Stonehenge is a Neolithic (stone age) monument on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. It was built and modified over from about 3000 BCE until roughly 1500 BCE.
Many explanations for its use have been offered, among which is its use as a solar observatory. As a landscape composed of architectural stone elements and modified topography, it is a direct ancestor of today's profession of landscape architecture.
It is one of Britain's most popular tourist destinations, and is one of the landscapes that defines Britain both for Britons and in the eyes of the world.
Rievaulx Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey in North Yorkshire. Church power in the Middle Ages was firmly based in the land as both a provider of resources and as an instrument of control.
The landscape of Rievaulx Abbey, some 2,400 acres, was formed over 400 years of use and involved the extensive modification of the land together with a diversion of the River Rye to provide flat space for building. The abbey's influence on the landscape stretched much further afield, though, as it formed a hub for farming, shepherding, and mining, all of which impose their own order on the landscape.
Today the landscape requires management and maintenance as part of the nation's heritage.
Ur was one of humankind's earliest cities, located in Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of civilisation” because it is the site of the earliest cities and the first flowering of civilisation around 3500 BCE. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers made Mesopotamia's valleys fertile and perfect for supporting a more leisurely and contemplative city life.
The Ziggurat, a type of stepped pyramid, was organised in the landscape as both a religious site and the heart of city life. Today it has been partially reconstructed, though it is uncertain how well it will survive the ravages of the current war.
Skara Brae is a Neolithic (stone age) settlement in Scotland's Orkney Islands. This remarkably complete and well-preserved ancient settlement is amongst the oldest in Europe.
It is a small settlement by today's standards, consisting of ten houses sheltered together from the fierce North Sea winds. It provides an important record of how humans have inhabited the landscape since prehistoric times.
Persepolis was an early capital of the great Persian Empire on a site selected by Cyrus the Great, and added to by his descendants who included Xerxes and Darius the Great. Persepolis was a very carefully-ordered city, appearing as an idealised representation of paradise on Earth, bringing order out of Chaos.
The word 'paradise' actually means 'walled garden', and shows how the conception of the garden, the city, and the spiritual were all linked together. Gardens were not just an integral part of the city's fabric, but were part of a whole world view that could not be divided down into parts. The landscape contained as much then as it does today.
The Pyramids at Giza are part of a chain of around 100 pyramids along the banks of the Nile in Egypt. The pyramids are a particularly formal landscape, with roads intended for the funeral processions of the pharaohs aligned with the entrances to the tombs.
This landscape formed what is called a 'necropolis' or 'city of the dead', and in many ways this shadow landscape is a reflection of the way cities were built at the time as well.
The plans for the pyramids were all drawn on papyrus with tools that landscape architects and architects would recognise today, like the set square, and used geometric principles that still underlie most of today's built environment.
Like so many of the earliest landscapes, The Acropolis of Athens is both a sacred landscape and a landscape that reflects great political power, but it was also a site that incorporated entertainment (the theatre), community and, of course, beauty.
The Acropolis at Athens is, to this day, a symbol of Greek culture and learning, and exerts a powerful organising and orientating presence on the whole city landscape of Athens.
The architecture that the landscape of the Acropolis contains is of huge importance to completing the grand and ceremonial effect, and demonstrates that architecture and the landscape are deeply dependent upon each other.
Like the Acropolis at Athens, Mont St Michel in Normandy, France is the product of a perfect symbiotic relationship between landscape and architecture.
The mount rises from the surrounding mud flats and is visible from a great distance due to the flat topography of the river delta in which it is located. The tides race across the mud flats, and for most of the island's history they isolated the mount by submerging the causeway which is the only means of access by land.
This masterpiece of Gothic landscape architecture is today one of the world's greatest tourist attractions, and for good reason.
The Alhambra in Granada in southern Spain is a fortress palace that was occupied by the Moorish monarchs and was built over a period of 250 years.
The palace occupies a hilltop and the grounds step up in terraces to the alcazaba at the peak. The terraces and towers frame internal gardens of exquisite beauty with channels of water to bring cooling refreshment from the dust and summer sun.
Its commanding yet intimate presence and fine detail make it one of the world's great landscapes.
The Forbidden City was built between 1406 and 1420 by the Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhu Di. Its site is at the heart of the ancient walled city of Beijing, however, a city whose planning, along with the Forbidden City, was based upon the grid, which invites comparison to both ancient Rome and to colonial American settlement.
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. There are 980 buildings in the complex and it covers 72 hectares. Its central axis remains at the centre of modern-day Beijing. The massive Tiananmen Square, outside the gate to the Forbidden City, dates only from 1958 and was built to glorify Communist power under Mao Zedong.
The Villa d'Este is considered one of the great masterpieces of Italian Renaissance landscape architecture and architecture. It was the home of Cardinal Ippolito Il d'Este who was at the centre of church and political power, and whose mother was the formidable Lucrezia Borgia.
