Architecture and landscape architecture have, down through the ages, gone hand in hand. How close this association has been, has not generally been well understood in America or, if understood, not well remembered. But the careful student of the history of architecture is cognizant of this age-old association of two important phases of the human shelter problem, and can point with assurance to the splendid cooperation between architecture and landscape development in such lands as ancient Egypt, Japan, China, and India. To come closer to our own time, thought, and feeling, he can recall the landscape development of the atria of the Greek, Roman, or Pompeiian house and the splendid planning of both the Roman metropolitan and provincial fora in relation to the public buildings which surrounded them. He can remember the lovely courtyards of Saracenic Persia and the colorful patios and terraced gardens of Spain or North Africa, the magnificent landscape setting of the villas and palaces of Renaissance Italy, and the woodland entourage of the chateaux of France and the manor houses of old England.
In the old days, apparently, it was not too much to expect the architect to be also the landscape architect, and for ages these two arts were practiced by the same artist, as indeed were often also the arts of painting and sculpture. With our era of high specialization and the consequent segregation of related arts into what often proves to be almost water-tight compartments, a sad lack of sympathy and understanding has often arisen between the practitioners of these arts and this, in turn, has all too often wrought a serious divergence between the arts themselves.
1 Adapted from "Modern Tendencies in Architecture and Their Influence upon Landscape Architecture" (an address before the Annual Convention of Illinois Garden Clubs, March 19, 1930).
In America, it appears to me, this hiatus is more pronounced than elsewhere. This is due, no doubt, to our peculiar educative and economic system which provides more and more for specialized preparation and segregated practice as time goes on, or it may come about from the peculiar American habit of doing just as we please, regardless of others.
While in some quarters there is a fine growing collaborative spirit between the architect and the landscape architect, it is all too seldom that anything that may be called a real collaboration takes place. Here is usually what happens. The client calls in the architect and commissions him to design the structure. This the architect does, to the best of his ability, and often succeeding in admirable fashion. When the structure is complete, the landscape architect is called in "to plant the grounds," as the client says, and as anyone may guess, often has a difficult task at harmonizing and making less obvious and objectionable mistakes that the architect, due to his lack of knowledge of landscape procedure, often makes in developing a site.
I hope we shall soon come to the time when the landscape architect will be called in at the same time that the architect is called, and that the problems of how best to develop the property, both architecturally and from a landscape standpoint, will be studied concurrently. Certainly the architect, as well as the landscape architect, would profit by such a collaboration, and best of all, the client would come nearer getting what he is paying for.
Often a tract is capable of several architectural treatments, but susceptible of but one best landscape solution. Could the architect know this solution, both through his own eyes and through those of his landscape collaborator, how much more adequate and beautiful his own architectural solution might be.
On the other hand, I have found all too often a tendency upon the part of the landscape architect to feel that his mission was to obliterate as completely as possible the work of the architect, and the true function of a landscape setting lost sight of. We see upon all hands really fine architectural essays marred by indiscriminate planting of unsuitable material that can do little but discredit both the architect and the gardener. Cooperation should be the keynote of all such matters, and cooperation early enough in the undertaking that it will actually accomplish the one best solution.
The exposure to the sun, to prevailing winds, and winter storms is an important consideration, both in the selection of a site and afterwards in the utilization of it. While tastes vary with respect to the matter of orientation, it is perhaps a good rule to remember that one should avoid an arrangement that permits storms to beat at the exits, front or rear. In summer one wants cooling breezes, but in winter he hopes to avoid them. Often view or outlook is the making of a site otherwise quite uninteresting, and outlook has operated always to enhance the value of property.
Topography, the "lay of the land," largely determines the beauty of a site and holds its possibilities for development by means of landscaping effect. Moreover the more extreme types of topography actually dictate the style of house, its lines and form. Historically this consideration, like that of climate, has had a marked effect upon the development of architectural form. The architectures of two lands as far different in spirit as are those of Egypt and Switzerland may be cited to prove this contention.
Since a structure must always "belong" to the site, a study of the lines of the house, in relation to these aspects of the site, is important. One can do in a hilly situation that which a plain will not gracefully permit and vice versa. Sloping contours beget similar architectural contours; broad, horizontal terrains foretoken horizontal lines. Roof lines, by their direction, may tie a house to its site, while planting affords a natural and graceful transition between the vertical house walls and the more or less horizontal plane of the ground.
Natural objects, like outcropping stones, fine old trees, a genial knoll or a winding stream we may add to a picture that is already rich with suggestion. But any site, no matter how fine, can, and often is, ruined by injudicious development, the wrong placing of the house, the selection of a house type that does not emphasize or fulfill the splendid suggestion offered by the setting. In a sense, the site is to the house as the mounting is to the diamond, except that in the case of the house we have the mounting first. The task, then, is to select the gem (architectural) that will best enhance the site. Then the site must be sufficiently modified by the landscape architect to bring harmony out of the combination of natural and man-made forms. These are essentially the central problems involved in developing any site.
Once the type of plan adapted to the site is determined, and the landscape development is predicted, one may proceed to the actual house plan, always keeping in mind the purely architectural considerations which so materially influence the success of the house.