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Ellen G. D’Oench

Group portrait, often full-length but small in scale, set in a domestic interior or garden setting. It was an especially popular genre in 18th-century England though it can also be found later than this and in other countries.

The term derives from the Latin word ‘conversatio’ and is synonymous with the French word ‘conversation’; this was defined in the 17th century as a gathering of acquaintances for social discourse. It is also related to the Flemish word ‘conversatie’. In the Netherlands in the 17th century this term was used to describe paintings of informal groups, though not necessarily portraits of known people. In 1629 Rubens referred to a group of women as a ‘conversatie van jouffrouwen’, and two variants of his open-air Conversatie à la mode (both c. 1632–4; Madrid, Prado) were entitled as such in his 1645 estate sale.

Precedents for the conversation piece’s qualities of private narrative include ...


Mary M. Tinti

Architecture, design and conceptual art partnership. Diller Scofidio + Renfro [Diller + Scofidio] was formed in 1979 by Elizabeth Diller (b Lodz, Poland, 1954) and Ricardo Scofidio (b New York, NY, 1935) as an interdisciplinary design practice based in New York.

Diller studied at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York (BArch, 1979) and then worked as an Assistant Professor of Architecture (1981–90) at the Cooper Union School of Architecture, becoming Associate Professor of Architecture at Princeton University in 1990. Scofidio, who also attended Cooper Union (1952–5), obtained his BArch from Columbia University (1960) and became Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union in 1965. In 1997 Charles Renfro joined the firm and was made partner in 2004, at which point the partnership changed its name to Diller Scofidio + Renfro. While the couple (who are married) initially eschewed traditional architectural projects in favor of installations, set design and landscape design, by the 21st century their firm had received commissions for both new buildings and renovations of existing architecture. Diller and Scofidio were the first architects to receive a MacArthur Foundation fellowship (...


Naomi Miller

Sculptural or architectural structure that channels a spring or source of water and shapes it by means of jets or sprays, the water falling into one or more containers or basins.

Fountains may serve decorative or practical purposes and have, in a multitude of forms, been a feature of both public and private spaces since ancient times. They have been erected to celebrate technological advancement in a civilization, for example in the harnessing of water for public use; to serve as objects of religious significance or to commemorate events of historical importance; and to create poetic and theatrical displays.

Whereas the fountain is documented throughout the world, its absence from some areas is due to such factors as the lack of an adequate hydraulic system for its construction or, in terms of the fountain’s decorative function, the prevalence of a different aesthetic for the display of water.

The latter has historically been the case in East Asia. An essential feature of ...


Economically and socially independent urban unit of medium size surrounded by a green belt. The term is often loosely applied to various other forms of urban planning. Letchworth, Herts, begun in 1903, was the first garden city proper; it was followed in Britain by Welwyn, Herts (from 1920), and examples in Germany, Russia and France. The garden city idea is usually considered to derive from two quite distinct sources: the social Utopias of such philosophers as Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825) and Charles Fourier (1772–1837; see Fourierism) and the model estates and villages of industrial philanthropists of the second half of the 19th century. British industrialists, such as William Hesketh Lever and George Cadbury, built planned communities for their workers, for example at Port Sunlight (from 1888), near Liverpool, and Bournville (from 1879), near Birmingham, along the lines of picturesque, medieval villages, with strong influence from the Arts and Crafts Movement. These model villages or suburbs were laid out with the health of the residents as a principal consideration; they became the flagships of the emerging international housing reform movement, which attempted to eradicate the insanitary conditions of working-class housing....


Jeremy Hunt and Jonathan Vickery

At the turn of the millennium, public art was an established global art genre with its own professional and critical discourse, as well as constituencies of interest and patronage independent of mainstream contemporary art. Art criticism has been prodigious regarding public art’s role in the ‘beautification’ of otherwise neglected social space or in influencing urban development. Diversity and differentiation are increasingly the hallmarks of public art worldwide, emerging from city branding strategies and destination marketing as well as from artist activism and international art events and festivals. The first decade of the 21st century demonstrated the vast opportunity for creative and critical ‘engagement’, activism, social dialogue, and cultural co-creation and collective participation. New public art forms emerged, seen in digital and internet media, pop-up shops, and temporary open-access studios, street performance, and urban activism, as well as architectural collaborations in landscape, environment or urban design.

