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date: 18 September 2019

Prairie school of landscape designlocked

  • Therese O’Malley

Extract

Term given to a regional style of landscape design in America. In 1915, Wilhelm Miller, a professor of Landscape Horticulture at the University of Illinois, defined a new American regional style in an article entitled “The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening.” This seminal article described the work of Ossian Cole Simonds (1855–1931), Jens Jensen and Walter Burley Griffin (see Griffin family) as the main proponents of a Midwestern school that drew upon the Prairie school of architecture epitomized by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Simonds is credited with the innovation of transplanting native plants from the countryside to manmade landscapes as early as 1880, specifically at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. The uses of native species as well as a spatial design in harmony with the regional landscape are cited by Miller as the defining elements of the new style. Simonds, in contrast to previous designers, considered flatness a Midwestern characteristic and a positive attribute, and he employed it to create the long view. Jensen was to build upon the ideas and techniques of Simonds’s work and integrate and publicize them as a theory of design. Although they borrowed forms and techniques for various naturalistic garden traditions, Miller insisted their work constituted a new style because it stressed the local flora of the Midwest and because their practices embraced the theme of the conservation of native scenery....

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