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K-State Today

January 17, 2018

The New American Garden – The Landscape Architecture of the Oehme van Sweden

Submitted by Thom Jackson


The College of Architecture, Planning & Design is hosting an exhibit "The New American Garden – The Landscape Architecture of the Oehme, van Sweden" in the newly constructed Cassias Gallery in Regnier Hall. The exhibition is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday until Feb. 16.

As part of the exhibition, Eric Groft, principal, Oehme, van Sweden and Associates Inc., or OvS, will present a talk about the exhibit at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Regnier Forum in Regnier Hall. Groft has more than 25 years of experience in residential, commercial and institutional work. He is widely recognized as an industry leader in environmental/wetland restoration, and shoreline stabilization/revetment. He frequently lectures on these topics and the work of OvS. The exhibition and the lecture are both free and open to the public.

The exhibit is named for Wolfgang Oehme, 1930-2011, and James van Sweden, 1935-2013, who revolutionized landscape architecture with their "New American Garden" design style, which featured great profusions of grasses, bulbs and perennials in sweeps of texture, form and color that had year-round appeal.

This traveling photographic exhibition debuted at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17, 2015, and was the largest monographic exhibition in the museum's history. It includes 52 contemporary and newly commissioned photographs of important residential, civic and commercial projects. The exhibition's creation was timed to the 25th anniversary of the influential 1990 book Bold Romantic Gardens, which the two business partners wrote with Susan Rademacher, former executive director of the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy Inc., and currently the park's curator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and chronicled 21 projects that introduced the world to their horticulturally exuberant designs.

The exhibition is divided into four sections:

  1. Significant early projects in Bold Romantic Gardens, including the Rosenberg residence, the Slifka Beach House in Sagaponack, New York and the Vollmer Garden Baltimore, Maryland.
  2. Residential Gardens, showing projects in Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere.
  3. Civic and Commercial Gardens, including the Federal Reserve Board Garden, the national World War II Memorial, Chicago Botanic Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, Americana Manhasset in Manhasset, New York, and others.
  4. Legacy and Stewardship, focused on landscape architecture's innate ephemerality — nine of the 21 gardens in Bold Romantic Gardens are lost — and challenges to extant projects, notably Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., for which Oehme, van Sweden & Associates did the planting plan, and which could be demolished to make way for a national World War I Memorial.

In many of the projects illustrated in the exhibition, Oehme and van Sweden worked with other practitioners, including the three principals of the successor firm, Oehme, van Sweden — Sheila Brady, Lisa Delplace and Eric Groft — who continue their legacy.

"The work of Oehme and van Sweden had an enormous impact on the built environment in Washington and around the nation," said Chase W. Rynd, Hon. ASLA, executive director of the National Building Museum. "Our partnership with The Cultural Landscape Foundation allows the public to appreciate their accomplishments anew through incredible new photography and other media."

For more information on this exhibit please contact the landscape architecture and regional & community planning department at 785-532-5961.

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