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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

May 2007 Issue

Drawing on the British Tradition
An archive provides a home for great drawings by twentieth-century British landscape architects.

By Linda McIntyre

Drawing on the British Tradition Landscape Institute Library

The Landscape Institute (LI) is the royal chartered body for landscape architects in the United Kingdom, the British equivalent of ASLA; it currently has 5,150 members. Eleven years ago I was invited by Sheila Harvey, the LI librarian, to catalog some recently donated drawings. Since I am a landscape architect she thought I would have a better idea of what the drawings were all about, and since then I have been on an extraordinary part-time journey of discovery.

From some of the old journals it was clear that there was always the intention to have a drawings archive, but there has never been sufficient time, space, or willpower to initiate one. One of the founding members was determined to change this.

When Geoffrey Jellicoe gave his plan chest and 300 drawings to the Landscape Institute in 1995, he wanted us do something brave and exciting with them. He was a man of big ideas: Having studied architecture, he went on to become one of the founders of the LI in 1929, when he was 29, and then helped found IFLA (the International Federation of Landscape Architects) a few years later. You can see a similar vision in many of his projects; he designed a condensed world history of landscape for the Moody Gardens Foundation in Galveston, Texas, and one of his most enduring and frequently reproduced projects is an allegorical landscape of life, death, and the human spirit he created for the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, Surrey, England, with 60,000 granite blocks representing the pilgrims from John Bunyanís The Pilgrimís Progress.

His drawings are delicious, most especially those he completed between his late 70s and his early 90s. During this time he was working on the gardens at Shute House; Sutton Place, Surrey; the Moody Gardens; the Atlanta Historical Societyís gardens; and public parks for Modena and Brescia in Italy, as well as numerous other projects. It was a prodigious output for one man working essentially on his own. Everything in his drawings was hand drawn in ink. His intricate graphic technique shows no sign of fatigue on sometimes large sheets of tracing paper, and he would set out drawings with plans, sections, and elevations in an intriguing and occasionally complicated layout. Most frequently these drawings are filled with notes and comments. There was nothing standard about the man or his thinking.

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