Landscape Architecture

views updated May 11 2018


As Perry Miller persuasively argued in Nature's Nation, Americans have long considered themselves as inhabiting a space that has been defined by its relationship with nature. The relationship between Americans and American nature has been long-standing, but the terms of that relationship have changed as the nation has grown. The "howling wilderness" from which William Bradford (1663–1752) recoiled when he first viewed it from the deck of the Mayflower in 1620 had become by 1820 a prized emblem of both the new nation's past and its future promise. With the publication of James Fenimore Cooper's (1789–1851) The Pioneers (1823), the wilderness had become one of the principal locales for an emerging national literature. Ironically, in this novel, in which Cooper introduces his frontier hero, Natty Bumppo, and his Indian friend, Chingachgook (Indian John in this novel), the wilderness is under assault by the forces of settlement and civilization. In fact, The Pioneers, with its scenes depicting the slaughter of the passenger pigeon flock and the devastation of the forest, can be called the first ecological novel in American literature.

Five years later in Notions of the Americans (1828), Cooper would explore the European view of American space. In this work, a "Count," loosely based on Lafayette, the French ally of the American revolutionaries, writes letters home about what he observes in America. As Wayne Franklin points out, the Count perceives the distinctions between "settled field and wild forest," but he attempts to make these contrasting scenes "coalesce visually, reducing their difference to a mere contrast of hue—the very finesse of which gives the tamely artful land dominance over the wild" (p. 215). Franklin reminds us that "Cooper's . . . practice as a novelist was to stress and intensify" this contrast (p. 215).

Rather early on, then, in American life and letters distinctions were drawn between the wild and the tame landscape. Just as there were Americans who celebrated the wilderness, by the 1820s there were also those who advocated a tamer, more domestic nature. By the end of the first two decades of the nineteenth century, parts of America had been settled long enough for their inhabitants to think about how nature could be incorporated within their private and public spaces. While Cooper was introducing readers to the American wilderness as a threatened site of national drama, he and other landowners in New York and elsewhere in the more settled eastern parts of the nation were beginning to take an interest in English and European concepts of landscape gardening.


In his study of the early history of horticulture in the United States, Ulysses Hedrick observes that "in the first half of the nineteenth century the fever to improve grounds was increased by every visitor to England" (p. 226). James Fenimore Cooper quickly caught the gardening fever. His daughter, Susan (1813–1894), who would later write Rural Hours (1850), wrote in her journal of the avidity with which her father sought to improve the grounds of Angevine, the family residence from 1817 to 1822. Americans were visiting England and coming back with ideas for their gardens, and Englishmen were also coming to America and bringing with them their gardening concepts. When William Cobbett (1763–1835), later to become famous as an English political reformer, took up residence on North Hempstead, Long Island, in 1817, he remarked on the lack of variety found in the American kitchen garden. In 1818 Cobbett recounted his experiences on Long Island in A Year's Residence in the United States of America. He later reworked some of the material from this book into The American Gardener (1819). In his preface to this work, Cobbett tartly observed that the vastness of America and the relative cheapness of the land militated against careful gardening. Cobbett noted that "where land is abundant, attachment and even attention to small spots wears away" (p. xxiv).

English gardens and gardeners were a decided influence on American landscape design, but, according to Hedrick, it was André Parmentier (1780–1830), who arrived in America from France in 1824, who first achieved success as a "professional landscape gardener" in the United States (p. 227). Although he lived only until 1830, Parmentier had a profound impact on the growth of landscape architecture in America. Upon his arrival in America, he established a botanical garden near present-day Brooklyn that provided him with the nursery stock he needed to implement his gardening designs.

Parmentier enunciated his theories on gardens in "Landscape and Picturesque Gardens," an essay that appeared in Thomas Green Fessenden's (1771–1837) The New American Gardener (1828). Parmentier argued that "gardens should be treated like landscapes, whose charms are not to be improved by rules of art" (p. 184). For Parmentier, naturalness, with its surprises, pleased more than artifice. A proponent of curving and winding vistas, he asked how any person of sensibility and taste "would not prefer to walk in a plantation irregular and picturesque, rather than those straight and monotonous alleys, bordered with mournful box?" (p. 185). According to Hedrick, Parmentier's theories influenced the later work of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852), whose Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1841) was the most influential work on landscape gardening in America in the mid-nineteenth century.

