father was an architect and horticulturist who emigrated from Holland and Carter said his early interest in plants and flowers came from watching his father work with exotic specimens.
Carter was born in Los Angeles and studied architecture at USC. Commercial landscape was devoid of flowers and vegetation when he began, he remembered in a 1984 interview with The Times.
“There were little more than ficus and twisted junipers around the city’s major buildings. We took a risk in incorporating the first major use of flowering trees for a Los Angeles commercial project,” he said. That was for the Union Oil headquarters downtown.
Over the years he planted jacaranda and palm trees around the Veterans Administration’s buildings in Wadsworth, and beautified the Century Plaza Hotel, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Cal State Dominguez Hills. He also worked on the Travelers Insurance Building, the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at the airport, Caltech, Universal City (where at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel glass-enclosed pavilions were linked by tropical gardens and fountains) and ARCO Plaza.
At the zoo, the plants were chosen not only for beauty but to increase the life span of animals and birds. “Every effort was made to provide trees and shrubs for forage, indigenous to the (native) continents.”
Carter--who won seven awards from Los Angeles Beautiful--also became involved with greening the deserts of the Middle East, including in Iran, where his company landscaped a giant naval base, and in Saudi Arabia, where the firm designed a $20-million nursery in Riyadh.
He headed Robert Herrick Carter & Associates and an allied company, Van Herrick’s Environmental Planting. In 1987, he merged with Wayne Romanek, and last year their company, the state’s largest landscape management firm, was purchased by David Dworsky and Geoffrey S. Berg for an undisclosed amount. Carter remained as a consultant.
He is survived by his son, Robert, daughters Nancy and Catherine and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Friday at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church at 28211 W. Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Wellness Community in Santa Monica.