Landscape architecture is the art and science of planning, design, and management of both human-made and natural outdoor environments. It has strong ties to horticulture, recreation, architecture, civil engineering, urban planning, natural resources, social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Licensure in the profession is required in all Great Plains states and provinces except Colorado, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Landscape architecture focuses on the development of landscapes, though significant emphasis in the profession also occurs in the preservation and management of recreational and historical resources. These factors tend to associate landscape architecture in the Great Plains with larger cities and with notable national, state, provincial, and local parks.
Landscape architecture developed in three overlapping phases in the Great Plains. The first period, from about 1860 to 1920, coincided with initial European American settlement and involved landscape architects from outside the region. During the second phase, from about 1920 to 1970, Plains landscape architects were often associated with multidisciplinary architecture and engineering firms. More recently, a third phase has been characterized by work done by landscape architects trained in programs in the Great Plains.
Early projects in the Great Plains were designed by consultants from eastern cities. In the late nineteenth century, for example, the extensive parks and boulevard system in Omaha was planned by H. W. S. Cleveland from his Chicago office. During this early period, landscape architects were also often involved with the beautification of parks developed by railroad companies, planning graveyards in the "rural cemetery" style, and designing gardens for wealthy patrons. Later, during the Great Depression, the Work Projects Administration hired landscape architects to plan state and municipal parks in the Great Plains. Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, for example, are enhanced with good site design by landscape architects. The International Peace Garden, straddling the forty-ninth parallel between Canada and the United States, is a particularly special achievement, featuring gardens of hardy plants in a severe climate. It was designed by Henry Moore.
Landscape architects have been integral in improving waterfront areas in Plains cities. Combining resource conservation and public recreation goals, landscape architects designed the Red River Corridor and Winnipeg River Walk in Manitoba, the Westcan Center in Regina, Saskatoon, river walks in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, the River Front in Wichita, Kansas, and the South Platte River Restoration in Denver, Colorado.
The work of Ernst Herminghaus, who designed the Nebraska State Capitol grounds and Pioneers Park in Lincoln, Nebraska, Gerald Kessler, engineer and landscape architect with the Kansas City, Missouri, Parks Commission who planned that city's parks and boulevard system, and the firm of Hare and Hare, which coordinated with architect J. C. Nichols to create the plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, all deserve special mention. Hare and Hare was the first significant Great Plains landscape architecture firm, and its projects can be found throughout the region, including plans for Kansas City parks, the University of Nebraska campus, the Villa Philbrook in Tulsa, and the Civic Center, capitol sites, and park system in Oklahoma City.
The first Great Plains university program in landscape architecture was founded in 1924 at what is now Kansas State University in Manhattan. This remained the only Plains program until the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg initiated one in 1969. Subsequently, Texas Tech in Lubbock (1970), the University of Colorado–Denver (1981), Colorado State University in Fort Collins (1982), Oklahoma State University in Stillwater (1983), North Dakota State University in Fargo (1991), and the University of Oklahoma in Norman (1995) have developed accredited programs. Landscape architecture in the Great Plains is now homegrown.
See also IMAGES AND ICONS: International Peace Garden.
Richard K. Sutton University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lee, Janice, David Boutros, Charlotte R. White, and Dean Wolfenbarger, eds. A Legacy of Design: An Historical Survey of the Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Boulevard System, 1893–1940. Kansas City MO: Kansas City Center for Design Research, 1995.
Tishler, William, ed. Midwestern Landscape Architecture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.