This Is What the Last 100 Years of Landscape Design Looks Like

See 10 of the projects featured in a new book that highlights 100 noteworthy landscapes from the past century


Designed landscapes are omnipresent, but it can be easy to walk through, drive by or look down on them without even noticing they’re there. They can feel less designed than buildings, more subtle, but their unique ability to shape communities and affect the environment means landscapes should be noticed, now more than ever.

That’s what architect and editor, and former Houzz contributor, John Hill has done in his new book 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, in which he chronicles and examines significant landscape designs of the past century, including residential gardens, cemeteries, land art and sculpture gardens. The book is formatted like an illustrated timeline, but it’s also a useful travel guide, as all landscapes included are accessible to the public. “Now as I travel, I find myself wanting to visit landscapes as much as or more than I want to see buildings,” he says.

In addition to Hill’s various selection criteria, all landscapes featured are open to the public, though some require fees. When pinning down dates for the projects, Hill generally used opening dates or ceremonies for public gardens and building start dates for private gardens.

1. The Huntington Botanical Gardens

Year: 1919
Designer: William Hertrich
Location: San Marino, California

Industrialist Henry E. Huntington founded the botanical gardens on his 600-acre plot of land in Los Angeles in 1919, and in 1928 he first opened them up to the public. Horticulturist and garden superintendent William Hertrich spent decades on the property, building the lily ponds, Palm Garden, Japanese Garden and Desert Garden. The Huntington now houses a world-class collection of plants.

The Desert Garden, shown here, features more than 2,000 desert species on 10 acres. “More than the other gardens, which highlight plants and styles from around the world, the Desert Garden celebrates the American Southwest and shows that its deserts are anything but barren wastelands,” Hill writes.

Visit The Huntington: Open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108. More info

2. Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Year: 1930
Designers: Vita Sackville-West, Harold Nicolson
Location: Kent, England

Author Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, a British diplomat, bought this 450-acre estate in 1930, but the property dates back to the Middle Ages. The couple prioritized the landscape when they moved in, clearing and designing a 5-acre garden around the buildings and ruins, including the Elizabethan tower still standing.

When designing the landscape, the couple looked to prominent British architects and garden designers for inspiration, including Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. This photo shows the famous White Garden, which showcases ordered outdoor rooms and abundant planting that inspired many gardens after it.

Visit Sissinghurst: The garden is closed for the season but will reopen in spring; Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 2AB. More info

3. Lunuganga
Designer: Geoffrey Bawa
Location: Bentota, Sri Lanka

Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect and founder of a distinct tropical modern style, transformed an overgrown former cinnamon and rubber farm into his personal estate at Lunuganga. After clearing the overgrowth of the abandoned property, he created a mix of terraces, more formal gardens and some looser outdoor spaces, looking to the land itself for inspiration. “Bawa considered the land around his house a garden within a larger garden,” Hill writes.

Visit Lunuganga: Tours offered daily; Dedduwa, Bentota 32350, Sri Lanka. More info

4. Nærum Allotment Gardens
Designer: Carl Theodor Sørensen
Location: Nærum, Denmark

Denmark’s allotment gardens date to the 1600s, but it’s the Nærum Allotment Gardens by Carl Theodor Sørensen that elevated them to landscape architecture art piece. Each of the 40 oval garden patches is 80 feet long and 50 feet wide (based on the golden ratio), separated by a common area lawn.

The aerial view of the round gardens, called de runde haver in Danish, shows that while all the allotments are equal in size and shape, how they’re laid out — including the house location — are different. While Sørensen provided guidelines and suggestions for the residents, they were free to design their allotments to their preference.

5. Parque da Cidade Roberto Burle Marx
Designer: Roberto Burle Marx
Location: São José dos Campos, Brazil

Today a vibrant community park, Parque da Cidade Roberto Burle Marx was once the home and mill of Brazilian industrialist Olivo Gomes. For this project, Roberto Burle Marx, one of the 20th century’s most famous landscape architects, worked without a plan, incorporating a lake, manmade islands and a pond onto which the modernist house by Rino Levi projects.

