Brenda Colvin was a landscape architect and writer active in the 20th century. She is noted especially for the many gardens she created, both private and institutional, and for her written works on the subject of designed landscapes.
Colvin was born on 8 June 1897 in Simla, India where her father, Sir Elliot Graham Colvin had become Resident in Kashmir (1902) and later agent to the governor-general in Rajputana (1905-17).
Colvin's education began following her arrival in England, and during a period living with a family friend at Hampton Court, in London.
In 1919 Colvin attended Swanley Horticultural College in Kent, England to study gardening and market work, but it was during the first year of her course that she met Madelaine Agar, and became interested in her work. For two years Colvin was a pupil and foreman in Miss Agar's office. Around 1922 Brenda Colvin founded her own practice which became the central focus for the rest of her working life.
By 1939 Colvin had advised on over three hundred gardens, and it is believed a further three hundred were designed by the time she reached fifty in 1947. Her belief that the landscape at large was more beneficial than a garden itself, led to a series of commissions of urban and industrial landscapes. One notable example can be found in the landscape surrounding the new University of East Anglia, England where she created a natural setting for the students.
In 1951 she was elected president of the Institute of Landscape Architects, and was the first woman to be a president within the environmental engineering professions. She was appointed CBE in 1973. Brenda Colvin died on 27 January 1981, at her home, Little Peacocks, Filkins, west Oxfordshire, England.
Her notable publications included Trees for Town and Country (1947), and Land and Landscape (1948) a seminal work within land-based professionals.
Moggridge, Hal, ‘Colvin, Brenda (1897-1981)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/... > [ accessed 21 November 2008]