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Books

Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect
An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885–1971

Robin Karson
Revised edition

Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect  Cover Image

About the Author


Robin Karson, Hon. ASLA

Robin Karson, Hon. ASLA, is the founder and executive director of LALH and the author of more than one hundred articles and several books on American landscape history, including (as coeditor) Warren H. Manning, Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner;  A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place EraFletcher Steele, Landscape ArchitectThe Muses of Gwinn, and the new introduction to the LALH revised edition of Fletcher Steele’s Design in the Little Garden. Her work has been recognized with awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Foundation for Landscape Studies, the American Horticultural Society, and the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art. In addition, she has organized several touring exhibitions for LALH on topics relating to American landscape history. In 2004, Karson was named a distinguished member of the Honor Society of Sigma Lambda Alpha for her “continued high-quality contribution to the scholarship of landscape architecture and the literature of landscape architecture history.” In 2017, she was made an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Film

Fletcher Steele & Naumkeag

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Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect
An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885–1971

Robin Karson
Revised edition

Library of American Landscape History

ISBN: 978-1-952620-05-8 Page Count: 336
Price: $35.00 | Paper Published: 11/20/2003
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For sixty years, Fletcher Steele (1885–1971) practiced landscape architecture as a fine art, designing nearly seven hundred gardens, from Boston to Detroit, from North Carolina to New Brunswick, Canada. Often brilliant, always original, Steele was among the most influential landscape architects in the first half of the twentieth century, and the first to investigate modern notions of space composition, abstract use of color, new materials, and a break from classical axial alignment. His writings on modernism influenced a generation of landscape practitioners, including Dan Kiley.

Karson’s book examines Steele’s childhood in Rochester, New York, training at Harvard, and apprenticeship with Warren Manning. Covering more than fifty of his designs, her narrative integrates stories of Steele’s travels, writings, and close client relationships with rigorous analysis of his major works. As a result of increased interest in Steele, several of his most important designs have been restored.  His gardens for Naumkeag (Stockbridge, Massachusetts) and the Camden Public Library Amphitheatre (Camden, Maine), now considered masterpieces of American landscape design, are both open to the public.

“A book to give for Christmas, or as the grandest of house presents; it’s a book to keep as well. . . . [Karson] has written a wonderful read and, in doing so, has revived an entire era in all its detail. Intelligent, theatrical, infuriating, amusing—and loveable—Steele struts off the page, giving life to his own work.”

Garden Design

“Karson has done a magnificent job in integrating carefully chosen archival drawings and pictures with contemporary photographs of many gardens. Planting plans and plant lists are offered as additional information for many of the gardens with a comprehensive list of clients. We are given simultaneously a revealing account of one of America’s greatest modern garden designers as well as an inspiring reference of garden-making as a fine art.”

Public Garden

"This is a book to be savored, to be read and re-read for enjoyment and consulted repeatedly for inspiration. The text is uncommonly readable, the descriptions of the gardens and their maker consistently perceptive and insightful. [An] exceptional volume.”

Pacific Horticulture

“Makes available to students and teachers of landscape design a wealth of material: plans, drawings, photographs, and correspondence, as well as interviews with Steele’s family, his clients and their family members, office staff and associates, and collaborators in architecture, gardening, art, and sculpture. Moreover, the text places Steele’s gardens in the context of major threads of American socioeconomic history and of the development of the young profession of landscape architecture.”

Landscape Journal
  • 2003 American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award
  • 2003 Named one of the 75 Best Garden Books by the American Horticultural Society

About the Author


Robin Karson, Hon. ASLA

Robin Karson, Hon. ASLA, is the founder and executive director of LALH and the author of more than one hundred articles and several books on American landscape history, including (as coeditor) Warren H. Manning, Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner;  A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place EraFletcher Steele, Landscape ArchitectThe Muses of Gwinn, and the new introduction to the LALH revised edition of Fletcher Steele’s Design in the Little Garden. Her work has been recognized with awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Foundation for Landscape Studies, the American Horticultural Society, and the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art. In addition, she has organized several touring exhibitions for LALH on topics relating to American landscape history. In 2004, Karson was named a distinguished member of the Honor Society of Sigma Lambda Alpha for her “continued high-quality contribution to the scholarship of landscape architecture and the literature of landscape architecture history.” In 2017, she was made an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Film

Fletcher Steele & Naumkeag

Watch Film