Parmentier's publisher, Thomas Green Fessenden—a lawyer, political satirist, Hudibrastic (mock-verse) poet, and horticultural author—was another force in the growth of landscape gardening in America. In 1822 Fessenden moved from Brattleborough, Vermont, to Boston and started The New England Farmer, to which he contributed until his death in 1837. He also edited The Horticultural Register and The Silk Manual. Fessenden was well enough known that Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) wrote an essay on him, later reprinted in Fanshawe and Other Pieces (1876). Hawthorne praised The New England Farmer as an original venture, claiming that "Numerous papers on the same plan sprung up in various parts of the country, but none attained the standard of their prototype" (p. 580).

Among Fessenden's contemporaries who were also important figures in the history of landscape architecture in America were Bernard M'Mahan (c. 1775–1816) and William Prince (1766–1842). In 1802 M'Mahan published the American Gardener's Calendar, which was among the first works to provide planting dates that corresponded with the climate of the eastern United States. Prince's contribution to the growing body of literature on the topic was a Short Treatise on Horticulture (1828). Robert Squibb published The Gardener's Calendar for the States of North-Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in 1809.


By the 1830s American attitudes toward nature and landscape had changed so profoundly that essayists were educating the American public on how to view what they had previously either ignored or taken for granted. With the publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature in 1836, Americans were introduced to not only how to "read" the landscape but also how to draw spiritual sustenance from it. In this important essay, Emerson (1803–1882) laid claim to the land that others only imagined they held. He observed that "Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape" (p. 9). In terms that reveal his debt to English Romanticism and its extolling of the primacy of the child's vision, Emerson declared that "few adult persons can see nature" (p. 10). Only those people who have "retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood," are, according to Emerson, capable of truly appreciating nature (p. 10). For Emerson, those who can truly perceive the underlying forms inherent in nature are poets.

In "The Poet" (1844), Emerson develops his platonic theory of how the poet apprehends the forms residing in nature. To the poet, "Nature offers all her creatures . . . as a picture language" (p. 452). Emerson's ideal poet is one who needs no stimulants to spur his imagination. The poet's "cheerfulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air should suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with water" (p. 461). It is not in wealth, or in the seats of power that the poet must seek inspiration but in nature. Nature alone is noble: "new nobility is conferred in groves and pastures, and not in castles, or by the sword-blade, any longer" (p. 467).

What America had to offer that made it a special place was not like the castles and grand ruins that had so affected the imaginations of European painters and poets; what America offered was space in which to dream. When Margaret Fuller (1810–1850), the editor of The Dial—the journal of the transcendentalist movement—recounted her travels in Illinois and Wisconsin, it was the spaciousness of the landscape that most impressed her. In Summer on the Lakes (1844), she wrote that, on the prairies "a man need not take a small slice from the landscape, and fence it in from the obtrusions of an uncongenial neighbor, and there cut down his fancies to miniature improvements which a chicken could run over in ten minutes" (p. 26).

As Annette Kolodny informs the reader in The Land before Her, although they were not often acknowledged in their own time or later, women were central figures in the process of settling and domesticating spaces such as the prairies. Among the authors Fuller read before she embarked on her journey to the Midwest was Caroline Kirkland (1801–1864), who, in A New Home—Who'll Follow? (1839), offered an unblinking look at the reality of trying to reproduce Eden on the American prairies. As Kolodny points out, Kirkland's narrative persona, Mary Clavers, grants that the new Adams and Eves in the Midwest might create a new Eden but it would be a New World garden. Although there might be "tall oaks near the cottage," the rest of the setting would lack the "rocky . . . glenny . . . streamy" landscape so dear to the heart of European Romantics (Kolodny, p. 145).

If the Midwest and the open spaces even farther west were uncongenial to Emerson's ideal, perhaps a life connected to nature could be worked out closer to home—indeed, almost in Emerson's backyard. No one took Emerson's advice so seriously and tried to enact it so fervently as did Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862). Emerson schooled his fellow citizens on what to look for in nature and how to live in harmony with nature. Henry David Thoreau reported to them on his experiment in living according to those precepts Emerson had laid down. In Walden (1854), Thoreau recorded the results of his attempts at living life "deliberately." For Thoreau it was not space itself but the spaciousness of the imagination that counted. "Though the view from my door was . . . contracted, I did not feel crowded or confined in the least. There was pasture enough for my imagination. The low shrub oak plateau to which the opposite shore arose, stretched as far as the prairies of the West and the steppes of Tartary" (p. 83).

Although Nathaniel Hawthorne never experimented with life on the level of Thoreau's experiment at Walden Pond, he did participate in a utopian experiment at Brook Farm in Massachusetts; later, he used his experiences at Brook Farm as the basis for The Blithedale Romance (1852). Hawthorne also had a personal connection to Emerson, as he lived in the Old Manse at Concord. The Old Manse, formerly the minister's home, was the home in which Emerson lived in his youth. Hawthorne rented the Old Manse from 1842 to 1845 and recounted his time there and his impressions of the grounds in his American Notebooks (1804–1864) and Mosses from an Old Manse (1846). When Hawthorne and his new bride, Sophia Peabody, moved into the Old Manse, Thoreau planted a garden for them as a wedding present.

