Barbara Stauffacher Solomon

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Barbara Stauffacher Solomon
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon (2016)
Barbara Ethel Levé

(1928-12-05)December 5, 1928
DiedMay 7, 2024(2024-05-07) (aged 95)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Graphic designer,
Landscape architect
(m. 1948; died 1955)
Daniel Solomon
(m. 1969, divorced)
Children2, including Nellie King Solomon

Barbara Ethel Stauffacher Solomon (née Levé; December 5, 1928 – May 7, 2024) was an American landscape architect[2] and graphic designer.[3] She was best known for her large-scale interior 'supergraphics' and the exterior signs at Sea Ranch, a private estate with a Utopian vision in Sonoma County, California.[4]

Early life and education

Barbara Ethel Levé was born on December 5, 1928 in San Francisco, California to Fred Levé and Lilian Reinhertz Levé.[1][5] She was a third-generation San Franciscan.[6] Her father, Fred was a lawyer who represented anarchists.[1] Her parents separated when she was 4 years old.[1] As a young woman, Barbara Levé studied dance and worked as a dancer,[7] as well as, studying painting and sculpture at San Francisco Art Institute.[8]

At age 20, she married the filmmaker Frank Stauffacher in 1948. The designer and printmaker Jack Stauffacher became her brother-in-law through this marriage.[9] Frank and Barbara Stauffacher had a daughter named Chloe.[1]

In 1956, after the death of her husband, Barbara Stauffacher moved to Basel, Switzerland to study graphic design at the Basel Art Institute, where she was a student of Armin Hofmann until 1959.[7] She had made the decision to study graphic design because she knew she could make a living in that field.[8][10][11][12] She later studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and was graduated in 1981, writing her thesis on Green Architecture and the Agrarian Garden.[13]

In 1969, she married Daniel Solomon, an architect and professor.[12] Their daughter, Nellie King Solomon, also became an artist and has showed her work at exhibitions with Stauffacher Solomon.[14][15]


Stauffacher Solomon returned to San Francisco in 1962 and set up her graphic design studio. During that period of her career, she designed the monthly program guides for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[16][17]

Cover of the Sea Ranch brochure designed by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon that includes her design of the logo for the development

Stauffacher Solomon met landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1968 and he employed her at Sea Ranch, a novel condominium development along ten miles of the California coast in Sonoma County. Initially, she designed the architectural scale paintings for the building interiors. Her work at Sea Ranch grew from her vocabulary of signs to creating motion and an awareness of space throughout the project. She created the logo for the Sea Ranch that drew from Swiss design and California impressionism to interpret the rams and crashing waves associated with the massive property. Halprin went on to recommend her to other architects in the San Francisco area who gave her a free reign in the creation of designs that exhibited her talent.[17][18][11][19] She went on to receive two American Institute of Architects (AIA) awards for her work at Sea Ranch.[20]

Stauffacher Solomon was an instructor at both Harvard University and Yale University during her career. While at Yale, an architect she had met during her work at Sea Ranch, Charles Moore, invited her to lead a studio project on supergraphics in 1968.[21] The studio was a week-long project creating two-dimensional graphics that reinforced the architecture of the Yale University Art and Architecture elevators. Her studio project was wildly successful and heralded by Ada Louise Huxtable as a protest against "the establishment".[22]

In the short period of its existence as a magazine, Stauffacher Solomon was art director of Scanlan's Monthly from 1970 until 1971.[1]

In 1995, she designed a large outdoor art installation entitled Promenade Ribbon for the city of San Francisco.[23] In 2002, Stauffacher Solomon was a member of the San Francisco Art Commission.[24] In 2015, Stauffacher Solomon worked as a landscape architect and continued to create large scale graphic interventions outdoors.[25]

Stauffacher Solomon is the author of the autobiographic book Why? Why not?.[6][26]


Stauffacher Solomon died in San Francisco on May 7, 2024, at the age of 95.[1]


Drawings and supergraphics by Stauffacher Solomon have been included in a number of museum exhibitions. In 2018, she created the supergraphic installation entitled Land(e)scape 2018 at the Berkeley Art Museum.[27] In 2019, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).[28]

From March to May 2021, another solo show of the work of Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, entitled Green Rectangle of Paradise (GROP), was held at Gallery Van Bartha in Basel. The show was curated by Matylda Krzykowski and showcased more than forty drawings and paintings by the artist, dating from 1980s to 2021.[29] Krzykowski had introduced Stauffacher Solomon to the gallery.


