Berger, Arthur Shoene (1903–1960)

By: Mark Rice and Michael V. Hazel

Type: Biography

Published: March 24, 2021

Updated: August 31, 2021


Arthur Berger, internationally-acclaimed landscape architect, was born on December 19, 1903, in Halstead, Kansas. He was the son of Henry D. Berger and Lena (Schoene) Berger. He earned an undergraduate degree in botany from the University of Kansas before attending Harvard University, where he earned a graduate degree in landscape architecture in 1928. During the early 1930s Berger worked for New York-based landscape architect Feruccio Vitale. Berger completed numerous projects in the Northeast and Midwest before accepting a commission in 1939 to design the grounds of the DeGolyer estate on the shores of White Rock Lake in Dallas. Everette Lee DeGolyer was a wealthy oilman and geophysicist who had co-founded the petroleum consulting firm of DeGolyer and MacNaughton. DeGolyer’s magnificent forty-four-acre estate was dubbed Rancho Encinal (Oaks Ranch), and Berger graced it with such features as a wisteria arbor, a magnolia allée, and formal gardens, many of which still existed eighty years later.

During World War II Berger served the U.S. Army as a civilian employee at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he worked on camouflage research. One of his co-workers was Marie Harbeck, a Pacific Northwest native, who graduated with a degree in landscape architecture from Oregon State University in 1932. Arthur Berger and Marie Harbeck were married at Highland Park Presbyterian Church of Dallas on July 1, 1946.

After their marriage, the Bergers began completing joint projects in Texas, including the minimalist landscaping for the new Dallas Morning News building, designed by architect George Dahl, which opened in May 1949 at Young and Houston streets. Only a few months later, the new temple of the Masonic Grand Lodge in Waco was dedicated. The massive granite building occupied a full city block and had a remarkable bas-relief sculpture executed by Raoul Josset and grounds landscaped by Arthur Berger.

Throughout the early 1950s the Bergers designed landscapes for upscale Dallas residences, mostly in Highland Park, Turtle Creek, and Preston Hollow. During this time period, the couple also forged an important relationship with San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford. The Bergers collaborated with Ford to create homes and landscapes for Lewis MacNaughton (Everette L. DeGolyer’s business partner) and Texas Instruments co-founders Eugene McDermott and Patrick Haggerty, among others. In addition to these prominent collaborations, Ford designed the Bergers’ personal residence on a high bluff overlooking Turtle Creek.

The Bergers were given a unique opportunity to showcase their talents to a large audience when they were invited to provide the landscaping design for the House Beautiful Pace Setter Home at the 1954 State Fair of Texas. The 3,300-square-foot, all-electric model home was the joint project of House Beautiful magazine, the University of Texas School of Architecture, and the General Electric Company. The Bergers accented the home with private gardens, hidden courtyards, and dramatic landscape lighting throughout.

Later that year the Bergers were commissioned by developer Trammell Crow to landscape his new Decorative Center at Oak Lawn Avenue and Hi Line Drive in Dallas. Crow wanted to avoid the multi-story, highly-congested furniture marts typical of New York and Chicago. The Decorative Center featured single-story buildings grouped around landscaped parking courts. Working with primary architect Jacob Anderson, the Bergers achieved a quiet, secluded, leafy atmosphere that was unusual for the bustling city. Major furniture and home furnishings companies quickly leased the available space.

As the Bergers’ reputation grew, their commissions accelerated. When San Antonio’s Trinity University decided to move to a new Skyline campus, O’Neil Ford was chosen to give the hilly location a unique identity through his intuitive sense of native Texas architecture. Ford designed the school’s new buildings and tapped Arthur and Marie Berger to design the landscaping. The school quickly became noted for its modern brick buildings, native live oaks, beautiful grounds, and sparkling fountains on 125 acres overlooking downtown San Antonio.

Arthur and Marie Berger were honored in 1956 by an invitation to exhibit their work at the International Federation of Landscape Architects Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Following the exhibition, they stayed in Europe for nearly three months to tour notable estates and gardens in England, France, Sweden, and Denmark.

