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One of the wonderful surprises of old city directories is finding adverts in the margins and below the regular listings. This one from 1940 advertises Indianapolis Landscape architect, Alembert W. Brayton, Jr.

Not being from the world of landscape architecture, and knowing that much landscape architecture doesn’t withstand time as does regular architecture, how does one judge the longevity and success of this arena? Would love to have someone explain this…

3 responses to “Sunday Ads: Landscape Architect”

  1. Tank says:

    Two words: Olmstead and Kessler. Big ideas, not just pretty backyards…

  2. JG says:

    Well designed landscapes can withstand the test of time quite well. First of all I think you have to address the notion that Landscape Architecture just involves plant design. Landscape Architecture can also involve such things as plazas, patios, low walls, grading of the earth, water features, playgrounds, gazebos, sculpture gardens, and this list goes on. There are many things that can still be witnessed in the landscape that might have been part of the original design. It just depends on the intent. For example Jens Jensen was a famous landscape architect from the Midwest. Most of the landscapes he did were in Chicago, but he did do a design for what is now a part of Marian College. Jens was famous for his native plantings, council rings, water features, and prairies. He used structures like the council rings to draw people out into nature. The council ring and other features can still be seen is on the campus today. It is also now used as a EcoLab. Another famous landscape is Central Park in New York. This space was designed by the “father of landscape architecture”, Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, a well know Architect of the day. I think we can all agree that this space has held up very well over time and still continues to be used today.

    Just because plants mature and grow, does not mean that they lose their longevity. Quite the contrary. Landscape Architects are actually trained to look at the mature height and size of a plant as well as the size at installation. A good design will actually be even more successful as it matures. There is probably some maintenance that is required over time to make sure a space stay the same, but even a good designer will take this into account.

    Ultimately, I think the success of a landscape or outdoor space is no different than that of a building. Form or aesthetics must always take a back seat to the functionality of the site. Aesthetics will attract people to the space, but it also has to be useable. The best landscapes are used even more today than they were when they were first designed.

    Some local examples are Oldfields at the Indianapolis Museum of Art designed by Percival Gallagher (Olmstead Brothers Landscape Arch. Firm). Now used for art festivals and weddings. The Riverdale Estate by Jens Jensen on the campus of Marion College (www.marian.edu/EcoLab/About/CulturalHistory/Pages/JensJensen.aspx). It is now an EcoLab. Many features of the original design can be seen today.

  3. Malcolm Cairns says:

    I’m not so sure there’s much of a longevity difference. Prehistoric landscape architecture at the Great Serpent Mound in southern Ohio…still pretty much intact. The Gardens and Palace at Versailles have weathered the same storms. How much of the 1857 architecture of mid-town Manhattan has survived as well as Olmsted’s Central Park created in that year? The problem is sometimes landscape architecture matures to be in disguise, so while the formal design of Grant Park in Chicago (created by filling in Lake Michigan) is perfectly visible a hundred years later, Jens Jensen’s prairie style landscape at Riverdale, the James Allison estate, now the northern edge of Marian College…has, however, blended to “nature”, Jensen’s original intent. But even there, careful preservation work has uncovered long-forgotton ponds, walks, and rockwork, buried by nature, but waiting for rediscovery. Jensen’s formal garden at Riverdale, near the mansion is being loving rehabilitated by a friends of Riverdale group.
    Back to your original post….one problem with landscape architecture and landscape architects, both people and place are often more modest and low key than their building and architect counter parts. Alembert Brayton has been a fascinating mystery to look into. His portfolio from the early 20th century ranges from the Stokely Wheeler Estate and Sommers Estate on Coldspring Road (probably the rock garden at Marian C.), Parks in New Castle and Muncie (where he created the landscape setting and base for Cyrus Dallin’s famous “Appeal to the Great Spirit.”), and work with Lawrence Sheridan at the Indianapolis Parks Department….Washington Park, and Douglass Parks. Earlier in his career, Brayton worked for Carl Fisher in the initial development of Miami Beach. A prolific and prosperous designer….very little, however, has been left of his work as an archival collection …..although the places themselves still preserve his efforts. The office advertised in 1940 moved to Hillside Avenue later and branched out into a construction company as well….they paved the Clermont Speedway, I believe. The business was finally taken over by Mark Holeman, whose landscape architecture company is still on the northside in Castleton.
    The next time you drive along Fall Creek Parkway, visit Garfield or Riverside Parks (Kessler), or get lost in Irvington’s winding roads, tour the IMA grounds of Oldfields (Olmsted Bros.), sit on a bench in University Park (Kessler) downtown, or appreciate the beauty of Crown Hill Cemetery, or play golf at the Broadmoor Country Club (Donald Ross) or visit the Miller House and Garden (Dan Kiley)…..long-lived, but sometimes underappreciated and fragile historic landscapes.

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