Born in Boston, Mass., Church studied Landscape Architect at Berkeley and Harvard before establishing his own practice in California in 1930. Influenced by two trips to Europe, and in particular the architecture and glassware of the Finnish designer, Alvar Aalto, Church rejected his Beaux Arts training and developed a wholly a new and original approach to the problems of 20th century garden design. He re-evaluated Modernist principles, and pioneered an Abstract approach that became known as the ‘California style’.
As a student I was given an assignment to prepare a lecture on Church and knowing nothing about him I dutifully trotted off to the library to check out his Gardens are for People (1955).
Here was a designer who had thrown out the traditional concept that a garden should have a beginning and an end, most often arranged around a central, main axis and developed his own, new idea. Asymmetric and curvilinear gardens designed to have a multiplicity of viewpoints - no beginning and no end. Garden that were both a beautiful place to be in and a functional space playing a central role in the way of life of the modern Californian family able to enjoy life outdoors.
The British certainly do not have the Californian climate, but we have one which allows us to grow a huge range of plants. And it was John Brookes in 1969 who managed to wed Church’s role for the garden as an outdoor space to be used for living in with the British love of horticulture. The result, his influential book, Room Outside.
|"A garden should have no beginning and no end. And should be pleasing when seen from any angle, not only from the house" Thomas Church|