Part 3: Remembering Len

Raquel Urbani

October 2, 2014

This is last of a three-part series of a behind-the-scenes look at the architect Leonard D. Blackford who passed away Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Part 1 can be found here Part 2 can be found here.

Leonard Blackford believed in the essential connection between Architecture and Landscape. He chose his landscape architect partners carefully and the design process was always fully-integrated.


The SMUD Headquarters (above) is a strong and hard modernist form in a lush, soft landscape garden. The Dreyfuss & Blackford Office (at top) is a crisp, sleek glass box beautifully screened by a soft grove of birch trees. Both landscapes were created by landscape architect Ralph Jones, in close collaboration with Len. Ralph Jones was a private practitioner in Oakland who had started his career in the offices of Thomas Church. Len had worked in Jones’ office during his student years, an experience which he said contributed to his strong sense of the importance of site planning as a part of architectural design.

Len’s master plan for the Sacramento International Airport (below) set the terminal buildings well back from Interstate 5. Working with Bob Danielson & Associates, he created a richly varied landscape parkway comprising several acres of trees and plants, spared from encroachment by all-too-typical industrial warehouses and hangars. For newcomers arriving to the “City of Trees” there can be no better introduction of our landscape heritage.

Sacramento International Airport (SMF), Terminal Master Plan

Some twenty-five years after the SMUD Headquarters, CalPERS Lincoln Plaza was an opportunity for Len to fully, perfectly integrate building and landscape design together. Where SMUD was the building in the park, Lincoln Plaza was the building as the park. With its lush terraced grounds and tall interior atrium, Lincoln Plaza remains a great example of that success. It is fitting that a celebration of Len’s life will take place on October 3, 2014, at Lincoln Plaza.

81101 Lincoln Plaza Office Building, CalPERS Headquarters, 1987

During his 40+ year career Len created some of the most iconic places in the Sacramento region, in addition to the aforementioned:

Plus many others in our area, which you can see photos of here.

As we say goodbye to a great architect, mentor and friend we will always be grateful for the modernist legacy he left us and Sacramento with. And, as we continue to suss out our identity as a City, we must acknowledge the modernist architectural contribution Dreyfuss & Blackford created.

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