From the Grass-trees library | Cultivating Modernism by Richard Aitken

Landscape architects (and architects) love books.

Huge generalisation, but I am sure that it is pretty spot on.  My shelves at home are crammed with books on landscape design, gardening, horticulture, trees, the environment, urban design and architecture.  My wife is also a landscape architect, so we have twice the need for space!

However, I have found it quite difficult to find good resources on Australian mid-century landscape architecture.  That was until Richard Aitken released his great book, The Garden of Ideas which has virtually become the bible of Australian Modernist Landscapes.

So of course I was thrilled to see a follow-up publication last year and I am now finally getting a chance to launch into it!

Here’s a preview of the book – Cultivating Modernism: Reading the Modern Garden 1917 to 1971 from The Age in November last year.

Tracing our modernist roots | by Megan Backhouse 

“In 2010, Richard Aitken asked the ‘quite young’ editor of his just published The Garden of Ideas which chapter she liked best. The book outlined all of the key moments and stylistic movements in Australian garden-making from the 1600s (when the entire country might have been viewed as one big imaginary garden) to the present, but it was a utopian slice of the 20th century that most captured her interest.

No surprises that modernism and its emphasis on new materials, functional forms and bold aesthetics appeals more to younger audiences than, say, the lavish horticultural virtuosities of the 19th century. But Aitken, who is on a quest to widen the appeal of garden history generally, says the movement continues to be perilously ‘under-researched and under-appreciated’. So on every front he found it to be perfect material for his new book: Cultivating Modernism: Reading the Modern Garden 1917-1971, which has just been published by Miegunyah Press with the University of Melbourne Library.

While people are increasingly coming around to modernist architecture and decorative arts – a case in point is the Californian design exhibition opening at the Queensland Art Gallery today (see Plotlines) – this is the first book devoted to the influences of modernism in the Australian garden. And just as Australians were slow to incorporate modernist principles into their landscapes, so they have proven slow in appreciating the value of those modernist gardens that were ultimately established.” (Read more at Tracing our modernist roots)

This is a great book with an amazing collection of imagery that Richard has collected throughout his career and is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in all things MCM Australia!