Geoffrey Jellicoe’s landscape architectural design method

The video refers to important stages in the development of Jellicoe’s approach landscape architecture and design theory. You could see it as a progression from Renaissance to Modern to Postmodern. Or, like me, you take the view that his approach was always postmodern: using the term in Canon Bernard Iddings Bell’s sense. One could take the same view of TS Eliot’s poetry. It was forward looking and modern while also traditional. As Winston Churchill said in 1944:’I confess myself to be a great admirer of tradition. The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward’ (often misquoted, rather well, as ‘the farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see’).

Jellicoe’s design method deserves much more attention than it receives. Following Vitruvius, he had a deep concern for functional, technical and aesthetic issues and a brilliant way of fusing them under the auspices of a design concept. Here is my interpretation of Jellicoe’s design method:

  1. Consider the client’s needs and wants
  2. Make the acquaintance of the genius locii
  3. Investigate the technical opportunities
  4. Use conscious and subconscious inputs to formulate a design concept 
  5. Produce diagrams and/or models to explain the concept
  6. Use diligence to sort out all the details
  7. Write a design account of the project, explaining how the Vitruvian objectives have been satisfied [I do not think Jellicoe referred to Vitruvius but he certainly balanced Commodity, Firmness and Delight in his his design approach]
1900 born in Chelsea
1910-18 gained a love of Latin literature and classical civilisation
1918-24 studied at the Architectural Association
1924 visited and studied Italian gardens
1934 designed the Caveman Restaurant in the Cheddar Gorge, with Russell Page. The design style was Abstract Modern but the design approach Post Modern: it was context-sensitive and it told a story (about man’s evolution from the ‘miasmal mire’).
1952 included a serpent (formed with trees) as part of his design for the Cadbury factory in Moreton
1957-62 included another serpent (formed with water) in his design for the Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead New Town
1963-5 designed the President Kennedy Memorial in Runnymede and explained it as having both visible and invisible dimensions
1968 lecturing in Greenwich, Jellicoe proposed a serpent (formed with earth) as ‘an earth companion for the Serpentine’
1983 published the Guelph Lectures in Landscape Design explaining a design approach drawing on CG Jung’s theory of the collective subconscious

Tom Turner

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