van Sweden, James 1935-

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van SWEDEN, James 1935-

PERSONAL: Born 1935. Education: University of Michigan, B.Arch., 1960; attended the University of Delft, the Netherlands.

ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Offıce—Oehme, van Sweden and Associates, Inc., 800 G St. SE, Washington, DC 20003. E-mail—[email protected] com.

CAREER: Marcou, O'Leary and Associates, partner in charge of urban design and landscape architecture, 1963-1977; cofounded architectural firm of Oehme, van Sweden and Associates with Wolfgang Oehme, 1977. Previously worked as assistant town planner for Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Appears on television and radio programs.

MEMBER: American Society of Landscape Architects (fellow).

AWARDS, HONORS: Thomas Rowland Gold Medal, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 1987; Landscape Design Award, American Horticultural Society, 1992; awards of excellence, Garden Writer's Association of America; Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, 2002.


(With Wolfgang Oehme and Susan Rademacher Frey) Bold Romantic Gardens: The New World Landscapes of Oehme and van Sweden, Acropolis (Reston, VA), 1990.

Gardening with Water, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

Gardening with Nature, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Thomas Christopher) Architecture in the Garden, foreword by Penelope Hobhouse, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to gardening books and periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: James van Sweden, in partnership with Wolfgang Oehme, is an influential figure in contemporary landscape architecture. They are associated with the naturalistic "New American Garden" style, including mass plantings of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses, and water elements. Van Sweden and Oehme design private residential gardens as well as public spaces; their commissions include the Hudson River Park in Manhattan and the German-American Friendship Garden in Washington. Van Sweden has published several books that explain the design principles and materials he uses. These works feature photographs and explanations of gardens designed by van Sweden, as well as how-to advice.

In Gardening with Water, van Sweden reviews the use of water in gardens around the globe, using examples from the United States, Europe, South America, Japan, and water elements designed by his firm. He also comments on construction, plants and fish, and maintenance. Booklist's Alice Joyce said the work was "a valuable resource" for professionals and amateurs, coming from the "preeminent" contemporary landscape designer. New York Times Book Review critic Allen Lacy deemed that the book "presents a convincing case for the proposition that no garden is quite a garden unless there is water in it."

Van Sweden wrote Gardening with Nature to explain their "New American Garden" concept. Elements include creating interest during all four seasons, incorporating views of adjoining properties, and devoting large areas to plantings rather than lawn. In a review for Fine Gardening, Vincent Lawrence judged that this was "an important book" on an important garden style. And he found it to be "a pleasure to look at and to read. Its photos are generally excellent, the gardens are beautiful, and the prose is lucid and succinct." Horticulture writer Thomas Fisher remarked that the book "gives the reader all the information he or she might need to emulate the distinctive gardening style" of the authors. Fisher added, "By now, there can be few serious gardeners who fail to recognize an Oehme-van Sweden garden when they see one."

The focus of Architecture in the Garden is the relationship between structures and the landscape. Writing with Thomas Christopher, van Sweden discusses the garden's surroundings and interior elements such as paths, edgings, and artwork. In addition to using clients' gardens as examples, van Sweden shows his own garden in Washington, D.C. Reviewer Philip Oliver wrote in Library Journal that, despite the use of costly examples, "van Sweden shows how these architectural ideals can be incorporated into any garden." In a review for Booklist, Alice Joyce recommended the "sophisticated primer for the budding designer" as a source of "fluent guidance to help build confidence and know-how."



Booklist, May 1, 1995, Alice Joyce, review of Gardening with Water, p. 1546; December 1, 2002, Alice Joyce, review of Architecture in the Garden, p. 640.

Fine Gardening, June, 1998, Vincent Lawrence, review of Gardening with Nature, p. 76.

Horticulture, July-August, 1998, Thomas Fisher, review of Gardening with Nature, p. 66.

Library Journal, January, 2003, Philip Oliver, review of Architecture in the Garden, p. 141.

New York Times Book Review, June 11, 1995, Allen Lacy, review of Gardening with Water, pp. 13-53.


Oehme, van Sweden and Associates Home Page, (August 4, 2003).

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van Sweden, James 1935-

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