How many Landscape Architects do you know? Compared to Architecture it is not a large profession. Although there are many Landscape Architects out there doing great work, very few ever become known to the larger community and fewer still are known around the world. It was therefore with great anticipation that I went to a recent lecture by John Brooks of Great Britain. Being a prolific writer, he has written twenty-four books, as well as being a garden designer and teacher. All these efforts have helped to make his name well known in Britain and abroad.
John is best known for his British estate work which he designs within the larger context of the landscape it is set in. The crops in the distant fields are reflected in the mass plantings of ornamental grasses within the garden. He also designs in a way that strongly reflects the architecture of the building through pattern and repetition of form. In his talk he emphasized his belief that the pattern and structure that is laid out in a garden must come before the plant material. Some of the patterns he showed us for his gardens would make beautiful abstract paintings on their own. Although when we are in a garden we are not always aware of everything that has gone into making it, we know when the space “works”. Once he is satisfied with the garden layout, he will then begin to work with “plants of strong form” to reinforce and accent his design. When he revisits his designs he is always adjusting and tweaking, as the beauty and trials of working with plant material is that your design is always growing and changing through a variety of seasons.
One of the wonderful parts of listening to John speak was his sense of humour and his humbleness in presenting his work. He took time to specifically speak to those in the crowd who are just starting out in the field. He spoke of how when he first started out he had no idea where his career would end up and encouraged all of us to stay interested in a variety of pursuits; because you never know where they might lead you.
John Brookes has been the recipient of many awards and accolades such as four gold medals at the Chelsea Garden Show. As a Member of the Royal Empire he summarized his delight in designing gardens by saying that in the end it is just “Jolly nice to see someone painting a picture in a garden you have created”.
By: Sue Montgomery, OALA, CSLA