The following is an excerpt from "The Piazza," the title story of Herman Melville's The Piazza Tales (1856):

When I removed into the country, it was to occupy an old-fashioned farm-house, which had no piazza—a deficiency the more regretted, because not only did I like piazzas, as somehow combining the coziness of in-doors with the freedom of out-doors, and it is so pleasant to inspect your thermometer there, but the country round about was such a picture, that in berry time no boy climbs hill or crosses vale without coming upon easels planted in every nook, and sun-burnt painters painting there. A very paradise of painters. The circle of the stars cut by the circle of the mountains. At least, so looks it from the house; though, once upon the mountains, no circle of them can you see. Had the site been chosen five rods off, this charmed ring would not have been.

Melville, The Piazza Tales, p. 621.

When Hawthorne later moved to Pittsfield in the Berkshire mountains, his new friend and fellow author Herman Melville (1819–1891) moved there also. Melville moved into a farm nearby that he named Arrowhead after the quantity of Indian artifacts he uncovered in the farm's fields. In the title story of The Piazza Tales (1856), Melville described the one deficiency in his new old home. "Now, for a house, so situated in such a country, to have no piazza for the convenience of those who might desire to feast upon the view, and take their time and ease about it, seemed as much of an omission as if a picture-gallery should have no bench" (pp. 621–622).


Hawthorne, Melville, and other literary figures were not alone in their search for rural tranquility. Even those who did not desire to nurse a muse felt the need to create a way of living that allowed them to feel less constrained. Andrew Jackson Downing, who designed the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and whose Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, adapted to North America (1841) was the most important work on American landscape design in the first half of the nineteenth century, felt that not only the wealthy but also the working classes deserved living spaces that connected them to nature. In The Architecture of Country Houses (1850), Downing argues that the United States should eschew becoming "a nation, whose rural population is content to live in mean huts and miserable hovels" (p. v). If the country were to tolerate such mean living dwellings for its rural inhabitants, it would find itself "behind its neighbors in education, the arts, and all that makes up the external signs of progress" (p. v). Downing felt that if rural Americans followed his precepts about home and garden design, they could avert the "gross blunders in taste" that he observed elsewhere (p. 205).

Country Houses offered the public not only plans for villas and country houses but also designs for cottages and farmhouses. Downing addressed the designs of rural residencies more directly in Cottage Residences (1842). His ideas on cottage design would survive into the early twentieth century. Many of the prefabricated houses sold by mail-order firms such as Sears and Roebuck were based on designs that can be traced back to Downing's pioneering work in this field. In addition to writing on home and landscape design, Downing founded the Horticulturalist (1846), a magazine dedicated to advancing the practice of gardening in the United States. Most of Downing's editorials for the Horticulturalist were published posthumously in Rural Essays (1853).

Downing was not alone in his interest in the design of cottages and gardens. Walter Elder published The Cottage Garden of America (1849) and Lewis Falley Allen wrote on Rural Architecture (1852). In 1850 Susan Fenimore Cooper published Rural Hours, in which she encouraged rural landowners to consider how to shape and maintain their wood-lots with an eye to creating a pleasing vista. The language of flowers was also a topic that received liter-ary attention. In 1830 Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879) published Flora's Interpreter. In 1852 Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) published Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England.

If Downing was the most important figure in American landscape architecture in the first half of the nineteenth century, Olmsted was the most important American landscape architect in the second half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps best remembered for his work on public spaces and parks such as New York's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and Buffalo's Chapin Parkway, Olmsted also worked with his partner, Calvert Vaux (1824–1895), in laying out the plan for Riverside, a Chicago suburb that combined proximity to the city with the spaciousness and green space of a country setting.

As John G. Mitchell notes in "Frederick Law Olmsted's Passion for Parks," it was Olmstead's connections with literary figures such as Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant that helped him secure the position of superintendent of what would become New York's Central Park. Olmsted's association with public spaces and streetcar suburbs signified a shift in the American vision of landscape architecture. Although there would still be efforts to construct country retreats on the grand scale of European chateaus (Olmsted himself would later work on the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina), the projects taken on by Olmsted and other landscape architects during the latter half of the nineteenth century reflected the urbanization of America and the need to provide green spaces for city dwellers.

