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John Brookes MBE

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

Video from - John in his own words.

Just a short post here pay homage to John Brookes MBE, who died aged 84 this March. Not an obituary or career review, but my personal feelings and observations on John and his impact.

I met John on several occasions, but I couldn't claim to know him well unfortunately, except through his work and his impact on my industry. He is important to me for a number of reasons, but most as the writer of the first book I bought on Garden Design; something which is true of a great many people I know in the industry.

John was the first, or at least the most prominent, of the bridge between the great generation of the early 20th century Landscape Designers including Roberto Burle Marx, Slyvia Crowe, Thomas Church, Russell Page and Geoffrey Jellicoe and others and the modern day Garden and Landscape Designers. He brought the principles of large scale, spatially aware design into smaller spaces and his designs and approach achieved something unique among designers at the time of by being both professionally credible and a household name to those with an interest in gardens.

His contribution to the popularity, increased public understanding and appreciation of garden design in the UK should not go unrecognised or underappreciated. Without his seminal 1962 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and early books, like 'Room Outside' from 1969, who knows how long the world would have had to wait to understand the value of domestic garden design. John brought use of space and user experience to the forefront of his works. Functional, well-balanced spaces, then beautified with plant material used as physical and visual texture and blocked colour: A departure from more traditional following of classical architectural norms, symmetry and conservatism more typical of previous generations.

John's reach was an international one. Although many great names had achieved garden and landscape design fame outside of there home country, John brought his experience of gardens of the world to the UK and US markets through his public and private designs and over the years through many written works.

On a personal level, I always found John to be an engaging conversationalist and interested in the industry. He was an excellent speaker, able to talk with great experience, good humour and ever able to articulate his process - the rarest of gifts in my experience. Like his designs, his simple and paired back elegant presentations made for easy and enjoyable listening.

On one occasion, I heard John speak about his approach to garden design students and his thoughts on plant use. This hugely enjoyable talk benefited from his late and slightly flustered arrival, as he unfurled his design process and thoughts upon the audience in a managed, wonderful chaos. Even when technology failed him, first with a microphone, which lead to him to shout for a period and then from his presentation, where he described his work drawing with his fingers in the air; John was unphased and we laughed over drinks about it later.

A good man, a good designer and a good debt owed by us all for his part in progressing Garden Design around the world.


John Brookes Landscape Design including examples of John's work.

Video is from Learning With Experts website

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1 Comment

He seems a lovely man. Nice tribute Lewis through your reflections and personal experiences with John.

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