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