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Harriet Pattison served as the landscape architect for the Korman project in 1971–73, and consulted with the Kormans in 2013–14 to update the landscaping. More details about her approach to the site are here.

Harriet Pattison (RLA, ASLA) was born in Chicago in 1928, the youngest of seven children. After attending the progressive Francis Parker School, she received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1951. Although architecture and landscape design fascinated her early on, she arrived at her profession gradually. Her love of theater prompted her to apply to Yale University’s School of Drama as a scene designer. Instead, she was placed in the acting program (Paul Newman was a classmate). Although she enjoyed performing, she seized an opportunity to travel abroad, where she studied historic sites, gardens, and the fine arts, spending the final year in Florence. “I adored Italy, but eventually it was time to come back,” she said.1 She stationed herself in Philadelphia to study music privately with pianist Edith Evans Braun, an instructor of theory and composition at the Curtis Institute of Music.2 

In 1958, her friend Robert Venturi brought her to a party where she met Louis Kahn. Their professional and personal relationship lasted until his death in 1974. Kahn encouraged Pattison to pursue a career in landscape architecture. She apprenticed in Dan Kiley’s office in 1963 before enrolling the following year in the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program in Design. Her teachers included Ian McHarg, Sir Peter Shepheard, and botanist Dr. John Fogg. 

In 1967, after completing her master’s degree in landscape architecture, she joined the Philadelphia firm of George E. Patton, where she remained until 1970. In 1968, she became Project Landscape Architect for Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Aided by Patton’s expertise, she “transformed the bare nine-acre site with a multi-level series of gardens, bosques, water features, approaches, vistas and courts, integrating them with the subtle order of the architecture so as to appear, in Kahn’s word, ‘inevitable.’” The Kimbell is considered one of the most successful collaborations between architecture and landscape architecture in the modern period. 

In 1970, Pattison became Kahn’s landscape consultant for residences, arts complexes, the Philadelphia Bicentennial plan, and large-scale planning commissions in Pakistan and Iran. In 1973–74 she served as Landscape Architect for Kahn’s last major commission, the F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park in New York’s East River, which Kahn described as “a room and a garden.” Pattison’s vision—the raising of the land, a tapered lawn, and converging tree allées—stages a dramatic natural progression towards Kahn’s monolithic, granite room. The work was completed in 2012.

Following Kahn’s death in 1974, Pattison opened her own office in suburban Philadelphia. Her work ranges from garden designs to historic landscape restorations to large-scale, institutional projects. As an author, Pattison contributed a chapter in Maine Forms of American ArchitectureMaine Landscapes: Design and Planning.”3 Her survey describes early settlements, Olmsted-Eliot parks and land preservation efforts, and profiled garden designers, including two particularly admired by Pattison: Beatrix Farrand and Fletcher Steele.

Pattison is currently at work on a book about her years with Louis Kahn. 

Selected Projects

Abbottsford Homes Development
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Robert Couch, Architect

Academy House Roof Garden
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Otto Reichert FAIA, Architect

Richard Brown Garden
Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania
Project L.A. for Geo.Patton FASLA

Columbia Station-Temple University Plaza
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mitchell/Giurgola, Architects

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Roosevelt Island, New York City
Louis Kahn FAIA, Architect

Geiringer Medical Center
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
The Ballinger Company, Architects

Governor’s Mansion Garden Restoration
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Peter Bohlin FAIA, Architect

Emilio and Carol Gravagno Residence
Wayne, Pennsylvania
Matthew Millan, Architect

F. Otto Haas Estate
Ambler, Pennsylvania
Peter Bohlin FAIA, Architect

Hershey Foods Corporation Headquarters
Hershey, Pennsylvania
The Ballinger Company, Architects

The Highlands Historic Restoration First Master Plan
Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania
With George Patton FASLA

Hunterdon Clinton Wellness Center
Clinton, New Jersey
The Ballinger Company, Architects

Robert Irwin Residence
Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania

The Kimbell Art Museum
Fort Worth, Texas
Project L.A. for Geo. Patton FASLA
Louis Kahn FAIA, Architect

The Steven & Toby Korman Residence
Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania
Louis Kahn FAIA, Architect

The Lily Pool Palace Theater Garden Plan
Jaipur, India

Maria de los Santos Health Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Joe Jordan FAIA, Architect

Susan Maxman. FAIA. Residence
Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania

Merryspring Nature Park Master Plan
Camden, Maine

Pennsylvania State University
Parking Facility
State College, Pennsylvania
The Ballinger Company

Philadelphia Center for Older People
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Joe Jordan FAIA, Architect

Philadelphia Zological Gardens, Picnic Grove
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Caulk and Holm, Architects

Roundtop Center for the Arts, Master Plan
Damariscotta, Maine

Richard Sheerr Residence
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Sen. Arlen & Joan Specter Residence
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ursinus College, Main Street Plan
Collegeville, Pennsylvania
Dagit Saylor, Architects
With Alice Farley

Howard & Frederica Wagman Garden
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Mrs. Patricia Walsh Residence
Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania
With Rafael Villamil, Architect

Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Estate Master Plan
North Haven, Maine

Wayne Elementary School Playground
Wayne, Pennsylvania
Project L.A. for Geo. Patton FASLA

Mrs. Walter Wolf Residence
Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania

Wyoming Seminary Campus Restoration
Kingston, Pennsylvania
Peter Bohlin FAIA, Architect

Notes:

  1. ^ Quotation and biographical details are from a July 2013 interview with Pattison.
  2. ^ Braun was friends with Mary Louise Bok and a friend/patron of composer Samuel Barber. Braun’s papers are housed at the New York Public Library, which provides more biographical information.
  3. ^ Deborah Thompson ed. 1976