Masters of Modern Landscape Design

In collaboration with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Library of American Landscape History will stage a national conference featuring eight of the mid-20th century’s most influential landscape architects. These practitioners began to question the traditional Beaux Arts methods of design as early as the 1930s. Rejecting historical precedent, they searched for spatial and artistic forms relevant to the modern condition.

The panel of distinguished speakers will help promote awareness of landscape design as an important art form and urge support for the preservation of great works of American modernism. The speakers are also authors in a new book series by LALH to be distributed by W.W. Norton.

The mission of the Library of American Landscape History is to foster understanding of the fine art of landscape architecture and appreciation for North America’s richly varied landscape heritage through LALH books, exhibitions, and online resources. To learn more about LALH, please visit their website.

View the full schedule of events.

Are you a student? Students can purchase tickets at a special rate for both days or just one.

Event supported by the IMA Horticultural Society. Register below or call 317-955-2339.

Registration fee includes continental breakfast and lunch for both days as well as special tours of Oldfields: The J.K. Lilly Jr. Estate at the IMA, and Miller House and Garden in Columbus. Walk-in registration on day of event is welcome.

Professional Development Hours will be offered to members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) – 9 PDHs – LA CES approved.

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Featured Landscape Architects

Thomas Dolliver Church (1902-1978)

Thomas Church in his San Francisco office, where he established his own practice

The designer of more than 2,000 gardens in his 40-year career as a landscape architect, Thomas Dolliver Church is generally considered the founder of the modern garden. His work was shaped by his early life in California, education at Berkeley and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Mediterranean travels, and a 1937 trip that exposed him to European modernist design. Church opened his first practice in San Francisco in the early 1930s, designing gardens with a keen attention to the demands of the site and an unusual sensitivity to clients’ concerns. The Donnell Garden (1948-1951) in Sonoma CA, Parkmerced (1940-1951) in San Francisco, and the General Motors Technical Center (1949-1959) in Warren, MI, are among his most significant works. As a ground-breaking practitioner and a mentor to some of the most famous landscape architects of the next generation, including Lawrence Halprin, Robert Royston and Garrett Eckbo, all of whom worked for him during their careers, Church had a profound effect on the profession of landscape architecture.

Author: Marc Treib, professor emeritus of architecture at University of California, Berkeley, taught architectural design and drawing before expanding his scholarly interests to include landscape architecture. Over the last 20 years, he has written extensively on the history of modern landscape architecture, most recently on the efforts of Christopher Tunnard (United Kingdom) and Sutemi Horiguchi (Japan) to establish a “national modernism.” The co-author of Garrett Eckbo: Modern Landscapes for Living, and co-editor of Thomas Dolliver Church, Landscape Architect, Treib has helped shape contemporary studies of modern American landscape architecture.

Ruth Shellhorn (1909-2006)

Ruth Shellhorn with Walt Disney, Disneyland, 1955. Photo by Harry Keuser. Author

At the age of 15, Ruth Shellhorn decided to follow in the professional footsteps of her neighbor, the noted landscape architect Florence Yoch. She began her formal training at Oregon State in 1927, transferring to Cornell University after two years in an effort to find more extensive instruction. Although forced to leave Cornell shortly before graduating owing to lack of funds, Shellhorn successfully established a practice during the Depression. In the early 1940s, she obtained a two-year position with the Shoreline Development Study, an early effort to preserve the scenic beauty of the California coastline. A series of commissions for landscape plans at Bullock’s department stores followed, and Shellhorn developed a design idiom that would shape the Southern California shopping experience. In 1955, she was hired to create the pedestrian circulation plan through Disneyland, and she also designed the iconic American spaces “Main Street” and “Town Square.” Beginning in 1956, Shellhorn served as the supervising landscape architect for the recently established University of California at Riverside, a position she held for the next eight years. At age 96, after 57 years as a practicing landscape architect, Shellhorn was awarded a degree from the Cornell College of Architecture.

Author: Kelly Comras, principal landscape architect of the firm KCLA in Pacific Palisades, California, is involved in residential design, historical research, local planning projects and community project development. A former National Park Service landscape architect for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, Comras specializes in Southern California land use planning and restoration. She has taught at UCLA and lectured at Harvard and UCLA.

