Gardens in the Modern Landscape

Gardens in the Modern Landscape

Gardens in the Modern Landscape

Gardens in the Modern Landscape


Between 1937 and 1938, garden designer Christopher Tunnard published a series of articles in the British Architectural Review that rejected the prevailing English landscape style. Inspired by the principles of Modernist art and Japanese aesthetics, Tunnard called for a "new technique" in garden design that emphasized an integration of form and purpose. "The functional garden avoids the extremes both of the sentimental expressionism of the wild garden and the intellectual classicism of the 'formal' garden," he wrote; "it embodies rather a spirit of rationalism and through an aesthetic and practical ordering of its units provides a friendly and hospitable milieu for rest and recreation."

Tunnard's magazine pieces were republished in book form as Gardens in the Modern Landscape in 1938, and a revised second edition was issued a decade later. Taken together, these articles constituted a manifesto for the modern garden, its influence evident in the work of such figures as Lawrence Halprin, Philip Johnson, and Edward Larrabee Barnes.

Long out of print, the book is here reissued in a facsimile of the 1948 edition, accompanied by a contextualizing foreword by John Dixon Hunt. Gardens in the Modern Landscape heralded a sea change in the evolution of twentieth-century design, and it also anticipated questions of urban sprawl, historic preservation, and the dynamic between the natural and built environments. Available once more to students, practitioners, and connoisseurs, it stands as a historical document and an invitation to continued innovative thought about landscape architecture.


Gardens in the Modern Landscape, first published as a book in 1938 and again ten years later, is an important moment in discussions and promotions of modern gardens and landscape architecture. A foreword for this reprint requires two things: to situate the text, for those who come to it for the first time and even for those who know it (since Tunnard’s writing emerges from a whole cluster of interrelated concerns); and, second, to assess how it survives today, both as a historical document and as an invitation to continue thinking about landscape architecture.

What is reprinted here is the second edition of 1948 (to which page references are given, unless otherwise stated). The changes made to the first are, in fact, modest. The wording of the text itself remains almost the same in both editions, though the typeface is smaller and the images are now located in slightly different places on the page (so anyone citing pagination in these editions needs to specify which is being used). What gets altered textually in the second are mainly the substitution of a new and expanded “Foreword,” the addition of a section on “Modern American Gardens” and, to conclude, an essay on “The Modern Garden” by Jospeh Hudnut, Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, originally published in the Bulletin of the Garden Club of America. Tunnard’s original section on “The Oriental Aesthetics” is now merged with the section on “Asymmetrical Garden Planning” (and the subsection heading deleted), he expands the footnote on “Sharawadgi” and inserts a new opening paragraph at the start of “A Solution for Today” (p. 143).

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