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Californian Idylls: private landscapes, modernist gardens in Southern California.


By Pamela Burton and Marie Botnick. London: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002. [pounds sterling]28.95

When you learn that most of the photographs in this book are taken by Tim Street-Porter and the equally legendary Julius Shulman you know you are in for a visual treat. Shulman's are the black and white befores and Street-Porter's are the luscious colour after images of a number of current domestic landscapes in Southern California. These aren't any old domestic landscapes but designed gardens for houses by West Coast luminaries such as Neutra, Schindler, Raphael Soriano, John Lautner and Quincey Jones. There are, mostly and virtuously, plans for each garden and mercifully brief and quite lightweight descriptions. The photos are lovely--though selected for scenic rather than explanatory value. So that you are not, until you search the plans very carefully, entirely sure exactly what is being illustrated. And an examination of the plans is too often not very enlightening or is too revelatory of the paucity of landscape thinking--which, in a way, you can understand in a climate with such an abundance of lush plant material. But it's an odd book. It turns out that many, though not all, of the after landscapes just happen to be reinterpretations recently carried out by one of the author's firms, Pamela Burton & Company--and that one of them is for the family of the other author Marie Botnick. Most readers like to know under what colours a book is sailing. Here you cannot be sure and so your final sensation is of unease.

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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Lyall, Sutherland
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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