Crowe, Sylvia (b. 1901)

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Crowe, Sylvia (b. 1901)

British landscape architect and designer, who was one of the leading theorists and practitioners in her field in the 20th century. Name variations: Dame Sylvia Crowe. Born Sylvia Crowe on September 15, 1901, in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England; daughter of Eyre Crowe and Beatrice (Stockton) Crowe; attended Berkhamsted Girls' School; graduated from Swanley Horticultural College, Kent, 1922; studied under Edward White; shared an office with Brenda Colvin .

Selected writings:

The Landscape of Power (London: Architectural Press, 1958); Tomorrow's Landscape (London: Architectural Press, 1963); Forestry in the Landscape (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966); Garden Design (3rd ed., Wappingers Falls, NY: Garden Art Press, 1994); The Landscape of Forests and Woods (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1978).

Destined to become a true pioneer in the profession of landscape architecture, Sylvia Crowe spent her most formative years in the beautiful English countryside of the Sussex Weald. Her father Eyre Crowe was an engineer who retired from his profession in order to become a fruit farmer. He was a restless man whose health was poor, and as part of his search for both a healthier climate and new experiences took his family on trips to Europe. Both of her parents loved the countryside, and her mother was an enthusiastic gardener. One of Sylvia Crowe's first memories of childhood was celebrating her fourth birthday "in a Corsican forest sitting revelling in the carpet of wild cyclamen." She grew up in near-idyllic circumstances, with her parents' farm located next to a beautiful lake and near a picturesque village named Felbridge. When Sylvia developed tuberculosis, she had to remain isolated from other children and so received an unconventional education; her "classroom" was the unspoiled countryside and the barns and stables of the Crowe family farm, and she "read in the book of nature" by wandering in the countryside and working on the farm.

With the start of World War I in the summer of 1914, all able-bodied men were called to the front, making her labor essential to the functioning of the family farm. She woke at half past five in the morning to drive the small herd of cows to the barn and milk them. Almost 70 years later, she fondly recalled that these years on the Sussex farm served to deeply imbue her "with countryside values and an intense love of landscape."

Crowe worked as a landscape designer from 1926 until the eve of World War II and, after war service, became one of the world's best known landscape architects. In addition to creating harmonious plans for several of the United Kingdom's new cities, she became a leader in landscaping power plants and other industrial facilities, creating realistic and aesthetically pleasing designs that helped alleviate the scars of industry's intrusion into nature. Universally respected in her profession throughout the world, she received many awards, including that of Order of the British Empire in 1967. She became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1973.


Edwards, Susan. "Report: Dame Sylvia Crowe," in Landscape Architecture. Vol. 76, no. 2. March–April 1986, pp. 96–97.

Festing, Sally. "Lady in the Landscape," in New Scientist. Vol. 81, no. 1138. January 18, 1979, pp. 180–182.

Fischer, Thomas. "Books," Horticulture: The Magazine of American Gardening, Vol. 72, no. 10. December 1994, pp. 54–59.

Harvey, Sheila, ed. Reflections on Landscape: The Lives and Work of Six British Landscape Architects. Alder-shot, Hants., Eng: Gower Technical Press, 1987.

Plumptre, George. The Garden Makers: The Great Tradition of Garden Design from 1600 to the Present Day. NY: Random House, 1993.

Titchmarsh, Alan. "Dame Sylvia Crowe," The Garden, Vol. 111, part 8. August 1986, pp. 389–392.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Crowe, Sylvia (b. 1901)

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