  • Green Architecture: Notes on the Common Ground (Design quarterly 120), 1982.[30]
  • Green Architecture and the Agrarian Garden, 1988. ISBN 0847809072[1]
  • Good Mourning California (1 ed.). New York, New York: Rizzoli International Publishers. 1992. ISBN 978-0847815425.
  • Why? Why Not?, 2013. ISBN 9780988554627[26]
  • Utopia Myopia, 2013. ISBN 9780988554610


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Green, Penelope (May 8, 2024). "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Pioneer of Supergraphics, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  2. ^ Deitz, Paula (November 29, 2011). Of Gardens: Selected Essays. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-0-8122-0696-8.
  3. ^ Design Book Review: DBR. Design Book Review. 1994.
  4. ^ Poulin, Richard (2012). Graphic Design + Architecture. A 20th-Century History. Rockport Publishers. p. 156.
  5. ^ "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". Von Bartha. September 14, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2024.
  6. ^ a b "Rebecca Solnit Variety Show for Modern Times". Mission Local
  7. ^ a b "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". Retrieved March 10, 2024.
  8. ^ a b Brook, Tony; Shaughnessy, Adrian (2010). Supergraphics: Transforming Space: Graphic Design for Walls, Buildings & Spaces. Unit 2. London: Unit Editions. p. 279.
  9. ^ "Supergraphics' Barbara Stauffacher Solomon legacy is ready to be told". May 4, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2024.
  10. ^ Friedman, Mildred S. (1989). Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History. Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center. p. 254.
  11. ^ a b "Visions Not Previously Seen: The Groundbreaking Design Work of Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "26 May 1971, 21 - Dayton Daily News at". Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  13. ^ "Von Bartha announces representation of Bernar Venet, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and Claudia Wieser". Art Daily News.
  14. ^ "Local Event: SUPER-SILLY-US: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon with Nellie King Solomon". Novato, CA Patch. January 20, 2023. Archived from the original on December 19, 2023. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  15. ^ "BEYOND: Works by Nellie King Solomon and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". SMoCA. May 5, 2020. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  16. ^ "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". SFMOMA. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "A multi-hyphenate pioneer: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". Fold by Moleskine: The New Magazine for Art, Trends and Talents (in Italian). Archived from the original on December 14, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  18. ^ "Journey to the Sea Ranch · Moonraker Athletic Complex · Sea Ranch". Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  19. ^ "T Suggests: Sumptuous Scrunchies, Radiant Paintings by an Outsider Artist and More". The New York Times. February 22, 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  20. ^ "Back Matter". Design Quarterly (76): 26–28. 1970. ISSN 0011-9415. JSTOR 4047343.
  21. ^ Stern, Robert A.M. and Stamp, Jimmy, Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architectural Education at Yale (Yale University Press, 2016)
  22. ^ Blau, Eve (2016). "This Work Is Going Somewhere: Pedagogy and Politics at Yale in The Late 1960s". Log (38): 131–149. ISSN 1547-4690. JSTOR 26323794.
  23. ^ "Skateboarders barred for art's sake". Gerald D. Adams, San Francisco EXAMINER December 20, 1995
  24. ^ "S.F. struck by love / Cupid's big bow gets rise out of passers-by". San Francisco Chronicle, Patrick Hoge, November 23, 2002
  25. ^ Segran, Elizabeth (July 15, 2021). "The most influential designer you've never heard of is a 92-year-old artist in SF". Fast Company. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Stauffacher Solomon, Barbara (2013). Why? why Not?: 80 Years of Art & Design in Pix & Prose, Juxtaposed. Fun Fog Press. ISBN 978-0-9885546-2-7. OCLC 857249375. OL 27153080M.
  27. ^ "At 90, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon Has No Time for the Art World (and Never Did)". KQED. August 16, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  28. ^ "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon · SFMOMA". Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  29. ^ "Barbara Stauffacher Solomon". Von Bartha. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  30. ^ "Green architecture : notes on the common ground". Worldcat. Retrieved May 9, 2024.

External links

  • Official website
  • SFMOMA-Exhibition "The Sea Ranch, Architecture, Environment, and Idealism", December 22, 2018, to April 28, 2019, including video of the founding participants including Barbara Stauffacher Solomon