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Mrs Sylvia Crowe

Dame Sylvia Crowe (1901–1997) was a pioneering British landscape architect and town planner, renowned for her significant contributions to the field of landscape architecture in the 20th century. Her innovative and thoughtful designs have left an indelible mark on the landscape, enriching the environments in which people live, work, and play.

Born on September 10, 1901, in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Sylvia Crowe developed a passion for nature and the outdoors at an early age. The family moved to Sussex, and after 1912 Sylvia spent much of her time on her parents' farm as ill health prevented her from attending school. She studied horticulture at Swanley Horticultural College, where she honed her skills and gained a deep understanding of plants and design principles. Crowe's academic pursuits continued at the University of Reading, where she furthered her studies in landscape architecture.

In the 1930s, Sylvia Crowe began her professional career, establishing herself as a prominent figure in the male-dominated field of landscape architecture. Her early works showcased a commitment to integrating natural elements into urban spaces, emphasizing the importance of greenery and open spaces in enhancing the quality of life for urban dwellers. She won a gold medal at Chelsea in 1937.

During World War II, Crowe played a crucial role in the war effort, using her expertise to contribute to the planning of air raid shelters and other essential infrastructure. This experience broadened her perspective on the relationship between the built environment and the well-being of its inhabitants. She served with the Polish army in France during World War 2, and entered private practice as an architect in 1945.

In the post-war years, Sylvia Crowe emerged as a leader in landscape architecture and town planning. Her notable projects include the green scapes in a number of new towns, and landscaping of the Royal Festival Hall terrace on London's South Bank and the design of the gardens at the University of Nottingham. Crowe's work was characterized by a meticulous attention to detail, a deep respect for the natural environment, and a commitment to creating spaces that fostered a sense of community. She was later the consultant for a number of landscapes surrounding utilitarian buildings such as hospitals, training colleges, research stations and reservoirs. Particularly well-known are her landscapes at Rutland Water and the Commonwealth Institute in London.

Her influential book, "The Landscape of Power" (1958), explored the relationship between power structures and the design of landscapes. Crowe's intellectual contributions extended beyond her practical projects, as she became an advocate for the integration of landscape architecture into broader urban planning initiatives.

Sylvia Crowe's dedication to her profession earned her numerous accolades and honors. In 1960, she became the first woman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Later in her career, she was appointed as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of landscape architecture.

Crowe was the first landscape consultant to the Forestry Commission from 1964. She had a profound impact on the apporach to commercial forestry, balancing commercial needs against the impact on landscape and wildlife. She received many honours for her work in the later-20th century.

Dame Sylvia Crowe continued to work actively well into her later years, leaving an enduring legacy that has influenced subsequent generations of landscape architects. She passed away on June 30, 1997, but her impact on the profession endures through the timeless beauty of her designs and the enduring principles she advocated for throughout her illustrious career.


  1. "Dame Sylvia Crowe." The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
  2. Jellicoe, Geoffrey, and Susan Jellicoe. "The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day." Thames & Hudson, 1995.
  3. Taylor, Patrick. "The Oxford Companion to the Garden." Oxford University Press, 2006.


Hadfield, Miles, Robert Harling and Leonine Highton, British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary (London: A. Zwemmer Ltd., 1980), pp. 84-86.

Moggridge, Hal, ‘Crowe, Dame Sylvia (1901–1997)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <; [accessed 31 December 2007]

National Portrait Gallery, London, Search the Collections, 'Dame Sylvia Crowe (1901-1997), Landscape architect' <; [accessed 31 December 2007]

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