James Rose, landscape
theorist, author, and practitioner Along with Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley,
James C. Rose was one of the leaders of the modern movement in American
landscape architecture. Rose was only five years old when his father died
and, with his mother and older sister, moved to New York City from rural
Pennsylvania. He never graduated from high school (because he refused
to take music and mechanical drafting) but nevertheless managed to enroll
in architecture courses at Cornell University. A few years later he transferred,
as a special student, to Harvard University to study landscape architecture.
He was soon expelled from Harvard in 1937 for refusing to design landscapes
in the Beaux Arts manner. The design experiments for which he was expelled
served as a basis for a series of provocative articles expounding modernism
in landscape design, published in 1938 and 1939 in Pencil Points magazine
(now Progressive Architecture). Subsequently Rose authored many other
articles, including a series with Eckbo and Kiley, as well as four books
which advance both the theory and practice of landscape architecture in
the twentieth century. See Bibliography for an annotated list of published
work. Rose was employed briefly in New York City in 1941 as a landscape
architect by Tuttle, Seelye, Place and Raymond where he worked on the
design of a staging area to house thirty thousand men at Camp Kilmer,
New Jersey. For a short time, Rose had a sizeable practice of his own
in New York City, but he quickly decided that large-scale public and corporate
work would impose too many restrictions on his creative freedom, and devoted
most of his post WWII career to the design of private gardens.
Fusion of indoor
and outdoor space
In 1953 he began building one of his most significant designs, the Rose
residence in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Rose conceived of the design while
stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 1943. He made the first model from scraps
found in construction battalion headquarters. After construction, the
design was published in the December 1954 issue of Progressive Architecture,
juxtaposed to the design for a traditional Japanese house built in the
garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the article cites
Rose's design for its spatial discipline. The design clearly expresses
Rose's idea of fusion between indoor and outdoor space as well as his
notion that modern environmental design must be flexible to allow for
changes in the environment, as well as in the lives of its users.
Practice based on improvisation
From 1953 until his death, Rose based an active professional practice
in his home. Like Thomas Church and many others, Rose practiced a form
of design/build because it gave him control over the finished work and
allowed him to spontaneously improvise with the sites of his gardens.
As a result of this, most of Rose's work is concentrated near his home
in northern New Jersey and New York, although significant examples also
exist in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, California, and abroad.
of a landscape research and design study center
James C. Rose was one of the most colorful figures in twentieth century
landscape design. While skeptical of most institutions, during his lifetime
he served as guest lecturer and visiting critic at numerous landscape
architecture and architecture schools. Before he died he set in motion
an idea which had been in his mind for forty years; the establishment
if a landscape research and design study center; and created a foundation
to support the transformation of his Ridgewood residence for this purpose.
To learn about the center's activites, see Activities and Programs. Rose
died in his home in 1991 of cancer.