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Former Landscape Architecture Magazine Editor-in-Chief Grady Clay Dies at 96

Clay served as chair of jury that chose design of Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Grady Clay, Hon. ASLA, the former editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture (now Landscape Architecture Magazine), passed away yesterday at the age of 96 in Louisville, Kentucky. A veteran journalist, he was known for his no-nonsense, folksy reporting and passion for the environment and urban revitalization. He also served as the chair of the jury that selected the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

Clay’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture began in 1960, a position he held for the next 24 years. Although he was a journalist, not a landscape architect, Clay considerably expanded the scope, reach and influence of the magazine and confronted substantive issues faced by the landscape architecture profession. Other changes included changing publication from quarterly to six times a year and spinning off Garden Design as a separate magazine in 1982.  

Clay’s blunt editorials forced landscape architects “to take a broader look at their own profession and their own future,” as he put it. In his first piece of writing for the magazine, in October 1957, Clay, then associate editor, wrote, “If Townscape and Landscape, USA are dull and ugly, if they have been overrun by land slaughterers, by the New Barbarians, it is because of those of high spirit and creativeness have neglected their prime duty to get into the fight.”

Landscape architects wrote most of the articles under Clay’s tenure, and readers responded to them and to his editorials with outspoken letters to the editor. Under Clay, LAM became the first professional journal to publish Ian McHarg’s work on ecological planning, and it scooped the popular press on coverage of earth sculpture, native plantings and adventure playgrounds, among other innovations.

“Grady drove the magazine in a radical new direction with great bravura and humor. The times demanded it, given an exploding population, rampant development and rising environmental concern,” says Bradford McKee, the current editor-in-chief of LAM. “He was also among the first to support the New Urbanist movement as seen in his landmark July 1959 article for Horizon, ‘Metropolis Regained.’ His visionary approach still influences our thinking on urban planning today.”

For his extraordinary contributions to the landscape architecture profession, Clay was honored several times by the American Society of Landscape Architects, including the Olmsted Medal in 1999, Honorary Membership in 2006, and the Bradford Williams Medal in 2006.

More information:
Landscape Architecture Magazine tribute; The Cultural Landscape Foundation appreciation.

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