Like most landscape architecture firms, the studio at OvS is seldom a raucous place. Principals and staff communicate with each other and on the phone in the hushed tone conducive to an atmosphere of deep concentration.
This week, though, the studio was filled with remembrances, as stories and laughter pervaded the old City Bank building at 8th and G Streets, the firm’s home since 1987. The knowledge that Founding Principal James van Sweden, FASLA, has died — too soon really — after the death of co-founder Wolfgang Oehme, FASLA, in 2011, necessarily inspires memories.
Anyone who knew Jim understands he would insist that the work must go on, and will go on. There are meetings with clients, architects, community groups, and design commissions. Deadlines for projects in various phases must be met. The scion of a Dutch family who epitomized the Protestant work ethic, Jim would have demanded exactly that. Hardly a sentimentalist, his ego (and what great designer doesn’t have one?) was fully engaged in the service and success of the firm.
Nonetheless, he would have loved the laughter as staff shared the wit and wisdom of James van Sweden.
“We honor him best by making our designs even more beautiful and more carefully wrought,” says Lisa Delplace, ASLA. “The transition from Wolfgang and Jim to the second generation of principals was part of Jim’s grand plan. Still, and I think I speak on behalf of the current principals