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Andrea Cochran, FASLA

Designing at the Intersection of Location and Inspiration

Andrea Cochran, FASLA, is known for seamlessly interweaving sustainable landscapes, art, and architecture.

When New York City-born Andrea Cochran, FASLA, first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1981, she initially assumed her stay would be brief—a short stint, maybe a couple years taking in a fresh landscape and new inspiration. But little did she know this short stint would eventually blossom into a 40-year career as one of the West Coast’s most influential contemporary landscape architects.

“When I first arrived on the West Coast, I was instantly hit with the realization that people here really understand landscape architecture on a deeper level,” recalls Cochran. “Of course the climate is a major factor, but the concept of true indoor-outdoor living and the amount of emotional energy that people devoted to the design of outdoor spaces really resonated with me.”

Yet Cochran encountered another attitude toward landscape architecture that would be even more formative in her approach to the field—an openness to experimentation and a freedom to do things differently. “In the North East, there was a certain set of expectations as to what belonged in a garden. Textures like brick or bluestone were almost a given,” says Cochran. “But working in the Bay Area, my clients were a much more varied collection of people for whom these sorts of set expectations weren’t so important. Instead, the sky was the limit—people wanted something distinct and different. This freedom of experimentation in design that I found in the West completely opened my mind up.”

Walden designed by ACLA (image credit: Marion Brenner)
Walden designed by ACLA (image credit: Marion Brenner)

Emboldened by new sense of creative license, Cochran sought inspiration from a deeper and more diverse pool of influences. “I became immensely inspired by Minimalist artists like Richard Serra, Robert Irwin and Michael Heizer,” says Cochran. “I have to imagine all these artists, whose unique, often site-specific work challenged or reinterpreted our perceptions of space, were working primarily on the West Coast because of that same freedom I had found. It’s an attitude toward creative expression that I think is deeply rooted in place. And it sounds corny, but in the West I found my place. I found a sense of direction that I hadn’t felt before.”

Like the work of her Minimalist influences, Cochran’s landscape architecture shows a deep understanding of the relationship between people and space, and how to reinvent this relationship to elicit a deeper emotional connection. Her landscapes define space with a minimum amount of structure, often opting to create ephemeral edges with softscape. She plays with expanse and refuge to give space an airy, permeable quality, allowing visitors to feel safe and protected yet still very much connected to each other and to the surrounding landscape.

Her profound understanding of the interaction between people and space, combined with her breadth of art and design literacy, is immediately evident in the Cochran line of outdoor furniture she created in collaboration with Landscape Forms. The collection is refined and elegant, joining a lounge chair, chaise lounge and side table to enhance but not distract from the outdoor experience. Its design, like Cochran’s landscape architecture, is simply timeless.

The design is clean, refined and, like Cochran’s landscape architecture, both contemporary and timeless.
Cochran is simply elegant outdoor furniture. The line includes a lounge chair, chaise lounge and side table created to enhance outdoor experience.

Despite shifting her focus from landscape to product design, Cochran was right at home guiding the composition of her line. “I do find a lot of overlap between the design of outdoor spaces and the design of the pieces that inhabit them,” she describes. “Comfort is always a central consideration—in the landscape, we think in terms of light and shade, protection from the sun or wind. But for a chair, there is an additional level of complexity. We have to not only think in terms of how the piece will interact with our bodies, but also how the piece will interact with a range of bodies across varying sizes, shapes, dispositions and use-cases.”

The Cochran lounge chair embodies this thoughtful, manifold approach to design. With its generous size and relaxed-yet-upright posture, the chair is equally inviting to curl up and nestle in, or to sit straight up and comfortably use a laptop.

In both the Cochran Lounge Chair and its companion chaise lounge, a sculpted, continuous-loop cast frame stretches and holds the chairs’ durable seating fabric. “Fabric seating lends these pieces a number of important qualities,” describes Cochran. “First and foremost, we wanted the chairs to be light enough to easily be moved and used in ways that make sense socially for a space. But there’s also an attitude that accompanies this stretched fabric seating—it’s comfortable yet elegant, supportive yet not too rigid.”

The Cochran line is clean, modern and rational, with the inspired design details to quietly complement both high-end public and residential settings. “I am particularly proud of the lounge chair’s section,” says Cochran. “From the side, the shape formed by the continuous arm and sled leg is really elegant—not quite square, not quite round. I think it speaks to Landscape Forms’ strong manufacturing and design capabilities to execute a form that’s so relatively simple yet so sculptural."