David H. Bennett

David H. Bennett, a landscape architect with a special interest in the preservation of cultural and historic landscapes, died of cardiac arrest at his home in Washington on May 11.

He was 58.


Mr. Bennett, who was also trained as an architect, thought design projects needed to be understood through the lens of each site's history, culture and evolution over time.

"His legacy is seen in work around the globe, often focused on preserving the past for future generations," said a colleague, Marsha Lea. "With his passing, our profession has lost a fine practitioner, and we have lost a good friend."

The son of Virginia L. and John L. Bennett, he was born in Long Island but later moved to Baltimore, where he grew up in Roland Park.

His interest in design peaked early. As a child, he was an avid drawer and frequently helped his mother in the garden. He would earn extra money working in neighbors' gardeners in the summer.

Mr. Bennett took a keen interest when his grandparents built and landscaped a home on the Eastern Shore. In high school, he told his grandmother he would one day study architecture, his mother recalled.

"This was kind of in his genes," his mother said.

Mr. Bennett graduated from the Friends School in Baltimore in 1974 and earned a degree in architecture and landscape architecture from Cornell University in 1979. He received a master's in landscape architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1983.

Over the years, Mr. Bennett worked for several architectural firms in Baltimore and Washington before landing with AECOM in Arlington, Va. He also worked at Smith Kirwin Landscape Architects, Edmunds & Hyde, and Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet. He moved to Washington to work at HOK, Keyes Condon Florance, and HOH before becoming Associate Principal with AECOM in 1997.


One of his first projects was the landscape restoration of The Mount, the historic estate and gardens of novelist Edith Wharton in western Massachusetts. Beginning in 1985, Mr. Bennett guided The Mount's landscape restoration as a trustee and founding chair of the gardens and grounds committee. He continued to oversee the work until his death.

He worked on nearly two dozen other significant cultural and historic landscape and design plans around the world, his mother said, including the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Va., and the Petra Archaeological Sanctuary in Jordan.

Mr. Bennett also designed several campus landscape projects, including master plans for American, Georgetown, Cornell and the Johns Hopkins universities, and the NASA Langley Research Center's New Town, his mother said.

Roger Courtenay, principal at AECOM, said Mr. Bennett's career went far beyond preservation.

"He had quite a varied career and was very much a contemporary designer," Courtenay said.

Mr. Bennett was also involved in the regeneration of the downtown Washington business improvement district to create a safer and more vibrant environment. He also developed landscape plans for the Social Security Administration headquarters and a mixed-use development between the Anacostia River and historic Anacostia neighborhoods in Washington.


Mr. Bennett developed the master landscape plan for a project that included a diplomatic academy in Azerbaijan. He participated in the design and planning of seven U.S embassies and consulates, including those in Kabul, Istanbul, Algiers and Sofia.

As project manager for the embassy in Istanbul, Bennett was charged with moving the new consulate, because of safety concerns, to a property almost entirely on a severe slope, his mother said. Mr. Bennett replaced an old stormwater pipe with a naturalistic channel that now produces colorful wildflowers.

He led 25 projects in Asia, and lived in Hong Kong for three years beginning in 2002. He was project manager for Hong Kong Disneyland in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, creating a recreational area that included access roads, a visitor car and tour bus arrival area, a gateway arch, roundabouts and fountains.

Mr. Bennett traveled extensively for leisure as well as work. His favorite place was Italy, especially Rome.

"Every city he went to — Boston or Washington or Baltimore — he would point out all the buildings and tell you what they were, what they were built for, and their background and history," his mother said. "He was interested in all of that from the time he was young."

At parties and social engagements, Mr. Bennett had no time for small talk, but instead engaged people in deep conversations about the world and their lives, his mother and Lea said.

Mr. Bennett never married or had children, but family was important and he tracked his roots and created a detailed family history.

Recently he sent an email to his mother saying he wanted to make her a gourmet breakfast. On what would be their last day together, he made lobster Newberg, asparagus and strawberries.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Bennett is survived by his brother, S. Woods Bennett of Towson; two sisters, Jane Lewis Taeger of Baltimore and Frances Churchill Bennett of Florida; and three nieces and a nephew.