Garrett Eckbo (1910-2000)

Garrett Eckbo (left), Francis Dean, Edward Williams, Robert Royston (right), pri

In 1937, while still a student at Harvard, Garrett Eckbo launched himself into the design scene with a manifesto demanding gardens relevant to the age of technology. From 1939 to 1942, Eckbo incorporated his design philosophy into prototypical housing for the United States Housing Authority and migrant worker camps for the Farm Security Administration. In 1950, Eckbo published Landscape for Living (1950), showcasing the work of his firm—Eckbo, Royston and Williams—with a revolutionary synthesis of social ideas and technological possibilities based on the scientific method. This firm would evolve to become Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams (EDAW), a multinational planning corporation. Through his writings, his teaching at USC from 1948-56 and at Berkeley from 1963-9, and his extensive designed landscapes, Eckbo promoted his faith in landscape design as a means of social change. The Alcoa Forecast Garden (1952) in Los Angeles is one of his best-known works.

Author: David Streatfield, a professor emeritus of landscape architecture at the University of Washington beginning in 1971, taught in the urban design and preservation planning programs as well as in the department of landscape architecture. A registered architect in the United Kingdom, Streatfield is the author of California Gardens: Creating a New Eden (1994), one of the American Horticultural Society’s “75 Great American Garden books in 75 Years.” He is currently working on a biography of the Santa Barbara landscape architect Lockwood deForest Jr.

Dan Kiley (1912-2004)

Dan Kiley at home in Charlotte, Vermont, 1997

Raised in the urban fabric of Boston and the rolling pastures of New Hampshire, from an early age Dan Kiley was intrigued by the spatial relationships between nature, landscape, and architecture. He apprenticed for Warren Manning for four years in one of the nation’s largest practices and attended the landscape program at Harvard University. There he joined James Rose and Garrett Eckbo in condemning traditional Beaux Arts design methods, and after two years left in frustration to pursue his own understanding of landscape architecture as a synthesis of the traditional and the modern. During the war Kiley worked for the U.S. Housing Authority and the Office of Special Services, where he was influenced by emerging architects such as Louis Kahn and Eero Saarinen. He later collaborated with these and other leading modernists on his most significant projects, including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (1947) and the Miller House Garden (1953-57), both internationally recognized modernist icons designed in dialog with Saarinen. Despite his rejection of Beaux Arts education, Kiley is known for his use of classical architectural vocabulary within modernist design compositions.

Author: Jane Amidon is Professor and Director of the Urban Landscape Program at Northeastern University. She is the founding series editor for Source Books in Landscape Architecture. She lectures and writes books and articles on contemporary and modernist landscape, including: “Two Shifts and Four Threads in Contemporary Landscape and Urbanism” (Topos, 2012); “Big Nature,” Design Ecologies (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009); “Mill Race Park: At the Threshold,” Reconstructing Urban Landscapes (Yale University Press, 2009); Moving Horizon: The Landscape Architecture of Kathryn Gustafson and Partners (Birkhauser, 2005); Radical Landscapes (Thames and Hudson, 2001), and Dan Kiley: America’s Master Landscape Architect (Thames and Hudson,1999).

James C. Rose (1913-1991)

James Rose enjoying his house warming party.

A classmate of Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley at Harvard, James Rose was expelled in 1937 for refusing to design landscapes in the traditional Beaux Arts manner. His rebellious approach to the profession took shape in a series of articles and books, including Creative Gardens (1958), Gardens make me Laugh (1965) and The Heavenly Environment (1987) and in the private gardens he created for adventurous clients. Rather than work for a firm or on commercial commissions, Rose preferred the freedom and creativity of smaller projects in which he could control the final product. His most famous garden is at his former home in New Jersey, Ridgewood, now the James Rose Center for Landscape Architecture Research and Design. Known for his ability to sculpt spaces appropriate to the time, Rose has been described as a catalyst of the modern movement.

Author: Dean Cardasis, FASLA, is a professor of landscape architecture at Rutgers University and the director of the James Rose Center. Cardasis taught at the University of Massachusetts for almost 20 years, maintaining an active professional practice that continues to flourish. The author of numerous articles and book reviews on landscape architecture, he is currently completing James Rose Gardens, 1970-1990, the culmination of over 20 years of research on Rose.

Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009)

Lawrence Halprin writing in one of his trademark sketchbooks.