In A Writer's America, Alfred Kazin describes Olmsted's plan for Central Park as a reaction to the monotony of the city's urban gridlines. "For his park he wanted a rural unkemptness, picturesque roads. In the vast planting to replace the old swamp wasteland he emphasized wild plants, random tufts, a thick growth of low brambles, ferns, asters, gentians, irregularly spaced trees" (p. 168). If the city dweller could not escape to the country, Olmsted would bring the country to the city. Although Walt Whitman (1819–1892) voiced his objections to the plan because the miles of carriage-ways obviously catered to the wealthier classes, he did concede that Olmsted's grand plan "represented at least a trial marriage of art and enlightened enterprise, nature and life in the city" (Kazin, p. 171).

As Lee Clark Mitchell points out, "Olmsted's vision extended well beyond city limits" (p. 49). Olmsted campaigned for restricting the commercialization of Niagara Falls and when he moved to California in 1863 he worked to preserve the Yosemite Valley and the Big Tree Grove in Mariposa (pp. 49–50). In 1865 he wrote a report on the Yosemite Valley for the California Yosemite Commission. Olmsted's efforts were instrumental in removing Yosemite from private control and placing it in the hands of the government. Twenty-five years after Olmsted's report, John Muir (1838–1914) and others were finally able to move Congress to enact Olmsted's plan to preserve the Yosemite Valley (Mitchell, p. 50). In this instance, it was Olmsted, the landscape architect and designer, who showed the way for environmental writers such as Muir.

Muir, who would write The Mountains of California (1894), Our National Parks (1901), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), and The Yosemite (1912), among other works, is perhaps the best known of the preservationists who came of age in the late nineteenth century. However, as Mitchell notes, it was George Perkins Marsh (1801–1882), author of Man and Nature (1864), who defined the science of ecology at a time when the term itself had not yet come into use (p. 59). Marsh argued that through "careful control and intelligent planning" the nation might be able to preserve its natural legacy (quoted in L. C. Mitchell, p. 60).

In the 1870s and continuing into the 1880s and 1890s America awakened to the need to preserve its natural wonders. The movement to create and preserve national parks was and remains a laudable endeavor. It was, however, equally important for writers to remind Americans, as Thoreau had done almost a quarter of a century earlier, of the pleasures to be found closer to home. In a modest work of less than a hundred pages, Charles Dudley Warner (1829–1900) did just that. Warner is best remembered for being both Harriet Beecher Stowe's and Mark Twain's neighbor in Hartford, and perhaps best forgotten for being the author of some truly turgid prose published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. But in My Summer in a Garden (1870), Warner takes off his stiff workday collar, rolls up his shirtsleeves, and celebrates the elemental passion for dirt. "The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest. Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts. So long as we are dirty, we are pure" (p. 6).

Whether the nineteenth-century American's desire to commune with nature took the form of Thoreau's impulse to thrust himself headfirst into the soil or Warner's more pedestrian wish to get his hands dirty in his garden, the nineteenth century witnessed America coming to terms with the disappearance of the frontier wilderness and the need to preserve what was still wild and amend what was tame. Literary figures and landscape designers each participated in the project of celebrating, preserving, and recreating the American landscape.

The following is an excerpt from Charles Dudley Warner's My Summer in a Garden (1870):

Broad acres are a patent of nobility; and no man but feels more of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he can call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep; and that is a handsome property. And there is a great pleasure in working in the soil, apart from the ownership of it. The man who has planted a garden feels he has done something for the good of the world.

Warner, My Summer in a Garden, p. 6.

See alsoAgrarianism; Americans Abroad; English Literature; Foreigners; Nature;Taste; Transcendentalism; Urbanization; Walden;Wilderness


Primary Works

Cobbett, William. The American Gardener. 1819. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

Cooper, James Fenimore. Notions of the Americans. 1828. Historical introduction and textual notes by Gary Williams. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pioneers. 1823. New York: New American Library, 1964.

Cooper, Susan Fenimore. Rural Hours. 1850. Edited by Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.

Downing, Andrew Jackson. The Architecture of CountryHouses; including designs for cottages, farmhouses, and villas, with remarks on interiors, furniture, and the best modes of warming and ventilating. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1850.

Downing, Andrew Jackson. Cottage Residences; or, A series of designs for rural cottages and cottage villas, and their gardens and grounds, adapted to North America. 1842. 4th ed. New York: Wiley and Halsted, 1856.

Downing, Andrew Jackson. A Treatise on the Theory andPractice of Landscape Gardening, adapted to North America. New York, London, Wiley and Putnam; Boston: C. C. Little and Co., 1841.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays and Lectures. Edited by Joel Porte. New York: Library of America, 1983.

Fessenden, Thomas Green. The New American Gardener. Boston: J. B. Russell, 1828.

Fuller, Margaret. Summer on the Lakes, in 1843. 1844. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Mosses from an Old Manse. 1846. Reprinted in Tales and Sketches. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1982.