The massive formal gardens for the palace were designed to capitalise upon the site's dramatic topography. Great energy was expended in bringing water to the site to fill and power the many pools and fountains of the estate. The water organ, which was actually a musical fountain, and the terrace of a hundred fountains, are two of the most famous water features of any era.
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, like the Villa d'Este from the century before, was a private palace and formal garden built to express power and wealth.
In a collaboration much like the teamwork one might find in professional practice today, the architect Louis Le Vau and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together with the landscape architect André le Nôtre to design what is still possibly the most elegant landscape of Baroque France. It was the inspiration for Louis XIV's palace and château at Versailles, the gardens of which were also designed by le Nôtre.
The Gardens at Stowe at one time or another involved most of the greatest architects and landscape architects of the time through the mid-1700s. These included Charles Bridgeman, John Vanbrugh, William Kent and finally Lancelot “Capability” Brown. It was Brown's design that most decisively changed the grounds from a more formal landscape to a park in a style that became known as the English garden.
Rolling hills, a large pond and manicured woodlands were all organised with carefully placed architectural 'follies' – landscape buildings intended less to be functional and more to organise views.
In the autumn of 1666, the Great Fire of London began amidst the Mediaeval wooden buildings in the City of London. It went on to rage through most of the City, leaving precious little behind. Sir Christopher Wren was then at the beginning of what became a most illustrious career.
After the fire, the opportunity arose to create a more rational plan for the City with streets of generous proportions. Wren's plan would have fundamentally reorganised the City on broad avenues radiating out from St Paul's. His plans were never to become reality, however, partly because of the need to rebuild quickly and partly because of the difficulty of redividing the parcels of land left behind.
London would today be a very different city had Wren's plan been adopted.
Louis XIV was a monarch whose name will always be associated with pomp, grandeur, and excess, and his gardens at Versailles were the perfect expression – and also of his great earthly power.
Imposing such logic and order on the landscape was an obsession of the time. Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, which he had built by the same team that had built Vaux-le-Vicomte – in particular Andre le Notre, the great landscape architect.
The landscape at Versailles is characterised by its impressive water features, statuary, grand processional routes through the gardens, and above all a rigid geometric order that was intended to reflect a mastery of the land – a dominion over nature.
Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore in Italy is perhaps one of the greatest romantic fantasies of all time, and is utterly characteristic of the Baroque attitude toward the environment. Isola Bella was merely a rocky islet until Carlo III of the House of Borromeo began building a palazzo with gardens in the rigidly geometric style of the time.
The whole island was intended to appear as a giant ship gliding across the surface of the lake. It was much like a present day theme park – a place of fantasy that was more for parties, theatre and events than it was really a place to live. Unlike a modern theme park, though, the doors would only have been open to the very, very wealthy and influential.
Hampton Court Palace is perhaps the finest English example of a Baroque formal garden. It is a former royal palace on the river Thames in the west of London. Hampton Court began as a Tudor era palace, but was extensively rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. There is little doubt that it was in direct competition with Versailles, but London and Wise, the park's designers, though brilliant, were hard-pressed to compete with le Notre's exceptional clarity of vision.
Hampton Court is today primarily a tourist attraction and host to events. It is and was part of the whole experience of the Thames, which unfolds in a majestic and cinematic way from Hampton Court all the way to Greenwich. Landscape architects are important to maintaining this vision.
The original layout of the gardens at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire were made by Henry Wise in collaboration with Sir John Vanbrugh. The gardens were later modified by Capability Brown.
The plan is typical of Capability Brown's work, in that it incorporates rolling lawns, an enlarged water feature, and picturesque groupings of trees. The long avenue is retained from the earlier design.
The gardens at Blenheim Palace are characteristic of the English landscape style that is still the dominant mode of park design almost everywhere in the western world.
Joseph Paxton's Birkenhead Park, near Liverpool, was the first public park in Britain. It marked the beginning of the view that access to parks is fundamental to human health and happiness.
The American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, was greatly moved by the park, and it was an important influence on his design for Central Park in New York City.
The luxury of green open space that once had been reserved only for the privileged came to be seen as a right largely because of this park. Its wandering pathways spoke of leisure and relaxation rather than power and dominion. Today, perhaps, it looks pleasant but unremarkable, but in its time it was revolutionary.
Central Park is a remarkable story of vision and determination. It is a completely designed public park that, like a giant lung, helps the bustling city of New York to breathe.
Frederick Law Olmsted, its landscape architect, along with the architect Calvert Vaux, designed and built the park as a public amenity. Olmsted, in particular, fought for the park's existence and future throughout his career.
Today it is visited by millions – both New Yorkers and tourists alike, and it is the venue for concerts, sporting events, art exhibitions, and for people to meet, enjoy, and relax.