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Thomas Church

Thomas Dolliver Church created a modern landscape design esthetic that is seen all over California.

A black and white photo of Donnell Gardens in Sonoma County, California.

Photo: Ingorrr

Among many public spaces, Church designed Donnell Gardens in Sonoma County, California. Here you see his signature kidney-shaped pool, modern lines and sculptures.

Thomas “Tommy” Dolliver Church: A Modern Landscape Architect

Twentieth Century garden designers in both England and America were educated in the Beaux Arts tradition that emphasized large formal landscapes. Thomas Church (1902-78) studied this traditional style at both Harvard and Berkley, and began to practice landscape architecture in California in 1930, where there was a developing trend that gardens should be an extension of the living space of the home.

Church used stone and concrete to define the boundaries of his outdoor rooms. He worked primarily in small, private gardens and tried to create the illusion of a greater space: he directed the eye to distant mountains, created varied levels with redwood decking and incorporated the kidney shaped swimming pool.

“The California Style”

Architecturally striking plants and colorful flowers were confined to geometric beds or containers. In 1955 he published “Gardens for People” which popularized his ideas that a garden should have no beginning and no end and should be conceptualized to be seen simultaneously from a number of viewpoints. Line and form were combined and patterns made a rhythm.

He was known for developing the style that would be known as the “California Style”. But while his style was a response to the landscape, climate and lifestyle of California, he was also an influential pioneer of modernism in landscape design internationally.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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