Kirkland, Caroline. A New Home—Who'll Follow? or,Glimpses of Western Life. 1839. Edited by William S. Osborne. Schenectady, N.Y.: College and University Press, 1965.

Melville, Herman. The Piazza Tales. 1856. Edited by Egbert S. Oliver. New York: Hendricks House, 1948.

Olmsted, Frederick Law. The Papers of Frederick LawOlmsted. Vol. 1, The Formative Years, 1822–1852. Edited by Charles Capen McLaughlin. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Other Writings. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

Warner, Charles Dudley. My Summer in a Garden. 1870. Introduction by Allan Gurganus. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

Secondary Works

Dean, Sharon L. Constance Fenimore Woolson and EdithWharton: Perspectives on Landscape and Art. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002.

Franklin, Wayne. The New World of James Fenimore Cooper. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Hedrick, Ulysses P. A History of Horticulture in America to 1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1950.

Kazin, Alfred. A Writer's America: Landscape in Literature. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Kolodny, Annette. The Land Before Her: Fantasy andExperience of the American Frontiers, 1630–1860. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Leighton, Ann. American Gardens of the NineteenthCentury: "For Comfort and Affluence." Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.

Miller, Perry. Nature's Nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

Mitchell, John G. "Frederick Law Olmsted's Passion for Parks." National Geographic 207, no. 3 (2005): 32–51.

Mitchell, Lee Clark. Witnesses to a Vanishing America: TheNineteenth-Century Response. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Thacker, Robert. The Great Prairie Fact and LiteraryImagination. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989.

Wolschke-Buhlman, Joachim, and Jack Becker, eds. American Garden Literature in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection (1785–1900). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1998.

James J. Schramer

Landscape Architecture

views updated Jun 27 2018


LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE is both the art and profession of landscape design, in which topographical, horticultural, and other elements are arranged to suit human use. While humans have shaped landscapes since antiquity, landscape architecture developed as a profession only in the mid-1800s, and the term was first used in 1858 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who were then designing and constructing New York's Central Park.

Olmsted and Vaux may have coined the term, but they did not originate the art. Americans had long intentionally shaped landscapes to suit various needs, particularly in streetscapes, garden designs, and park construction. Colonial Americans borrowed heavily from European landscape design, particularly in creating classical, rectilinear gardens, with straight paths and square beds of formal plantings. Although regional differences developed early, as the southern climate and plantation culture encouraged the development of larger gardens, formal design remained a constant. George Washington's Mount Vernon gardens represent the grand gardens of the late 1700s—the long bowling green provided a striking vista, and the symmetrical garden plots provided both beauty and produce. The University of Virginia and the grounds of Monticello remind us of the importance of landscape design to Thomas Jefferson, who built them with an eye to both attractiveness and efficiency.

Andrew Jackson Downing's A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America (1841) was the first major work on gardening by an American. Downing attempted to describe a growing uniqueness of American landscape design. While the work marked the movement away from the classical style and toward a picturesque aesthetic, Downing's book also revealed the continuing debt American landscape design owed to Europeans. Deeply influenced by Romanticism, itself of European origins, the picturesque style emphasized more natural landscapes, with variety, irregularity, and informality. The picturesque style played to America's growing appreciation of its distinctive wilderness. In essence, picturesque gardens could capture a bit of the wildness and preserve it in accessible spaces. Since gaining popularity in the 1850s, the picturesque style has continued to dominate landscape design, with formal gardens playing a smaller role in American landscape architecture.

The profession of landscape architecture developed with the growing urban demand for parks after 1850. After Olmsted and Vaux set the standard with their designs for Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park, most American cities sought their own landscaped parks. Olmsted became the premiere landscape architect and, as that new term implied, he intended to design the landscape as fully as architects design buildings. Natural elements, such as trees, shrubs, and water, would be among his tools, but his creations would be primarily cultural. Mixing open spaces, formal walks, rustic architecture, and naturalistic woodlands, these picturesque landscapes offered variety to increasingly regularized lives.

Even as landscaped parks provided relief from monotonous city life, some visionaries sought to provide more pervasive relief by designing picturesque neighborhoods and communities. In the mid-1850s Alexander Jackson Davis, a protégé of Downing, designed the first picturesque suburb, Llewellyn Park in New Jersey. With its curvilinear streets and planned open "ramble," Llewellyn Park became a model for future suburban developments, including Olmsted's Chicago suburban design, Riverside, built in the following decade. In addition to the movement to create new, planned, landscaped communities, late in the 1800s, the City Beautiful Movement encouraged a greater level of planning throughout cities. While not strictly concerned with landscape design, the City Beautiful Movement did emphasize urban beauty as created by streetscapes, vistas, and architectural design. Inspired in part by the great success of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, reformers demanded more beauty in their cities, particularly in the form of Beaux Arts architecture, open civic plazas, and striking street vistas. These ideals made their way into the 1902 plan for Washington, D.C., with its long, formal mall, neoclassical architecture, and formally placed monuments. Many other cities initiated redevelopment on a smaller scale, including Denver's civic center, created by 1921. By that date most large American cities had transformed some significant public space to fit the City Beautiful vision.

