The Landscape Guide

Landscape HISTORY & THEORY: History, Theory, Sustainability, Books, Vitruvius, Landscape Architecture, Manifesto, Lanship, Mimesis, Professional Oath, Landscape Architecture History and Theory CD, Definitions,

The histories of garden design and landscape architecture

Garden Design has an ancient history but was not treated other than in a cursory manner before the seventeenth century. Landscape Architecture was not used as a professional title before 1863. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the UK Landscape Institute give accounts of what the profession does and neither give good accounts of "what landscape architecture is". History does better.

Histories of garden design

Vitruvius mentions gardens but there was little space for horticulture within the walls of Roman or Medieval cities. Vasari (1511-1574) includes comments on renaissance gardens in his lives of the painters and Montaigne made notes about them in his travel diary. John Evelyn did likewise but neither his letters nor his Elysium Britanicum were published in his lifetime. Stephen Switzer wrote one chapter on the history of gardening (1715). Horace Walpole penned a brilliant but misleading essay on the History of the modern taste in gardening (1770). Loudon included  an illustrated history of gardens in his 1822 Encyclopedia of gardening. During the twentieth century a large number of histories of garden design appeared.

Histories of landscape architecture

Olmsted was the first person to adopt landscape architect as a professional title, though he did non invent the term. Patrick Geddes, the first British citizen to call himself a landscape architect, was an admirer of Olmsted and Repton. Geddes commented that 'City improvers, like the gardeners from whom they develop, fall into two broadly contrasted schools, which are really, just as in gardening itself, the formal and the naturalistic' [Geddes, City development (Edinburgh, 1904)]. It is evident that Geddes had seen a link between garden design, public parks and town planning. It re-appears in his book on Cities in evolution, one of the most influential planning books of the twentieth century. Lewis Mumford and Christopher Tunnard indirectly followed Geddes line of thought.

Norman T Newton provided the first and most comprehensive history of landscape architecture with his masterly Design on the land: the development of landscape architecture (Belknap Press 1971). He gives careful attention to the 'transition to public service' which marked the change from garden design to landscape architecture. In 1973 George B Tobey, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Ohio State University, followed Newton with a remarkable History of Landscape Architecture. It extends from 5,000,000,000 BC, through the development of agriculture and towns to the design of gardens, parks and garden cities. Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe, in the Landscape of man (Thames & Hudson) used a not dissimilar conception of landscape architecture.

The difficulty with all these histories of the subject is that they give a history of an art which does not exist. Much though we might wish it, landscape architects are non the key professionals in the design and layout of town and country. This topic is pursued in the page on landscape theory.