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Fletcher Steele (1885-1971)

Image of Fletcher Steele

Fletcher Steele - a Landscape Designer, was born in Rochester, New York. He was called as a father of modern landscape design. He was one of the most recent influential landscape architects. After attending Williams College, he entered the new program in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University in 1907. Steele synthesised modern and traditional elements in landscape architecture.

After studying landscape architecture at Harvard, Steele travelled in Europe and became the first American garden designer to take in contemporary painting, Art Deco and Modernism. In 1908, Warren Manning persuaded Steele to leave Harvard and come work for him at his Boston office. From there on, Steele made a career that would make him one of the most prolific and successful designers of the 20th Century.

Fletcher Steele dealt with design for suburban residential gardens. Fletcher Steele was especially well known for his criticism of the ubiquitous front lawn in American home landscapes and was a proponent of creating privacy in the garden. Steele influenced on American garden design. During his career he designed almost 700 gardens, some of which are still in existence, which are now seen as works of art. One of his most famous landscapes, is Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Steele's contributions

  • Steele dealt with design for suburban residential gardens in his first book Design for the Small Garden, as well as in several subsequent books.
  • In 1922 he wrote an essay on French Gardens and Their Racial Characteristics in which he reviewed, critically, the work of the Vera brothers (Andri and Paul) who admired cubism.
  • In 1930 Steele wrote with enthusiasm of Andri Vira, Tony Garnier and Gabriel Guevrekian.
  • The Gardens made by Fletcher Steele appealed to general public, gardening enthusiasts, professionals and students interested in Steele's contribution to the field of landscape architecture.

A book written by Robin Karson on Fletcher Steele, as Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker's Life 1885-1971, a book got an award, given by American Horticultural Society, as one of the 75 Great American Garden Books, which contains steele's own photos.

Remarks on Steele

Steel's influenced the young designers who passed through Harvard in the 1930s: Kiley, Eckbo and Rose. Steele proved to them the importance of creative design and the potential of modern art.

  • Eckbo remarked Steel was the transitional figure between the old guard and the moderns. He intereste me because he was an experimenter.
  • Kiley says Steele was the only good designer working during the twenties and thirties, also the only one who was really interested in new things.

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