The World's Columbian Exposition and the City Beautiful Movement marked the return of formal landscape design, as suited the renewed interest in neoclassical architecture. Private development also witnessed a turn toward classical design, particularly in the gardens of America's new castles, built for the growing number of superrich robber barons. These massive estates often included a range of landscape designs, but by the early 1900s the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, and other refuges for the extremely wealthy, were surrounded by well-trimmed hedges, straight paths, and formal fountains.

Despite the return of classical design, the picturesque continued to dominate city planning, particularly as cities spread out along railroad lines and increasingly important roadways. The curvilinear roads, ample tree plantings, and open spaces of the early planned suburbs continued into the twentieth century. John Nolen's 1923 Mariemont, Ohio, design, for example, relied on European ideas of the garden city, as is evident in the Tudor architecture of the town center, the large central commons, and abundant open and wooded spaces. Mariemont residents, just fifteen minutes from downtown Cincinnati, could think themselves living in the English countryside. The picturesque suburban ideal persisted, influencing the United States Resettlement Administration's design of several "greenbelt" cities in the 1930s, including Greenbelt, Maryland, in 1936. The lush landscapes of these communities, and other less planned suburbs around the nation, contrasted markedly with dense urban cores. They also hid the numerous and necessary connections between suburban and urban landscapes.

After World War II, American landscape architecture revealed a greater diversity of influences, including Asian gardens and massive modern art. Particularly on corporate campuses, where the picturesque could be inappropriate or impossible, modern landscape designs turned again to straight lines, but often at a tilt or on multiple levels, and natural components often found themselves extremely confined, as waterfalls clung to rectangular walls and trees sat upon pavement in large pots. Modern landscape designs created deceptively complex visual spaces, more accepting of artificiality than the picturesque designs of previous decades.


Major, Judith. To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997.

Newton, Norman T. Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Rybczynski, Witold. A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Scribners, 1999.


See alsoCentral Park ; City Planning ; Suburbanization .

Landscape Architect

views updated Jun 08 2018

Landscape Architect

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$53,120 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Architects design buildings to provide useful and attractive indoor spaces. The job of landscape architects, on the other hand, is to create useful and attractive outdoor environments. They use natural elements, such as land, trees, and shrubs, to create attractive settings for buildings, highways, and parks.

Landscape architects work on small residential projects as well as large public ones. For example, landscape architects might be asked to design a pond on a private estate. They might also design a public park. Some landscape architects work on industrial projects. They might design an attractive surrounding for a factory. They work on highways and freeways as well. There is a great deal of diversity in their profession.

More than 26 percent of landscape architects are self-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some work for private architectural firms or businesses that provide landscaping services. Others are employed by local and federal governments. These landscape architects plan landscaping for highways, parks, and public buildings. Some landscape architects work for engineering firms. Landscape architects often work with other specialists on a project. These specialists might include engineers, nursery managers, and zoning experts. Landscape architects may supervise trainees and drafters.

Landscape architects begin their job by talking with their clients about what is to be done. Then the landscape architects visit the sites. They make maps of the area and chart the positions of existing buildings and trees. They make topographic surveys. These surveys show the height of the land at various points on the site. They check such details as the makeup of the soil and its exposure to the sun and wind. They find out the value of the property and how much traffic crosses the land. They chart the placement of utility lines. With all these things in mind, landscape architects make recommendations on the proper use of land. They submit these recommendations, along with maps, photographs, reports, and sketches of what the areas should look like. Much of this work is accomplished with the use of computer-assisted design (CAD). If their clients decide to change these recommendations, the landscape architects modify the plans.

Once their plans are accepted, landscape architects make detailed drawings of the entire site. These drawings include all existing as well as new features. They show structures, buildings, shrubs, walkways, roads, and the new grading of the area. Next, landscape architects make detailed drawings of specific features of the plans, such as walks, terraces, benches, and curbs. They also indicate where trees and shrubbery are to be planted and make lists of all the plans and materials needed for the project. The working drawings and lists are submitted to contractors for bids. Once a bid is accepted, construction can begin. The landscape architects help order the materials that will be needed and, on larger projects, work closely with the other specialists involved in the project. On small projects, landscape architects may be the only ones involved in the entire project. Often, several landscape architects work together on a project.

