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REMEMBERING JAMES VAN SWEDEN (1935 – 2013)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Posted by lalh

Landscape architect and LALH advisor James van Sweden, FASLA, died September 20 at his home in Washington, D.C., at age 78.  Along with his partner, Wolfgang Oehme, co-founder of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, van Sweden designed public gardens, parks, memorials, private gardens, and campuses. Legions of landscape architects and home gardeners adopted the firm’s style, which emphasized bold use of idealized meadow plantings. Realized through dramatic stands of grasses and perennials, this approach was sometimes referred to as the New American Garden.

The Garden of Contrasts

The Garden of Contrasts at Cornerstone Sonoma in California. Designed by James van Sweden and partner Sheila Brady. Image from Oehme, van Sweden’s Blog.

Van Sweden’s influence was perhaps most sharply focused through his writing. His best-selling books included Bold, Romantic Gardens; The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design; Gardening with Nature; and Architecture in the Garden.

The Trellis Bridge at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The Trellis Bridge at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Image from Oehme, van Sweden’s Blog.

Among van Sweden’s most important built works are the Federal Reserve Gardens and the World War II Memorial (Washington, D.C.), the Gardens of the Great Basin (Chicago Botanic Garden), and the United States Embassy (Kabul).

His innovative and inspiring presence will be deeply missed by his fellow practitioners.


2 comments

  1. I am among the many that have appreciated and been influenced by the work of James Van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme. I am very sorry to hear of James Van Sweden passing. Learning to garden in DC I was an early adopter of grasses thanks to their work, the nursery of Kurt Bluemel, and the early work of Karl Forester. And now Piet Ouldolf who carries on in that tradition. I was and still am very moved by the softness and ecologic beauty of their gardens. These masters of horticultural landscapes have opened up vistas of possibility for so many designers to emulate and build on. And they have brought joy and a sense of peace to those who can spend time in their creations. I am grateful for the soft path they have opened for us to follow.

    Comment by Jeni Webber on October 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

  2. Jeni,

    Thank you for sharing your remembrances. It is good to hear from those whose lives were influenced by his. —JD

    Comment by lalh on October 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

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