Gernot died on Christmas morning. We celebrate a life well lived. Gernot continuously enriched the lives of others through his artistry, his compassion, his keen perceptivity, his warm humor and wit, his profound understanding of the natural world, his enthusiastic curiosity, and so much more. Please remember him with pleasure. Ava
Gernot Heinrichsdorff, 1925-2016
Landscape architect and sculptor Gernot A. Heinrichsdorff died on Christmas morning. He is survived by his wife Ava; by their son Othman Llewellyn, his wife Aishah and their daughter Hanaan; and by his son Mark Llewellyn and his wife Debbe.
Gernot was born in Germany in 1925 and grew up in the village of Nordseebad Dangast on the North Sea. He studied aircraft mechanics until he was drafted into the Luftwaffe where he was trained as a fighter pilot; in W.W. II he flew a Messerschmitt 109. But his flying ended before combat, when Germany ran out of gasoline, so he had to fight as infantry. When wounded and captured by the U.S. forces, he became intensely curious about the U.S.A.
Released from the P.O.W. camp, Gernot became a landscape architect and completed projects for the Embassy of the Vatican and the American Headquarters of the U.S. for Germany in Godesberg. In 1952 he was able to come to the U.S. At first he worked in landscaping in Baltimore, but then the “Go west, young man!” slogan inspired him to move to Colorado Springs, where he managed the landscape department of Colorado Gardens and then founded his own company, The Garden Construction and Landscape Company, and then Landscape Studios. In 1961 he married Ava, and Othman and Mark, 9 and 4, became his sons. They cannot express the nurturing depth of his love for them. Gernot and Ava were together for 55 years.
Throughout his career Gernot taught courses and workshops in landscape design, wrote articles, and was a popular guest speaker. Before the term “xeriscape” existed, he specialized in indigenous materials and water-conserving designs. His projects range from Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming to Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. Besides residential and commercial landscapes they include city and regional parks, national monuments, creative playgrounds, greenways, traffic islands, indoor gardens, camp grounds, schools, churches, and 16 environmental communities. He was a “design-build” landscape architect who designed and installed his projects, often single-handedly.
As a sculptor he worked primarily in concrete, expressing natural rock formations and water effects inspired by the Colorado Plateau, Grand Canyon’s formations, and lava flows. He created inlaid concrete and rock sculptures and panels, fountains, stream beds, decorative walls and “cliffs,” artistic garden furniture, and sculptures of exquisite driftwood. Many of his exhibits in garden shows won awards.
In the 1960s he served as president of the Colorado Springs Nurserymen’s Association, of the Colorado Nurserymen’s Association, and of the Colorado Division of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America. He served on the Education Committee of the American Association of Landscape Architects and on the Board of Directors of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America. In Colorado Springs he was one of the founders of the Horticultural Arts Society of Colorado Springs and the Springs Area Beautiful Association, was a charter member of the Palmer Foundation, and served on their Boards.
In the 1970s Heinrichsdorff was featured in Sunset magazine and listed in Who’s Who in Texas for his creative playgrounds.
In the 1980s and 1990s his gardens were again featured in Sunset magazine and several other publications. Town and Country listed him as one of America’s notable landscape architects. For his many contributions he continued to win awards for his landscapes, including the Horticultural Arts Society’s Cannell Award in 1995.
A major project of the 1990s was Infinite Nature, the Courtyard of the Science Building at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, for which he was awarded the national Excellence in Landscape Merit Award by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America. In 2001 Gernot was given the Award of Excellence in Xeriscape from the A.L.C.A. for the Boulder Place Demonstration Garden, and a second award for Infinite Nature.
But besides his artistry, Gernot’s encouragement and his example inspired those who worked for him, including foreign students, ex-convicts, professors on summer vacation, artists, people who started as day-labor, and a remarkable variety of others. His crews often became genuine comrades. Most of his clients became cherished friends who valued Gernot’s imagination, humor, wise perspective and generosity.
In his last decades Gernot gradually retired, taking more time to enjoy his other pleasures. His interests included the natural world, from botany to extended camping, pack trips and river rafting, and all of the arts, and folk dancing, and travel. With Ava he hiked, rafted rivers and explored on every continent except Antarctica, and cherished their mountain acreage.
Most of all, Gernot enjoyed the love of his family and dear friends.
“No funeral! No flowers! ” was Gernot’s request. But gifts in his honor to The Wilderness Society, the Palmer Land Trust or the Horticultural Arts Society would be perfect.