Education and Training Requirements

A good landscape architect is knowledgeable in many areas. These areas include design, horticulture, social science, engineering, and business.

A four- or five-year college degree in landscape architecture is usually necessary to enter this field. Relevant college courses include architecture, surveying, plant ecology, landscape construction, structural design, and city planning. High school courses that are good preparation for this career include biology, history, mathematics, and mechanical drawing. Classes that improve a student's ability to communicate both orally and in writing are also useful.

Some landscape architects have gained experience by working as apprentices to experienced landscape architects. It takes six to eight years to become a landscape architect with this method. However, public agencies only hire landscape architects with college degrees. More than half the states require landscape architects to have a license. To take the licensing exam, candidates should have a college degree from an accredited school, plus an internship and/or several years of work supervised by a licensed landscape architect.

Getting the Job

The best way to get into this profession is to graduate from college and then contact landscape firms about employment. College placement offices can help. Newspaper classified ads and job banks on the Internet are other sources of job information. Many jobs are also available in government service, which require a civil service examination. Local, state, and federal civil service commissions will have information about the test and about job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Trainees starting in architectural firms begin as junior drafters. After two or three years of experience they can advance to such jobs as senior drafters. Senior drafters work on projects from the beginning sketches to the final drawings. Advancement in this field depends both on ability and on how much responsibility the worker is willing to accept.

The employment outlook for landscape architects is very good. There will be stiff competition for jobs with the best companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately twenty-five thousand people worked in this field in the United States in 2004. The number of landscape architects is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Builders and land developers use landscape architects more and more to create pleasing surroundings for the structures they build. Environmental and historical protection of natural areas will also increase employment.

Working Conditions

Landscape architects work both indoors and outdoors. They usually work a forty-hour week, although self-employed landscape architects may work longer hours.

There are few disadvantages to working as a landscape architect. However, while gaining experience, beginning landscape architects may spend most of their time doing routine tasks. In addition, drafting work is exacting and can become tedious.

Where to Go for More Information

American Nursery and Landscape Association
1000 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20005-4914
(202) 789-2900

American Society of Landscape Architects
636 Eye St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-3736
(202) 898-2444

Earnings and Benefits

The median income for landscape architects in 2004 was $53,120 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working for the federal government earned a median salary of $74,508 per year. The benefits in this field vary widely with individual companies. Most firms offer health plans, paid vacations, and holidays. Landscape architects who are self-employed have to provide their own health and life insurance.

landscape architecture

views updated Jun 11 2018

landscape architecture. The design of gardens, parks, 1campuses, cemeteries, etc., to provide places that can be enjoyed, both to walk within and to view from a distance. Gardens for perambulation, spiritual succour, pleasure, and recreation have been known since ancient times, and some gardens had re-ligious significance. Often water, in channels, rivulets, or fountains helped to enhance gardens. Certain gardens, e.g. those of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli (1565–72—by Ligorio), were designed to link the present to the past, and contained complex programmes to trigger historical, philosophical, and religious musings. Rigid geometrical planning of gardens was known in Islamic architecture, but in France, the formal Baroque garden, with features such as parterres, was created on a grand scale by designers such as Le Nôtre. There was a reaction against such formality, notably in England, where the landscape garden, laid out in a more ‘natural’ manner to form compositions in the Picturesque fashion, often with fabriques: became influential. Loudon referred to landscape architecture in relation to Repton's creations, and Olmsted and Vaux employed the term ‘landscape architect’ when designing Central Park, NYC. Professional bodies for, and training of, land-scape-architects were pioneered in the USA at the end of C19 and beginning of C20. Many C20 landscape-architects became concerned with ecological and conservation problems, notably in the design of industrial sites, motorways, etc. (e.g. Colvin and Jellicoe).


Bull (2002);
Cleveland (2002);
G. Cooper & and G. Taylor (2000);
Holden (1996, 2003);
Jellicoe (1988);
Jellicoe & and Jellicoe (1995);
Jellicoe et al. (1996);
Lazzaro (1990);
Lyall (1991);
Pennypacker et al. (1990);
Simonds (2000);
Steenbergen et al. (1996);
Thacker (1979);
W& S (1994);
Weilacher (1996);
Z& Z (1995)

Landscape Architect

views updated May 09 2018

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect is an environmental design professional who applies the art and science of land planning and design on many scales, ranging from entire regions to cities, towns, neighborhoods, and residences. The profession is quite diverse, and students may attend more than sixty undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States and Canada, many of which offer comprehensive and/or individualized training in the following areas:

