PHYLLIS ODESSEY

If You’re Depressed, You’re Not Working Hard Enough…

This is how James van Sweden described his Dutch upbringing.  His father was a builder; a man satisfied with his work.  He made things.  van Sweden’s take away: a desire for satisfaction with the work that you do.  He found it in landscape architecture.

How our childhoods inform the work we do has been of interest to me for years.  van Sweden recalled his walks along the railroad tracks of East Lansing and time spent at the shore of Lake Michigan as major influences on the landscapes he would later create.  These prairie-like typologies dovetailed with his university years in the Netherlands. The flat, luminous, delft landscape remained a powerful  influence on his work in the garden.  Anyone who has walked through a van Sweden garden understands his affinity for light and the unfettered in the landscape.

  
Jacob Van Ruisdael

Chicago Botanical Garden.  Photo from Oehme van Sweden Associates

The occasion for the van Sweden film was The Cultural Landscape Foundation presentation:
a celebration of
James van Sweden

Landscape Architect

The film is the fifth Oral History module produced as part of Pioneers of American Landscape Design Project, produced by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.  After the film several clients and colleagues had stories to tell.  After some DIY, Carole Rosenberg, a long-time client, who owned a house in Watermill, hired van Sweden to design her garden, her directive:  “We want a garden that looks like it has been designed by God. And James gave it to us.”


For more information about The Cultural Landscape Foundation:
www.tcif.org

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