Visit Parque da Cidade Roberto Burle Marx: Open daily, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Rua Olivo Gomes, 100 – Santana, São José dos Campos, Brazil. More info

6. Alexandra Road Park
Designer: Janet Jack
Location: London, England

This project aimed to create a more integrated approach between the architecture and landscape of postwar housing developments springing up in Britain. Instead of tall towers, Alexandra Road features three parallel rows of shorter buildings, bringing the structures closer to the landscape.

Five parks run among these rows, built on fill from the development’s construction and connected with zigzag pathways. Plants and trees shield park-goers from surrounding apartments and other parts of the park. The park is thriving and was restored in 2015 with the help of the development’s residents, a new design team and the consultation of Janet Jack, the park’s original designer.

Visit Alexandra Road Park: Open daily; located between Abbey Road and Loudoun Road, London NW8 0QA. More info

7. Bloedel Reserve Gardens
Designer: Richard Haag
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington

Richard Haag may be most well known for his reuse of a former gas plant at Gas Works Park, but his designs at Bloedel Reserve Gardens draw from his studies of zen gardens in Kyoto. Designed as a series of three gardens, including what he called the Moss Garden and Garden of Planes, on what originally was a 160-acre estate, the reserve also includes this Reflection Garden. Its pond was completed earlier by modern landscape architecture Icon Thomas Church, and Haag chose to enclose it in a 12-foot-tall yew hedge, creating an isolating and contemplative experience.

Visit Bloedel: 
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 7571 N.E. Dolphin Drive, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. More info

8. Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi
Designer: Niki de Saint Phalle
Location: Garavicchio, Italy

Artist and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle is known for her colorful, whimsical and voluptuous mosaic sculptures, with Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi (The Tarot Garden) as a crowning achievement.

Twenty-two building-size structures inspired by tarot cards cover 14 acres of hilltop land near the Mediterranean, with one of the structures serving as her house during the garden’s construction. The iconic pieces are made from welded steel frames, wrapped in wire mesh, sprayed with plaster and covered with mosaics. Existing olive trees and other Mediterranean plants throughout the garden enhance the Italian Mediterranean feeling.

Visit Il Giardino Dei Tarocchi: The garden is closed for the season but will reopen April 1, 2:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Pescia Fiorentina, Capalbio, Provincia di Grosseto, Italy. More info

9. Cheonggyecheon River Park
Designer: SeoAhn Total Landscape
Location: Seoul, South Korea

Landscape architecture in the 21st century has seen some amazing work done to cities, with nature, walkability and beautiful public spaces returning to the urban core.

In Seoul, Cheonggyecheon River Park replaces what had been a 3.5-mile-long highway that had covered the Cheonggyecheon River for over 30 years. It sits 24 feet below street level, removing pedestrians from the surrounding streets and offering visitors additional ecological benefits. “The park can boast of less air pollution, a lower ambient temperature, increased biodiversity,” Hill writes.

10. The High Line
Designers: James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf
Location: New York City

The High Line is another such urban revitalization project, although instead of sitting below the street it resides above it on an abandoned elevated railroad track. Rightly so does Hill call it “easily the most influential piece of landscape architecture of the twenty-first century,” as cities around the country and around the world have followed suit.

The park is a 1.5-mile-long walk along the west side of Manhattan. Concrete planks run through the park, interspersed with plantings native to the area that also appeared on the tracks during their derelict years. While parts of the park opened in 2009, the final section opened in 2014.

Visit the High Line: Open daily; hours vary during the year; The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th avenues, New York City, New York. More info

The book features Innisfree Garden in New York on its cover. More info

More: Iconic Architecture: 10 Must-Know Modern Homes

November 12, 2017
Houzz Editorial Staff

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