THE MODERN LANDSCAPES OF TED SMYTH

By Rod Barnett and Jacqueline Margetts

The primary aim of this book is to describe and explain, for lay readers, gardeners, landscape architects and garden designers, as well as for students, the work of New Zealand landscape architect Ted Smyth. The text is roughly chronological in structure, but within this ‘arrow of time’ approach, we have made room for links to broader rhythms - local, regional and international – that pulse in and out of the main story we wish to tell. At the same time, therefore, that Smyth’s evolution as a designer is explored, the narrative opens up to cultural, environmental, and urbanistic developments in the latter part of the 20th century. This is the period when his distinctive design language was formed and articulated, and his authority as a designer became apparent. It is also the period when the profession of landscape architecture ‘returned’ to prominence, and questions began to be asked about its relations with promiscuous ideas about the nature of the modern, of the regional, and art. We treat Smyth’s work as a lens through which to refract some of these light beams that have shone so penetratingly on landscape practices. The idea of the modern is central to our discussion - it is an effulgence whose source is obscured by its own light and which sometimes outshines other rays. We argue that Smyth is a modernist; however, we query what modernism is in landscape architecture.