Thomas Church: Remembering his Influence and Career

Damian Holmes of LAND Reader has posted this video of some of the most influential AMerican Landscape Architects of the 20th century talking of their exposure and indebtedness to one of the iconic figures of modern landscape architecture , even if his name is synonymous with the growth of urban sprawl, here in South Africa the outdoor living style that he implemented and showed consummate mastery of, perfectly complemented our climate and it’s ‘braaivleis’ ( barbecue) and swimming poll suburban culture.

Narrated by Peter Walker, Robert Royston, Lawrence Halprin, Garrett Eckbo & Unknown person from Sunset Magazine.

Wikipedia – Thomas Dolliver Church – Landscape Architect

At the time that Church started practicing, the neoclassic movement was still the design style of choice. Thomas’s education at UC-Berkeley and Harvard, along with his travels to Europe, instilled in him a sense of the classical form. However, Church is known as one who opened the door to the Modern movement in landscape architecture with what came to be known as the “California Style.”

In his book Gardens Are For People, Church outlines four principles for his design process.[1] They are:
Unity, which is the consideration of the schemes as a whole, both house and garden;
Function, which is the relation of the practical service areas to the needs of the household and the relation of the decorative areas to the desires and pleasures of those who use it
Simplicity, upon which may rest both the economic and aesthetic success of the layout
Scale, which gives us a pleasant relation of parts to one another.

Tommy Church was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Medal at the 1976 Annual Meeting in San Diego. He could not attend the meeting to receive the society’s highest honor because he was gravely ill. The following tape of images of Church’s work and recorded commentary from Church’s contemporaries including Peter Walker, Robert Royston, Lawrence Halprin, Garrett Eckbo, and Walter Guthrie, and moderated by Proctor Mellquist, the Editor of Sunset magazine, was presented at the ASLA meeting as the award was announced. This program on Church was compiled by photographer and artist Gerry Campbell of the SWA Group.

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