Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Memoriam: Eric Fulford

Posted By on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 9:30 AM

  • Photo by Jennifer Roberts

Eric Fulford was a man who knew how to dress. Swathed in scarves and heavy tweeds, always with hat - something straw or, in winter, a beret - Eric cut a dashing figure. He looked like he'd been teleported from a fin de siecle Parisian café. He might have been sipping absinthe with the likes of Apollinaire.

Eric, who died on Sept. 12 at the age of 61, grew up on the Northwest Pacific coast. Somehow he wound up making Indianapolis his home. He was one of our most talented and provocative landscape architects, an artist who really paid attention to the physical details of our Midwestern place and sought to help the rest of us see and experience its many-hued gorgeousness.

Eric was one of the first people I met after my wife and I moved to Indianapolis in 1988. The architect Jim Lingenfelter used to have monthly lunches at his office in the old Faris building on the south edge of downtown. Eric and I sat across a table from one another and I was as taken by the mischievous glint in his eye as by the righteous invective he laid upon the city's lack of thoughtful design. This was a fellow whose sense of style didn't end with his outfit. He was the real deal.

Later, after I started working at NUVO, I enlisted Eric's help for the staging of a public mock trial dealing with the arts in Indianapolis. Eric designed a performing arts center for downtown, complete with a 3-D model. His plan would have put this facility in the vicinity of the City Market, and his vision was so compelling it had many people in the audience of several hundred practically convinced that such a project was bound to happen. If only...

Still, it is virtually impossible to walk in Indianapolis without encountering the work and his wife and partner Ann Reed have brought to the city. From the campus at Uindy to Eiteljorg's front lawn fountain, the Medal of Honor memorial, and those scarlet bridges - the Monon over the White River and the foot bridge that crosses the canal by the IMA - as well as the sinuous, cantilevered streetlights illuminating downtown's Wholesale district: these designs are meant to last.

I remember another lunch with Eric. We ate at Yats on Mass Ave; Eric was aglow about having found a series of graffiti bugs, little inky flies, painted discreetly on the walls of buildings up and down the avenue. After we ate, the two of us went on a kind of safari, trying to find each one. Eric was inspired by this kind of unforced street-level art, the attention to detail and, best of all, humor. It was a civilizing thing, the kind of gesture good cities do well.

Without Eric, I might never have found them. No, without Eric, I would never have found them. Bless him.

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