Moderators: Sheila Klos, University of Orgegon and Joan Stahl, National Museum of American Art (could not attend)
Sheila Klos, Head of Architecture and Allied Arts Library, University of Oregon, moderated this session. Co-moderator, Joan Stahl, Coordinator, Image Collections, National Museum of American Art, could not attend. Ms. Klos opened with an explanation that this session was an outgrowth of the successful documenting gardens program used at the 1998 Philadelphia conference. She continued her brief introduction about the need for researching and documenting the achievements of women landscape architects whose pioneering spirits and works span the 20th century.
The first speaker was Judith Tankard, noted author, garden historian, curator and Radcliffe lecturer from Cambridge, MA, who spoke on the biographical history and garden designs of Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869-1950). Tankard's latest book, The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman, was one of the winners of the 1998 American Horticulture Society's Annual Book Awards. She noted that everything revolves around two phases in her life, before the book and after the book on E.B. Shipman. There was no real biographical information existing on this self-taught designer of over 650 small personal gardens between 1914 and 1946. Most of the information on Shipman's life was derived through interviews with family members. Tankard noted that Shipman's designs were reminiscent of Gertrude Jekyll. Shipman primarily worked with presentation drawings with vignettes of suggested ideas and illustrations for clients to view. She also worked from construction drawings and photographs while formulating ideas. There is an archive of Shipman's works at Cornell University. There is another archive at the University of Oregon, although is incomplete, lacking client correspondence. Tankard detailed Shipman's career, which began at the Cornish Art Colony NH while dabbling in gardening. She was encouraged by noted architect, Charles Platt and her first job in Grosse Pointe MI was to re-do a garden originally done by Platt. Shipman used lush perennial plantings along with various trademarks now attributed to her, such as a walled garden, the use of sundials, fountains, and dovecotes. Shipman also hired and trained women assistants. Her largest commission was Longview, located in Los Angeles, which was a home designed by Henry Platt, son of Charles Platt. Shipman retired from practice in 1947, several years before her death. Tankard concluded that only fragments of Shipman's many gardens remain, most are lost. However, it is programs like these that help in preserving the lives of notable designers like Ellen Biddle Shipman.
The second speaker was David Streatfield, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington, Seattle WA, who spoke on "Researching Women Landscape Architects on the West Coast." Streatfield highlighted the designs and works of six notable women, although he mentioned several others. Florence Yoch (1890-1972) established the first female landscape architecture firm on the West Coast. Yoch adapted traditional landscape designs to meet American needs. She worked for about 50 years (1915-1965) on more than 250 projects ranging from Cuernavaca to Carmel, courtyards for historical adobes in California, and landscapes for mansions in Pasacena and San Marino. Yoch based many of her designs on sketchbooks and photographs she kept while traveling in Italy and Spain. She also worked for many Hollywood movie moguls, including Jack Warner, George Cukor and David Selznick. These connections led to her being commissioned to plan landscapes for the Capulet Garden for the balcony scenes of "Romeo and Juliet" (1936) and Tara for "Gone with the Wind" (1939). Yoch's gardens were designed to work in harmony with the larger landscape as a whole, not as private retreats in isolation. Yoch and her partner, Lucile Council, were consummate professionals attending to every detail of a project. Also working in the Yoch office was Ruth Shellhorn, a notable landscape designer in her own right. One of Shellhorn's notable projects was the Bullocks Stores in California. Shellhorn is still living. Lutah Maria Riggs (1896-1984) began her career as a draftsperson and lead designer for notable Santa Barbara architect, George Washington Smith. While she worked on various aspects of Smith's projects, she used her own Andalusian influences and interpretations in designing both buildings and landscapes. Riggs practiced from 1921-1980 and documentation for her works are found at University of California at Santa Barbara. Little is known about landscape architect, Katherine Bashford, by the speaker other than she was enigmatic. Barbara Fealy, who practiced n Oregon, worked to blend lawns into wooded backgrounds and make the garden look like it belonged in the natural setting. Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver developed one of the outstanding partnerships in landscape architecture. Both women graduated from the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women in Massachusetts. During their 40-year partnership they worked on approximately 250 projects located primarily in Oregon and Washington. While their numbers were relatively small, the quality of their work was consistently high and earned them both regional and national recognition. Lord prepared the planting design and Schryver executed the design and construction aspects of the projects. Because of their accessibility and practical knowledge they lectured to many garden clubs throughout the region. Lord (1887-1976) was the daughter of William P. Lord, Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and former governor (1895-99); her mother founded the Salem Garden Club. Schryver (1901-1984) spent five years in the office of Ellen Biddle Shipman before joining Lord's partnership. Lord and Schryver's original drawings and records are archived at the University of Oregon (Eugene), Knight Library, Special Collections. Streatfield concluded with a plea for members of the audience to help locate and preserve information on these women landscape architects and others. (The recorder would like to note that the speaker often moved from woman to woman with little or no cohesiveness, resulting in conflicting and confusing information.)
The third speaker was Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Canada's premier practicing
landscape architect and environmentalist. She earned her Master of
Landscape Architecture degree at Harvard and worked in Philadelphia after
World War II where she collaborate with Louis Kahn, among others.
She moved with her husband, the Austrian-born architect-urban planner,
H. Peter Oberlander, to Vancouver in 1953 when he became the started the
planning department at the University of British Columbia. In her
presentation, Oberlander stressed the importance of sustainable landscape
environments and advocated for the delicate balance that is needed between
the environment and city planning. She told the audience that landscape
architects need to have good research habits and to collaborate with other
architects on projects in developing natural relationships with the environment.
Oberlander highlighted several of her most notable projects including the
National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Vancouver Public Library,
both with architect Moshe Safdie.
She had also worked on a variety of urban landscape projects blending nature with the city in giving pleasure to the inhabitants. Following the session she volunteered to give a walking tour of several of her downtown Vancouver projects.
Each of the speakers utilized many colorful and interpretive slides to demonstrate the works of the landscape architects. The session concluded with a variety of questions for the panelists. Among the questions were:
1) Where did Ellen Biddle Shipmen obtain her draftsmanship training? Tankard said that she could not provide any details on her training but suggested that Shipman received help from Platt.
2) Did any of these women develop olfactory plans? Streatfield stated that most of the architects he detailed developed their gardens for beauty, however, Yoch did development some multisensory works. Smell was certainly considered in planning but it was not consistently addressed.
3) For what purpose were these gardens developed? The speakers generally agreed that gardens were used for a variety of functions, including planting, cooking, and decoration. Truly gardens were multipurpose.
4) Where the clients of these women different from men? Streatfield indicated that it would depend on knowledge, as well as the use of a visual backdrop versus the complex uses of the landscape or garden. Men were not usually interested in gardens or gardening, but primarily used the "backdrop" approach.
5) Is the roof garden of the Vancouver Public Library accessible? Oberlander said that in the original plans it was, however the local government wouldn't allow it to be open to the public because of the height of the building.
6) How can libraries be more proactive in assisting the architects research landscape problems and issues? Oberlander stated that landscape art and science is a combination of aesthetic values but demands on the environment forces us to use new concepts and techniques. Librarians need to collect more information on sustainable landscapes and design, as well as the development of this type of landscape projects. In conclusion, good landscapes involve more than good design.