So Long Robert Royston

I have the home page on my computer set to the obituaries at Wikipedia, and I noticed today that landscape architect Robert Royston died. He had an interesting life and was respected as an innovator for his work and creativity. There is a book out on him called Modern Public Gardens: Robert Royston and the Suburban Park that I might try and get an interlibrary loan for. Royston was also a painter and applied this artistic skill to his landscape work.

I was once interested in going into landscape architecture as a draftsman, because I like gardening and drawing with pen and ink. I still hold that interest in parks and planning spaces. I grew up in a suburb that was the first planned community in Canada (some say North America), after World War II: Don Mills in Toronto, and I also took Urban Geography in high school because of my personal interest in architecture.

Don Mills has a series of parks and bicycle paths, all connected to the famous Edwards Gardens and meandering alongside the Don River and its tributaries and ravines. Roaming those public parks was a major delight of my childhood and teenage years, I was always there after school or on weekends and summer holidays. They gave the city vitality and individuality. My brother to this day bitterly complains about moving to Don Mills because it was like a desert with newly built houses and treeless lots, but he seems to have forgotten the incredible opportunity of exploring and hanging out in the public park system that was just down the street from us. In ten minutes, you were in a different world, with planned parks, wild ravines almost unchanged since the 19th century, picnic sites that were like going camping, and formal horticulture and architecture.

As well, I am fascinated with regular architecture and how landscape architecture fits in with it. From formal knot gardens and parterres, to the rolling man-made Georgian landscapes of England in the 18th century and their large houses and elaborate follies, to Victorian estate and kitchen gardens, to public parks and cemeteries, to bicycle paths and planned trails or conservation areas, to odd private gardens filled with sculpture and art; the whole of it is incredibly interesting.

Although he practiced in California, the work of Robert Royston probably influenced equally innovative work by eastern architects and urban planners in New Jersey, New York, and Toronto. It was all new, these suburbs and planned communities, and residential design was considered very cutting edge, very hip; these architects changed the history of cities and human culture.

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