Intellectually, the roots of contemporary public art can be found in the ludic and the architectonic: in the playful public interventions epitomized in the 1960s by the ...


Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

[Fr.: ‘rockwork’]. Term used to describe a type of European ornament of variable form, resembling the irregular edges of rocks and shells. The motif was used in the 16th century in Grotto decoration to imitate the incidental effect of natural rock formation. In the 1730s the supple asymmetricality of rocaille ornament was exploited in the designs of ...


Barbara Kahle

[It.: ‘ground floor room/hall’]

Garden hall or room situated on the ground floor of a palace or mansion, beneath the principal room of the corps de logis, serving as a connecting link between the vestibule and the garden. It is a creation of the German Baroque, influenced mainly by Italian forms and dependent on features of garden design common since antiquity (e.g. grottoes, nymphs and theatres). German precursors of the sala terrena can be found in the Grottenhof (1581–6) of the Munich Residenz (see Munich §IV 2.) or in Hellbrunn, Schloss (1612–19). Under the influence of Italian and Genoese palace architecture, spatial compositions that gave on to the open air were developed in an attempt to overcome the small-scale variety and plethora of interior decoration hitherto prevalent.

The Würzburg Residenz (begun 1720; see Würzburg, §2) incorporates the classic type of sala terrena. Following Balthasar Neumann’s design, it consists of an elongated oval, ringed with columns, in a sequence of rooms at the heart of the palace. In its solemn and cool atmosphere, evoked by the deliberate darkening of the colours of the marble columns and the ceiling fresco by ...


Michael Lancaster

Type of Garden designed to display a collection of sculptures in an open-air courtyard or landscape setting. Its origins can be traced back to the archetypal concepts of the cave oracle, the sacred grove and the totemic figures of gods and rulers found in many parts of the world. During the time of the Roman Empire, garden courts became popular as a means by which emperors or wealthy citizens could display their collections of Greek and Egyptian statues; the garden at Hadrian’s Villa (see Tivoli, §2(ii)) is a notable example. The recovery in Italy during the early Renaissance of statues and sculpted fragments from Classical ruins encouraged humanists to exhibit them in the manner of ancient times, and numerous Renaissance gardens were made in the spirit of revival. Pope Julius II’s statue court (1503) at the Vatican Belvedere, Rome, for example, displayed one of the best collections of antique sculptures (now housed within the ...



Professional organization devoted to the study of architecture worldwide. Founded in 1940 by a small group of students and teachers attending summer session at Harvard University, the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) has grown into the leading professional and scholarly organization in the world concerned with various aspects of the built environment. With a membership of around 2700, composed of architectural historians, architects, planners, preservationists, students, and other individuals interested in the subject, as well as nearly 1000 institutions worldwide, it publishes a scholarly periodical, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, whose topics range from antiquity to the present day around the world; a monthly electronic Newsletter; and a multi-volume book series of detailed guides to the architecture of the individual American states, Buildings of the United States (BUS). The Society sponsors an annual meeting, held each year in a different part of the USA or Canada, or occasionally elsewhere, where members present scholarly papers, discuss these papers and other architectural topics, explore the area via a series of tours, and learn of the award of a number of prizes for notable accomplishments in the field, as well as designation of Fellows of the Society for lifetime contributions to architectural history. These include four book awards, the Alice Davis Hitchcock, Spiro Kostof, Elisabeth Blair MacDougall, and Antoinette Forrester Downing, for architecture, the built environment, landscape architecture, and preservation, respectively; the Philip Johnson Exhibition Catalogue Award; the Founders’ Award for the best article published in the ...


Gavin Townsend


Federal Agency, founded in 1933. Chartered by the US Congress on May 18, 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established to control the flooding of the Tennessee River and to generate the enormous amounts of hydroelectric power needed nationally. To fulfill its aims, TVA constructed dams, hydroelectric plants, locks and housing throughout the Tennessee River basin, employing thousands of workers in Southern Appalachia and providing economic relief and electricity to one of the most impoverished regions of the country.

The first task was to provide housing for TVA’s construction workers in Norris, TN. Under Earle S. Draper, Director of TVA’s Division of Land Planning and Housing, TVA architects in 1934 produced a series of well-designed houses built in traditional styles and materials and arranged along winding roads in the manner of an English “garden city.” Norris included a common central green and a band of wilderness around the town. The arrangement was later used on a much larger scale (...