ICONS OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY LANDSCAPE DESIGN

by Katie Campbell

Publisher:  Frances Lincoln (2006)
ISBN  0-7112-2533-8

Hardback £30

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We in Cornwall are rightly proud of our great nineteenth-century gardens and parks, and we can look even further back, for example to the original deer parks at Trelowarren and Mount Edgcumbe.  Now the challenge for us a challenge that is being faced as part of the Association of Gardens Trusts’ Annual Conference at Falmouth in September is to look beyond the Victorian.
Apart from the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden and William Pye’s water cone and the other modern sculpture cleverly integrated into the Repton landscape at Antony, can you name any other typical twentieth- century landscapes in Cornwall?   (Several recently-created private Cornish gardens feature in Douglas Ellory Pett’s Creative Gardeners [Alison Hodge, 2005]).  Icons of Twentieth-Century Landscape Design doesn’t include any Cornish landscapes:  indeed, out of the 29 places featured, only five are in England or Scotland.

Don’t let that put you off. nor the fact that, with its large size and numerous colour photographs, it makes a good ‘coffee table’ book.  Katie Campbell has visited the places that she explores and dedicates between four and six pages to each.   My interest was held by her accounts of the history of each site, the career of the designer, how the design was made a reality, and how the design fits in with the architecture and the surrounding landscape and meets the site’s purpose.

Many of the places are well-known:  the modern house in an ancient landscape at Bentley Wood, the allusions to the literary, artistic and political at Little Sparta, Derek Jarman’s garden coaxed from the shingle beach at Prospect Cottage, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water.  Other entries were new to me: the original design of the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm was rather obvious and melancholic but over time it has been modified to appear less bleak and to represent a return to the regenerative cycles of nature;   Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Salt Lake, Utah, is, to me, a wonderful environmental art creation (now usually submerged, it periodically emerges from its watery bed).a possible idea for Loe Pool?!

The twentieth-century designers embraced new approaches, incorporated new materials and pushed the boundaries of landscape design.  I find the designs in this book uplifting and inspiring.   You may love them or hate them, but you can’t ignore them and they certainly make you think.

Shirley Barnes