Charles A. Platt
“The first steps of one interested in the formal style of landscape architecture should be directed to Italy.” So wrote the great American designer Charles Platt in his introduction to his book, Italian Gardens, first published in 1894. Platt's words proved influential.
Devoted solely to the topic of the Italian villa landscape, the handsomely illustrated volume quickly found an eager readership among American architects, landscape designers, and their clients. As the first publication in English on the topic, Italian Gardens appealed to a public increasingly intrigued by the question of what the new American garden might look like.
Platt's book also turned a national spotlight on his own fledgling architectural career, transforming him into one of the most sought-after designers in the country. Perhaps no volume in the history of American landscape architecture has had so far-reaching an effect.
The book offered far more than just specific design motifs to gardeners and architects. Elegant photographs painted a picture of a celebratory indoor/outdoor lifestyle. The text indirectly prescribed a specific relationship between the residential landscape and architecture. Platt saw the genius in the Italian concept of a garden as a series of rooms, or apartments, “where one,” he reported, “might walk about and find a place suitable to the hour of the day and feeling of the moment, and still be in that sacred portion of the globe dedicated to one's self.” American designers took Platt's observations and images to heart, and made extensive use of them.-Print ed.