  • Landscape Design: Outdoor space designing for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and public spaces
  • Site Planning: Designing and arranging built and natural elements on the land
  • Urban/Town Planning: Designing and planning layout and organization of urban areas, including urban design, and the development of public spaces such as plazas and streetscapes
  • Regional Landscape Planning: Merging landscape architecture with environmental planning, including land and water resource management and environmental impact analysis
  • Park and Recreational Planning: Creating or redesigning parks and recreational areas in cities, suburban and rural areas, and larger natural areas as part of national park, forest, and wildlife refuge systems
  • Land Development Planning: Working with real estate development projects, balancing the capability of the land to accommodate quality environments
  • Ecological Planning and Design: Studying the interaction between people and the natural environment, focusing on flexibility for development, including highway design and planning
  • Historic Preservation and Reclamation: Preserving, conserving, or restoring existing sites for ongoing and new use
  • Social and Behavioral Aspects of Landscape Design: Designing for the special needs of the elderly or physically challenged

The study of plant sciences is often an integral part of the above specialties. Increased focus on ecological planning and natural systems design includes the study of native plant materials and ecosystems . The development of public and private gardens and recreation destinations places specific focus on ornamental horticulture using cultivated plant materials.

Opportunities abound for landscape architects working for residential and commercial real estate developers, federal and state agencies, city planning commissions, and individual property owners. Salaries vary widely depending on experience and whether one works for a private or public organization, but it equals or exceeds those of architects and civil engineers.

Future opportunities for landscape architects are extremely promising. The increasing complexity of projects requires interdisciplinary communication and commitment to improving the quality of life through the best design and management of places for people and other flora and fauna.

see also Arborist; Horticulturist; Ornamental Plants.

Thomas Wirth


American Association of Landscape Architects. [Online] Available at

Simonds, John O. Landscape Architecture, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Wirth, Thomas. The Victory Garden Landscape Guide. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1984.

Landscape Architect

views updated May 11 2018

Landscape Architect

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, a landscape architect plans and designs the use, allocation, and arrangement of land and water resources through the creative application of biological, physical, mathematical, and social processes. While architects design buildings and structures, landscape architects are "architects of the land," designing parks, housing developments, zoos, waterfronts, and so on, as well as stormwater drainage systems, wetlands, and species habitats. Some of the specializations they pursue include regional landscape planning, urban planning, ecological planning and design, and historic preservation and reclamation. Forty-six states require landscape architects to be licensed by completing a bachelor's degree in the field and passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.

Among other skills, landscape architects must be sound mathematicians and be able to integrate mathematical models and planning methods into a technical design. To do this, it is necessary to take accurate measurements and compute areas, volumes, and the quantity of materials needed for each component of the job, all while staying within a budget. It is important for landscape architects to be competent with CAD (computer-aided design) software to help plan projects. Additionally, they need to understand the underlying mathematics principles in construction processes and support systems, as well as in methods of construction. For example, problems of drainage would require the landscape architect to manipulate contours and spot elevations, to calculate slopes, grades, and volumes of material, and to understand hydraulics.

see also Architect.

Michael J. O'Neal


Dines, Nicholas T. Landscape Architect's Portable Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2001.

lnternet Resources

American Society of Landscape Architects. <>.

landscape architecture

views updated May 23 2018

landscape architecture A branch of architectural studies which is particularly concerned with design in relation to the scenic environment, e.g. the use of appropriate tree species to blend with buildings or landscape morphology, the harmonious design of way-marking, shelters, etc. The subject also embraces the engineered modification of landscapes to provide appropriate settings or screening for buildings. The term is often used to include the design of gardens (i.e. synonymously with landscape gardening).

landscape architecture

views updated Jun 08 2018

landscape architecture A branch of architectural studies that is particularly concerned with design in relation to the scenic environment, e.g. the use of appropriate tree species to blend with buildings or landscape morphology, the harmonious design of way-marking, shelters, etc. The term is often used to include the design of gardens, i.e. synonymously with landscape gardening.

landscape evaluation

views updated May 21 2018

landscape evaluation The assessment of landscape as a scenic resource. It is controversial, since such concepts as ‘scenic beauty’ are neither generally agreed nor readily quantifiable. Nevertheless, evaluations are vital for the conservation of high-quality and/or traditional landscapes, especially in densely populated, developed regions.

landscape evaluation

views updated May 29 2018

landscape evaluation The assessment of landscape as a scenic resource. It is controversial, since such concepts as ‘scenic beauty’ are neither generally agreed nor readily quantifiable. Nevertheless evaluations are vital for the conservation of high-quality and/or traditional landscapes, especially in densely populated, developed regions.