Masters of Landscape Architecture- Thomas Church


A continuing entry in our Masters Series

One of the most intriguing and certainly one of the most influential California landscape architects was Thomas Church. Church represented a critical bridge from an older school of traditional landscape design to a newer more modern “California School” of landscape design. What distinguishes Church from the masses of other gifted and note worthy landscape architects was his straight forward and effective approach to design. He is an interesting designer because of his intensive work in small scale residential design, his personal relationship with and care of his clients, and his practicality and effective use of modern design form.

Unlike many other famous designers Thomas Church made a name for himself in the residential arena of landscape design. His designs and design theories at this scale are perhaps his most notable and best work. His book Gardens are for People, is especially compelling because of its basic tenet of the garden being a logical extension of the house. Church’s work and ideas are appealing because they deal with the often dismissed or under appreciated realm of residential design. It seems that in the landscape architectural field today a tremendous deal of emphasis and focus are give to larger scale landscapes; parks, urban projects, and large public places seem to at times dominate the focus of the profession, when the residential garden or landscape can be as compelling and as difficult to design as many of the other large spaces. In his residential designs he was able to articulate and create amazing and unique landscapes within a small and rather limited residential setting. A noteable classic example of this design work is the Donnell Garden in Sonoma county.

Church also had interesting relationships with his clients. A spirit of cooperation and mutual input is something Church was noted for, and something that provides a great model for all landscape architects. This ability underscores the immense importance of the designer’s relationship to the client. A designer may be the best designer in the world, but if one can’t relate and work with the client then there designs are only going to achieve limited effectiveness.

For more:
Church’s work on the Stanford Campus
Seminar on Chruch inspired garden design