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BY JANE ROY BROWN

Carol R. Johnson, 1929–2020. Photo courtesy IBI Group, formerly Carol R. Johnson Associates.

FROM THE APRIL 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When the landscape architect Carol R. Johnson died last December, at age 91, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, tributes to her extraordinary career quickly appeared. Within days, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, which had conducted an oral history with Johnson in 2006 and included her work at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in its most recent Landslide campaign, published a remembrance detailing her long and influential career. The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Architect’s Newspaper followed shortly afterward, a mark of her pioneer stature outside the profession.

Johnson is remembered both for the breadth and scope of her practice, which encompassed many significant public landscapes including the Mystic River Reservation, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, and John Marshall Park in Washington, D.C., and for her leadership of Carol R. Johnson Associates (CRJA). At a time when women were rare in landscape architecture, Johnson built one of the largest woman-owned landscape architecture firms in the United States.

Educated at Wellesley and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Johnson founded her eponymous firm just two years after graduating. An inveterate traveler and hiker, Johnson’s approach to practice was informed by her deep understanding of the link between nature and culture, but also by a strong entrepreneurial drive, which resulted in a global portfolio of projects for her firm. Over the course of her nearly 60-year career of teaching and practice, Johnson also served on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Commission for Small Businesses and the Committee on Development Options during the Carter administration.

In 1982, Johnson was made a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In 1998, she received the ASLA Medal, “the highest honor the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) can bestow upon a landscape architect whose lifetime achievements and contributions to the profession have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of the public and the environment.” She was the first American woman to receive that honor.

In 2010, Johnson gave the interview that follows to Jane Roy Brown and looked back over her career. A year later, she would announce the acquisition of CRJA by the IBI Group. She retired in June 2016, 57 years after founding her firm in her apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (more…)

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