The Modern Landscapes of Ted Smyth
Landscape Modernism in the Asia-Pacific
The modern period in landscape architecture is enjoying the fascinated appreciation of scholars and historians in Europe and the Americas, and new themes, new subjects and new appraisals are appearing. This book contributes to the conversation by focusing on the work of a singular designer who spent his entire career in a province of the North Island of New Zealand. Ted Smyth practiced an assured landscape modernism without ever seeing the designs of his forebears or his contemporaries working in the UK, Europe and the United States. Designing in isolation from the mainstream of modernism, and a little after its high tide, Smyth produced a series of gardens that provoke a revaluation of the diffusionist model of influence.
The book explains and describes the evolution of Smyth’s design vocabulary and relates it to the development of tropical landscape modernism in other Asia-Pacific sites. It shows how a culture of garden modernism can be generated from within a particular locale, and highlights Smyth’s engagement with Māori design traditions in search of a specific expression of the high modern essentialism of place.
Table of Contents
Preface, 1. The Base Line, 2. The Garden File, 3. The Question of Modernism, 4. Plantspace, 5. Nonlinear Modernism, 6. Urban Genealogies
Rod Barnett is Chair of the Master of Landscape Architecture at Washington University in St Louis, USA. His research is in landscape emergence and nonlinear landscapes. He has written on historical themes developed from his work in nonlinear design, and has a particular interest in modern gardens.
Jacqueline Margetts is a Senior Lecturer in the Sam Fox School of Architecture, Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St Louis, USA, teaching design studio and the history of landscape architecture. She researches Pacific landscapes and the role plants play in the design of garden space.
This book is an account of Smyth’s work that is simultaneously expansive and intimate, providing a theoretical and historical overview grounded in the materiality and mannerisms of a uniquely modern practitioner of the art of landscape architecture. As a badly needed representative of landscape architectural practice in the Southern Hemisphere, this book has a heavy burden to bear. It does so ably. Far more than a monograph of an interesting and understudied practitioner, it provides a grounded discourse on the twinned processes of coloniality and modernity from the epistemological and geographical margins.
Brian Davis, Assistant Professor, Cornell Department of Landscape Architecture
This excellent, deeply researched, and well-illustrated account of the career and work of New Zealand regional modern garden designer Ted Smyth (1937- ) is a significant contribution to scholarship in landscape design history. The authors, whose work as landscape architects was shaped by the years that they worked for Smyth, properly place him as a major landscape innovator in both New Zealand and internationally.
Smyth’s work began in the early 1960s in Auckland, and drew on pre-existing regional spatial, horticultural and conceptual frameworks, outside the design approaches established by modernism and the West Coast American landscape work of Garrett Eckbo and others, forging a unique modernism born of the Pacific. Barnett and Margetts use Smyth’s concept of "plant spatiality" to explore Smyth’s modernist design work in New Zealand and in the Asia-Pacific, and also consider the difficulties of recent civic place-making, contributing to current debates on place in a postcolonial world.
Eric Mumford, Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis