Who are the great landscape architects in history? Q&A

Who were the most significant landscape architects in the east and in the west?

Question: Who were the top twenty greatest landscape architects in the east & west?

Short answer: please see my short video on The landscape architecture canon in the east and in the west – there’s a link on the Youtube playlist at the end of this video, based on a section in my Kindle eBook on Landscape Architecture


The Eastern Canon of great landscape architects

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh contains an account of his city, Uruk, with its city walls, temples and garden sanctuaries. Gilgmesh could be seen as the first landscape architect known to history.
  • In Persia, now Iran, Cyrus the Great was the founder of Pasargadae. It was a settlement and has the oldest known four-square Charbagh garden. The rectilinear channels probably supplied water both for growing plants and for domestic use
  • Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha, is not known to have designed gardens. But he lived in gardens, taught in gardens, died in a garden and established a faith which probably had more influence on gardens, groves and temples than any other religion.
  • Also in North East India a treatise by the Hindu philosopher and official,  Kautilya, casts a ray of light on the early days of Indian gardens. And he mentions their relationship with cities.
  • In Muslim India, the Emperor Shah Jahan is believed to have led the design team which made the Taj Mahal garden and mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The layout included an urban design, for the Taj Ganji district, with comparable geometry to the garden.
  • In Japan a garden design book, the  Sakuteiki, was compiled in the 11th century and is attributed to Tachibana Toshitsuna. It’s a written account of a style of ‘garden keeping’, with an open space in front of the main hall (the shinden) and a pond with islands and an arched bridge on other sides.
  • Also in Japan Kobori Enshu is known for his influence on the design of two of Japan’s most famous gardens (the Sento Imperial Palace and the Katsura Imperial Villa). Enshu also influenced the development of the tea ceremony and tea huts. not chung
  • In China, Ji Cheng, wrote a book on garden design, now read as a record of garden culture in one of its great periods: Ming Dynasty China (from 1368 to1644). The author is famous for what he wrote rather than for what he did.
  • In modern Japan, Mirei Shigemori designed many gardens which drew both on traditional Japanese gardens and on western Modernist principles
  • In modern China, Kon-gian Kongjian Yu has demonstrated the value of landscape urbanism as an approach to park design and urban design. He uses what the Wikipedia entry, in 2020, describes as ‘a theory of urban planning arguing that the best way to organize cities is through the design of the cities’ landscape’.

The Western Canon of great landscape architects

  • In Ancient Egypt: Senenmut, as chief steward to Queen Hatshepsut, is believed to have worked with her on the design of the mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. Marie-Luise Gothein wrote of it that “Here stands out for the very first time in the history of art a most magnificent idea — that of building three terraces, one above the other, each of their bordering walls set against the mountain-side, and made beautiful with pillared corridors’. The temple was linked to the east bank of the Nile by an avenue and was an integral part of the Domain of Amun – the ancient world’s outstanding work of landscape architecture.
  • In the Classical Period: the Emperor Hadrian is thought to have designed his own Villa at Tivoli. Inspired by Greek sanctuaries and villas, it contained garden courts but was, in essence, an administrative city.
  • In the Renaissance Period: the Villa Lante, attributed to Vignola, is regarded as the most perfect example of a renaissance garden. The buildings are subsidiary to the layout and its plan could have been used as a city plan.
  • In the Early Baroque Period: Pope Sixtus V had an extraordinary influence on urban design through applying design ideas which had been developed in his own garden, at Montalto, to the layout of Baroque Rome. In his villa, and in Rome, avenues were used to inter-link focal points.
  • In the High Baroque Period: André Le Nôtre, helped Louis XIV in his ambition to make Paris a new Rome. Versailles had a sophisticated layout of avenues which, two centuries later, inspired Le Enfant’s plan for Washington DC and were projected through the urban area of Paris.
  • In the Neoclassical Period: Lord Cobham created a heroic landscape, at Stowe, with advice from landscape architects Bridgeman, Switzer, Kent, Brown and others. They set a precedent which, in the nineteenth century, influenced city planning and public parks in many countries.
  • In the Romantic Period: Frederick Law Olmsted launched the modern landscape architecture profession with his designs for New York and Boston. Ideas drawn from English landscape gardens were applied to city design in America.
  • In the Art Nouveau Period: The Park Güell in Barcelona was designed by Antoni Gaudi as part of a new town development. Only a few of the houses were built but the park is a key component of the city – and exceedingly popular.
  • In the Modern Period: Burle Marx applied concepts drawn from Abstract art to the design of gardens and other urban projects. Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro is his best known urban project.
  • In the Postmodern Period: Chicago’s Millennium Park has come, for me anyway, to exemplify postmodern landscape design in several respects. It has many designers rather than a single ‘author-god’. And stylistically, it most certainly goes beyond, for example, the modernism of Dan Kiley. Though called a ‘park’, it is also a roof garden and an urban development project.

Who was the first landscape architect known to history?

History begins in Sumer when writing was invented, about 27,000 years after the first examples of design on the land, so the first person to write about a design landscape was Gilgamesh of Uruk.