Maria Teresa Parpagliolo Shephard (1903–1974): Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklung der Gartenkultur in Italien im 20. Jahrhundert

Posted on January 20th, 2010 by Charles Boot

Sonja Dümpelmann, Maria Teresa Parpagliolo Shephard (1903–1974): Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklung der Gartenkultur in Italien im 20. Jahrhundert (Weimar: Verlag und Datenbank fu?r Geisteswissenschaften, 2004), 400 pp., illus. in colour and black-andwhite, €69.50 (hbk), ISBN 3897394294

Maria Shephard (née Parpagliolo) was one of the best regarded female landscape architects in Italy and Great Britain in the post-war period, and Sonja Dümpelmann, who wrote about her previously in Garden History,* has substantially expanded on her topic in a monograph that served as her PhD thesis at the University of Arts, Berlin. A well-organized dissertation takes us through the garden culture of Italy and identifies formative influences; a next section deals with the dilemma between the drive towards an international modernism and desire for nationalism in between 1930 and 1942. This latter chapter provides a thorough analysis of contemporary influences and draws some interesting connections with German and English garden design. However, it is also this chapter that might have been slightly expanded with, perhaps, the influence of Otto Valentien explored in greater depth and, also, French influences, which have been largely overlooked. Additionally, comparisons could have included the work of Tony Garnier (with the illustration on p. 121) and the formality of J. C. N. Forestier that had such an influence through his Jardins (Paris, 1920).

Marrying the English army officer Ronald Shephard in 1946, she returned with him to England and commenced work with Sylvia Crowe and, in 1949, on the Festival of Britain; and after that on a number of school grounds for the London County Council together with Frank Clark. She returned to Italy in 1954 and became involved in a number of projects, which undoubtedly constitute her most interesting work. At this stage, Shephard’s work shows a maturity that equals that of other contemporary modernist landscape architects in Europe. Parallels are drawn in the thesis with the work of Herta Hammerbacher, and her influence appears to be continuing post-war. Interestingly, many such stylistic principles, ideas and inspiration are the same as those in the work of the contemporary Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904–99), and such parallels might be the subject of further studies. Dümpelmann continues with a number of analytical chapters that explore Shephard’s contribution in greater depth. In this, she has picked some interesting projects with enlightening comparisons with the work of other designers.

This publication is an important contribution to the history of modern garden design and reveals an interesting designer, whom Peter Shepheard always noted for having died too early. Yet, it is now clear that she did accomplish some remarkable projects in Italy that are brought to our attention for the first time. They are of interest to English researchers in that connections and influences are well-analysed and thus provide a new angle and alternative context for the study of British modernism. It is also interesting to appreciate that Pietro Porcinai was not the only modernist landscape architect in Italy, and it is remarkable in hindsight that Shephard’s work was not better covered in Great Britain – despite all the close friends she had made whilst working there. The greatest shortcoming of this extensive study is that it contains no index, which inhibits quick and easy reference and makes the book cumbersome to use.

Jan Woudstra
Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield

* Sonja Dümpelmann, ‘Maria Teresa Parpagliolo Shephard (1903–74): her development as a landscape architect between tradition and modernism’, Garden History, 30 (2002), pp. 49–73.

33:2 (Winter 2005)

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