In recent years, the pace of research on women in landscape architecture has accelerated. Many monographs, anthologies, and scholarly books on their contributions to the field have appeared, such that we now have the beginnings of a detailed picture of the role of women in design at both the start and the conclusion of the twentieth century. But one aspect of this story is unexamined: the place of women in the emergence of modernist landscape architecture in the decades just after the Second World War. The Department of Landscape Architecture will convene a one-day colloquium in the spring semester of 2011 to address this gap in scholarship.
In 1964, when the Museum of Modern Art organized the exhibition and published the book Modern Gardens and the Landscape, it included no women, beyond a glancing reference to Gertrude Jekyll. When an expanded version of the book appeared in 1984, it still included no women. When the anthology Modern Landscape Architecture: A Critical Review appeared, it included the work of only one woman designer–of a decidedly later generation. Yet we know women were active in the formations of modernism in the decades after the War, as designers, academics, and writers, especially in the United States, Europe, and South America.
The colloquium will feature presentations by and about some of the leading women designers of the time: Cornelia Oberlander, Rosa Kliass, and Carol Johnson, among others. Leading historians of the era will provide an overview, presenting some of the professional challenges facing women in the years after the war and the various ways that women contributed to the emergence of modernism in different countries and contexts. Scholars have been invited to talk specifically about particular designers, and the designers themselves will participate in a moderated discussion.
Confirmed speakers include Thaisa Way on the role of women in post-war practice in the United States; Sonja Dumpelmann on post-war practice in Europe; Maria Cecilia Gorski on the work of Rosa Kliass in the context of Brazilian modernism; Susan Herrington on Cornelia Oberlander and modernism in North America; and Kelly Comras on Ruth Shellhorn and the Southern California commercial landscape. Cornelia Oberlander, Rosa Kliass, and Carol Johnson will also speak on their own work. This project builds on considerable GSD student interest in the topic, as exemplified by a series of interviews conducted with contemporary women in practice last year.