|Image: American Eden cover (source)|
The founding gardens of 1600-1826 were designed to obfuscate and to escape from the landscapes of production (whether slave- or factory-based) which fueled the lifestyles of the founding gardeners but plagued their moral compasses. An extended quote from - the final paragraph of - Chapter One:
A man of the 18th century who embodied its ideals of natural science, exploration, and enlightenment, Jefferson prefigured the momentous, wrenching changes of the 19th: slavery, which tore his own conscience, would very nearly tear the country apart; factories, of which he was one of the first owners, would transform the nation's economy and social structure and feed the explosive growth of crowded, industrial cities--anathema to him and to millions of others who would point to his articulation of the agrarian ideal as they fled those cities to suburbs modeled on the image of the vanishing wilderness, tamed into manicured private gardens, each a miniature, simplified version of this vaster, layered one at Monticello.Logically, in Chapter Two, Graham considers the garden landscapes of the suburbia between 1820 and 1890. The story of the suburbs has been told by many scholars and typically close with the failing fortunes of the city. Graham argues otherwise.
As cities spread and dominated their hinterlands, and the true agrarian countryside emptied of population as the small farm economy was replaced by factory farming, fear of the city had become a pervasive, basic element of the Victorian worldview....Once the city had decisively triumphed against the wilderness, modern pastoralism reclaimed the landscape, first in the form of the city park, bringing "country into the city, then reexporting this aestheticized wilderness ideal to the areas around cities, as garden suburbs, which were linked to the city by parkways--city streets turned into linear parks....In a few years the natural park idea was extended to the national park....This last development can be best understood not as the preservation of wilderness, since this was not the goal, but the designation of large tracts of scenic lands, cleared with guns of Indians and wolves, as resorts for public recreation--in essence city parks once removed from the city. In other words, the advent of the national park marked the total triumph of the city over the wilderness.Gardens and landscapes of the Gilded Age (1880-1915) and Arts & Crafts period (1850-1945) are discussed in Chapters Three and Four, respectively. An exemplar of the former period is the White City for the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, 1893. In addition to classical idioms of design, cottage garden styles were also a dominant design motif in the Gilded Age. Graham writes, "In a very real sense, Grandmother's garden was a political garden, an assertion of the common people in a time of increasing inequality and 'conspicuous consumption' by the rich...."
|Image: Dumbarton Oaks site plan courtesy of Wikimedia Commons via Library of Congress/HABS (source)|
Although I have always associated Arts & Crafts design with the West Coast, a spectacular landscape thrives on the East Coast: Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown was designed by Beatrix (Jones) Farrand between 1921 and 1947. Farrand donated her estate to UC Berkeley. Having lived in Berkeley I am familiar with Farrand's legacy as well as those of the designers profiled by Graham in Chapter Five on the modern California garden like Garrett Eckbo, Thomas Church, Lawrence Halprin, and others. I was particularly struck by the description of designers and their work during the 1920s to the1960s as being imbued with social design principles. This period is associated with numerous injustices which Graham does point out.
|Images: Time Landscape|
|Image: Lurie Garden|
I would like to thank Wade for providing a copy of American Eden for review. For more essays by Wade Graham, follow his blog Reflections on Landscape.