Chatham University

Graduate Research

 

An Examination of a Few of the Walls Designed by Ralph Griswold, a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Author: Mark G. Bastaja
Date: August 2006
Institution: Master of Landscape Architecture, Chatham University
Advisors: Lisa A. Kunst Vavro, RLA, ASLA and Daniel R. Baic, P.E
Program Director: Lisa A. Kunst Vavro, RLA, ASLA


Abstract
An Examination of a Few of the Walls Designed by Ralph Griswold, a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects is a review of Ralph Esty Griswold's artistic style as a landscape architect through his use of walls and their detailing. Walls were selected due to the more defined lines and shapes they form, which makes determining design intent easier as years pass. In addition, plant material was not selected since planting plans change greatly from the original design intent only a few years after installation.

Seeds arrive from animals or the wind, new owners decide to change the plantings, plants die and numerous other changes occur. Without a planting plan available, this was often the case in Mr. Griswold's files, it would be difficult to determine if changes had occurred. With architectural features this dilemma is reduced. If changes have taken place it is usually easy to determine with a little on-site examination. Materials are often noticeably different between original and newer structures, workmanship and construction methods vary, and differential aging may have occurred, to name but a few detective techniques.

Since, Mr. Griswold began working for Albert Davis Taylor in 1923 this is the date where the documentation of Mr. Griswold's original design work begins. In late 1927 he moved to Pittsburgh as a partner with Tell Nicolet. His work is divided into an early period, middle period and late period for the purpose of this thesis. The early period was mostly residential work and very much in the Country Place Era. The middle period contains his work as Superintendent of Pittsburgh City Parks as well as residential work when he left the city in 1945. The late period is mostly historical projects he completed for the Garden Club of Virginia. It also contains his most famous design, Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh.

Mr. Griswold was trained in the Academic method best exemplified by the Ecole des Beaux Arts but also by the American Academy in Rome. Mr. Griswold was a Fellow of the Academy which he attended from 1920 to 1923. While there he received a strong background in examining the methods of the masters by analyzing their landscapes through measured drawings and then translating these measurements into models, elevations and plans. This method served him well through his career with the evidence of a strong sense of Italian organization of space.