A native New Yorker, Lawrence Halprin graduated from Cornell and received a master of science in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin before earning a degree in landscape architecture from Harvard. After returning home from naval service in 1945, Halprin joined Thomas Church’s firm, where he worked on the Donnell Garden in Sonoma, California, among other projects. Four years later, he opened his own office in San Francisco, launching a very productive career spanning six decades. By the 1960s, Halprin’s firm had gained recognition for significant urban renewal projects, including Ghirardelli Square (1962-68) and Embarcadero Plaza (1962-1972) in San Francisco, Nicollet Mall (1962-1967) in Minneapolis, and Freeway Park (1970-1974) in Seattle. In the 1969, Halprin and his wife Anna developed the RSVP cycles, a collaborative system of approaching design problems that focused primarily on human movement through spaces. This philosophy is embodied in one of Halprin’s favorite works, the FDR Memorial (1974-1997) in Washington D.C., in which the story unfolds as visitors move through a series of four “rooms” accentuated by water features.

Author: Kenneth I. Helphand, FASLA, is professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon where he has taught courses in landscape history, theory, and design since 1974. He is the author of Colorado: Visions of an American Landscape. (1991), Yard Street Park: The Design of Suburban Open Space (with Cynthia Girling, 1994), Dreaming Gardens: Landscape Architecture & the Making of Modern Israel (2002), and Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime (2006). He is an Honorary Member of the Israel Association of Landscape Architects, served as editor of Landscape Journal (1994 –2002), and former Chair of the Senior Fellows at Dumbarton Oaks.

Robert Royston (1918-2008)

Robert Royston inspecting one of the “garages” he designed in 1957

As a junior at Berkeley in 1937, Robert Royston began his career employed in Thomas Church’s firm, acting as supervisor on major projects throughout the San Francisco area, including the Parkmerced Apartments. After serving in the Navy, Royston joined Garrett Eckbo and Edward Williams in establishing the firm of Eckbo, Royston and Williams. This partnership foreshadowed the development of larger planning and design firms of the 1960s and 70s, including the one Royston joined in 1958--Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey (RHAA). During the 1950s and 60s, Royston produced a series of parks or “public gardens,” including the Bixby and Mitchell Parks in Palo Alto (1956) and Central Park in Santa Clara (1960), embodying his social and spatial theories and featuring his trademark biomorphic forms. Royston, who taught at Berkeley from 1947-51 and at Stanford in the 1950s, was a mentor to many, including Eldon Beck, Francis Dean and Robert Reich.

Author: JC Miller is a partner at Vallier Design Associates, a landscape architecture and planning practice in Point Richmond, California, and the director for the Landscape Architecture Certificate Program at UC Berkeley Extension. He worked for over a decade in the Royston office, and as a principal, assisted Robert Royston directly in the design and execution of his final projects. Miller lectures on postwar California landscape design, contributed to the Pioneers of the American Landscape Design series, and writes frequently for CA-Modern magazine. He is the co-author of Modern Public Gardens: Robert Royston and the Suburban Park (2006).

Author: Reuben Rainey, FASLA, a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, taught landscape architecture history and theory for over 30 years. A former professor of religious studies, Rainey has written on a wide variety of topics--from Italian Renaissance landscapes to modern “healing gardens.” He is the co-producer of the 10-part PBS documentary Gardenstory, co-director of the Center for Design and Health, and co-author of Modern Public Gardens: The Suburban Parks of Robert Royston.

Arthur Edwin Bye (1919-2001)

A. E. Bye, n.d.

Arthur Edwin Bye, a native of the Netherlands, moved to Pennsylvania as a child and graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1942. A professor of landscape architecture at the Cooper Union in New York for 40 years who also taught at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, Bye influenced the profession through his teachings and hundreds of landscape designs that he photographed extensively. Although he worked at the height of the modern movement, Bye saw his work as intimately connected with the act of gardening. He was a pioneer in advocating for native plants and the restoration of native woodlands at the same time as he worked as an artist shaping land forms, what some might describe today as land art. Bye’s best known works include the Reisley house in Pleasantville, NY, with the house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the George Soros landscape in Southampton, and Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. His philosophy of landscape architecture is described in two books, Art into Landscape, Landscape into Art (1981) and Moods in the Landscape (1999).

Author: Thaisa Way is an associate professor in landscape architecture who teaches history, theory, and design at the University of Washington. She has published and lectured on feminist histories of design and in particular the role of women as professionals and practitioners. Her book, Unbounded Practices: Women, Landscape Architecture, and Early Twentieth Century Design (University of Virginia Press, 2009) was awarded the J.B. Jackson Book Award by the Landscape Studies Foundation. Way is currently completing a book on the work of Richard Haag and the post-industrial landscape within the modernist movement.

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