The 1957 relocation of Temple Emanu-El’s congregation from South Dallas to the corner of Northwest Highway and Hillcrest Road gave the Bergers an opportunity to collaborate with contemporary architects Howard Meyer and Max Sandfield. Aspects of the Bergers’ landscaping were still evident after six decades. A quiet inner courtyard is shaded by four massive live oaks from the original landscaping. Because the Bergers recognized that the complex would need to be screened from Northwest Highway’s burgeoning traffic, they planted multiple rows of pecan trees facing the busy street. Instead of a featureless, concrete-covered parking lot directly in front of the structure, parking bays were strategically interspersed with landscaped green islands that softened and complemented the approach to the temple.

The Bergers worked again with Howard Meyer on the innovative 3525 Turtle Creek apartment building in Dallas. Designed as an elegant, high-rise apartment home for the wealthy, Meyer’s building made extensive use of pink-tinted cast concrete, and, according to the authors of Women, Modernity and Landscape Architecture, the Bergers “responded to the scale and materials of the building by designing a large-scale waterfall and swimming pool, constructed from the same pink-tinted concrete as the building, surrounded by a softly rolling landscape of lawn and shade trees.” The Bergers’ design “relied on plant knowledge and horticulture as well as their experience of the social and cultural context of their work. With this knowledge, they created gardens that were deeply connected to the region’s landscapes and lifestyles.”

In 1958 Texas Instruments began relocating its research and manufacturing facilities from Lemmon Avenue in Dallas to North Central Expressway on the border between Dallas and Richardson. O’Neil Ford and partner Richard Colley of Corpus Christi were chosen as architects for the sprawling new campus, with Arthur and Marie Berger attached as landscape architects. According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, “their scheme carefully integrated the corporate headquarters with the landscape. Open courtyards containing native oaks were nestled into the buildings, providing natural light, contact with nature, and multiple points of orientation. Deep colonnades allowed employees to move from building to building, shaded from the hot Texas sun.”

The Bergers were simultaneously given an opportunity to perform on the international stage when they joined Texas architect William Tamminga in designing the new Frenchman’s Cove Resort on the northeastern shore of Jamaica. The terrain featured lush mountains cascading down to the sea, with a mountain stream flowing through the grounds. The Bergers managed to incorporate the individual guest villas seamlessly into the landscape. The resort opened in December 1958.

The Bergers lent their talents to the campus of St. Mark’s School of Texas in North Dallas and the new Exchange Park office complex near Love Field. In 1959 they created a rooftop garden, forty feet by sixty feet in size, for the Dallas Public Library on Commerce Street. The small garden was located outside the glass wall of the third-floor Terrace Room and offered a green oasis amid downtown’s vast sea of concrete. The Bergers also provided the landscaping for the new Stagecoach Inn Motel in Salado.

The Bergers began planning a return tour of Europe for late summer 1960. But their personal and professional partnership ended tragically in August 1960 when Arthur was critically injured in a car-truck collision at the intersection of Preston and Belt Line roads in far North Dallas. He died twelve days later on August 13, 1960, at Parkland Hospital. He was fifty-six. He was cremated.

Dallas Morning News, May 22, 1949; December 7, 1949; October 10, 1954; August 6, 1956; February 12, 1957; August 31, 1958; November 10, 1959; August 3, 14, 1960; April 5, 1963. Sonja Dűmplemann and John Beardsley, eds., Women, Modernity and Landscape Architecture (New York: Routledge Press, 2015). Dianne Susan Duffner Laurence, A Symbiotic Relationship between Mid-Century Modern Masters: The Collaborative Works of Arthur and Marie Berger, Landscape Architects, and O’Neil Ford, Architect (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Arlington, 2008). Mark Rice, “Singing in Harmony: Arthur and Marie Berger,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 32 (Fall 2020).

Categories:

  • Architecture
  • Churches and Synagogues
  • Houses, Mansions, and Plantations
  • Styles, Methods, and Technological Innovations

Time Periods:

  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mark Rice and Michael V. Hazel, “Berger, Arthur Shoene,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/berger-arthur-shoene.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

March 24, 2021
August 31, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Loading