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In 1847, for but one example, condemned him for “corrupting the public taste, and infecting the parvenues with a mania of Gothic Castle-building.” To which his advocates would say, better to have humble board-and-batten construction, in woodland colors, than stark white Grecian temples.So before I come down on the side of the churls or the defenders, let me tell you a bit about this romantic yet scientific, darkly brooding yet cheerfully companionate bundle of contradictions.
She then analyzes his design principles in detail, with particular attention to his terminology, augmented by a substantial glossary of architectural terms.
Sidebars are used to identify figures that come into the narrative, from Renaissance thinkers such as Alberti to Downing’s colleagues and contemporaries Olmsted and Ruskin.
A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America; With a View to the Improvement of Country Residences.
Comprising Historical Notices and General Principles of the Art, Directions for Laying Out Grounds and Arranging The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Vol.
Following his collection of writings by Frederick Law Olmsted, Robert Twombly has now produced a similar service for Olmsted’s distinguished predecessor Andrew Jackson Downing.
Coincidentally, Caren Yglesias has published a comprehensive analysis of Downing’s design theory and practice in her somewhat misleadingly titled book, The Complete House and Grounds.Cut off in his prime, he joined other such deified national figures — mostly martial ones like Nathan Hale or Davy Crockett.Those golden boys who die young, from Arthur Rimbaud to Buddy Holly, from Stephen Crane to Elvis, are forever young in the land of might have been, safe.Twombly has selected 33 influential essays, most from The Horticulturist, grouped them by subject, and provided them with concise introductions and annotations.In them we can see exactly how Downing encouraged the move away from orthogonal, classical design practices toward the irregular, curving, and picturesque and how he inspired similar improvements in the public realm: “we confidently wait for the time when public park, public gardens, public galleries and tasteful villages shall be among the peculiar features of our happy republic.” Yglesias, who is a practicing architect in Washington, D. as well as a Ph D in the history and theory of architecture, combines these interests in her book, beginning with a summary of Downing’s life, well-illustrated in black and white.But, when smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country, we know that order and culture are established.” But Downing was not merely an apostle of taste, an Emily Post arbiter for the masses.Architect, landscaper, pomologist, and author, he campaigned for the artful domestication of America’s wilderness in book after book, as well as in his monthly editorial in He was truly one of the most celebrated figures of the pre-Civil War period, and that he accomplished so much in the mere 36 years of his life is a marvel and a reproach to slackers like me.So it may seem churlish to say that his cottage and landscape books are derivative of two Britons, Humphry Repton and John Claudius Loudon; that his residence designs, with their obligatory verandas attached to Tuscan or Gothic or Swiss cottages, owe a great deal to Davis; that his love of chimneys and blind turrets seems, well, childish.All of these are positions that a critic might reasonably adopt, and Downing was not immune from such comment in his own day.He was only 36 when he died in a steamboat accident in 1852, but Downing is now recognized as one of the most influential tastemakers of the 19 century.He was a persuasive advocate for the picturesque both in architecture and landscape design, although he was not originally a designer himself but a journalist.