Women in Landscape Architecture

 · 
March 8, 2024
 · 
2 min read
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In honor of International Women's Day, I want to acknowledge women's contributions to the Landscape Architecture industry.

"Women have literally shaped the American landscape and continue to today, but their names and contributions are largely unknown."

This statement, made by Charles A. Birnbaum, president and chief executive of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, is very true. If you ask someone in the industry, names like Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park), Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1790s English gardener and Landscape Architect), and Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central Park) come to mind. But rarely is a woman designer named.

So, today, I would like to give a shoutout to one designer (out of many) who helped shape the environment we live in today: Ruth Shellhorn. Ruth created the private gardens of many Hollywood moguls and worked directly with Walt Disney on his park in the 1950s, at a time when it was considered a man's job. Unfortunately, she did not receive recognition or credit for her work at the park. But if you ever get the chance to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, California, you will see many remnants of her work throughout the park.

Ruth Shellhorn with Walt Disney in July 1955. Credit... Arthur Shellhorn, via Ruth Shellhorn Papers/Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

As the profession has morphed into what it is today, I can say that the contribution made by women in the industry is to be admired. I credit a female adjunct professor with my understanding of grading, slopes, and horizontal and vertical road alignment.

Source:
Mohn, Tanya. “The Little-Known Women behind Some Well-Known Landscapes.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Oct. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/arts/design/landscape-architecture-women.html.

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