RICHARD CLOUGH 1921-2014
Image: Max Dupain
Emeritus Professor Richard Clough, Dean of the Faculty 1985 – 1986, died after a short illness on 4 December 2014. He was 93. A gentle and generous man of diverse interests, Professor Clough combined an incisive mind with a deep understanding of his chosen profession involving the integration of landscape and architecture, eastern and western cultures. He had a deep interest in Japanese and Chinese culture, travelling to both countries frequently throughout his life.
His significant professional career was both public and private practising as an architect, landscape architect and educator. In his retirement he was passionate to develop his private interests in landscape and garden history passionately amassing in turn three impressive libraries (one gifted to the University of Canberra and the second to the then Historic Houses Trust of NSW in 2004), a personal impressive third library collection and a collection of Asian art, particularly Japanese woodcut prints.
His knowledge, experience, wisdom and ability to freely share information were valued by many of his professional colleagues, students and with a wide circle of friends from diverse backgrounds, disarmed by his distinctive manner and brilliant capacity to encapsulate the essence of an issue.
Despite his wide achievements, he was a self-effacing man deflecting praise with his engaging sense of humour. He was held in high regard and affection by all who knew him.
Born into a rural setting at Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 1921 the informal character of the Australian rural landscape was a lasting influence on him.
He studied Architecture at the University of Sydney where he showed a natural talent for drawing. As a student, while working for the NSW Department of Public Works, he designed an interpretation of the Tasman Map for the floor of the foyer of the State Library in Sydney. He produced full scale drawings of the map and worked closely with Melocco Brothers on its implementation as a major terrazzo work, in itself one of the treasures of the Mitchell Wing on Shakespeare Place.
During the third year of his degree, Japan entered the war and he was conscripted to New Guinea, serving the next two years at Milne Bay in the 475th heavy anti-aircraft unit. A fellow member of his unit, forester Harry Luke, introduced him to the science of ecology. The students were sent back to university in 1945 and Richard completed his degree in 1947, influenced in his final years by the modernism of George Molnar. As a graduate, he worked as a university tutor in architecture as well as an architect with the firm Fowell, Mansfield and Maclurcan and later Stephenson and Turner before leaving for London in 1949. He excelled in fine line work and was asked to detail the ornate gothic mouldings of St Andrew’s Cathedral doorway.
At Sydney University he became good friends of the Waterhouse family of Eryldene in Gordon and Professor E.G. Waterhouse encouraged him to study landscape architecture whilst in London. This he did at University College London in 1950 in the program headed by Peter Youngman with influential teachers (Dame) Sylvia Crowe (landscape architect) and (Lord) William Holford (town planner).
He subsequently worked for Sylvia Crowe on the landscape of Basildon New Town (1954 -1956). It was at this time that the British New Towns were proposed. Dame Sylvia Crowe under Lord Reith’s direction was pivotal in the New Town proposals, later undertaking the landscape planning and designs for Harlow and Basildon. She was aware of Richard’s talent and engaged him to work on the landscape planning and design of Basildon. Landscape design was the focus of the New Towns settings as a way to entice people to relocate and to implement the new ecological approach to landscape management. Basildon was conceived as a whole landscape in which all elements were to fit and it was this skill that Richard brought back to Australia, strongly influenced by her ecological approach to landscape design.
Returning to Australia he was employed as an architect in Sydney (1956 -1959) until he took up a position in the National Capital Development Commission, Canberra. He was the first landscape architect to be employed by the Commission and remained there until 1981, holding various positions culminating in the directorship of the Landscape and Environment Branch.
Most people would not know that he is responsible for the strong landscape character throughout Canberra because, as he pointed out, in the 1960s there was not the money to develop many of the signature buildings, so he undertook extensive land modelling and structural plantings to establish the coherent and distinguished sense of place in Canberra which continues today. His major work was the design and implementation of Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding parklands where he worked again with Dame Sylvia Crowe and Lord Holford. Because of his commitment to the 18th century English Landscape Garden aesthetic he softened the strict axial geometry of Walter Burley Griffin’s design for the lake by connecting the Carillion Tower to the land with a small isthmus, siting the Captain Cook water jet off axis, and working with the natural constraints of the underlying geological formations which did not conform to the intended geometry. He had a natural preference for informality and always aimed for a lack of stridency in landscape design compositions.
Professor Clough’s landscape planning and design works were extensive within the ACT, informed by unerring design judgement. His major works, in Canberra, include the planning, design and implementation of Lake Burley Griffin and adjoining parklands, Anzac Parade, Parkes Place extensions, the National Library of Australia forecourt, Government House grounds and extensions, Lake Ginninderra, and Scrivener, Bendora, Corin and Googong Dams. His site photographs of this era, donated to the National Library of Australia, provide a powerful record of Canberra’s most significant period of development. Richard’s responsibilities at the NCDC included the selection and siting of sculptures for the public buildings of Canberra – works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Norma Redpath, Tom Bass and others gave distinction to the modernist landscape.
As a consultant he advised on the landscape design of several school grounds and university campuses throughout Australia, including Macquarie University, the University of Sydney, Flinders University, LaTrobe University and the University of NSW. He also was involved in the design of private gardens of which the exquisite cool climate garden Nooroo in Mount Wilson NSW for the Valder family was the longest running association.
He worked with others for the formation of an Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in the late 1950s and early1960s and served as its second president (1969-1971).
In 1981 Richard was appointed Professor of Landscape Architecture, Head of School of Landscape Architecture and later Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, University of NSW, a position he held until his retirement in 1986. He served as Trustee of the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust (1984 – 1988) and as a member of the Botanic Gardens Committee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney for many years. His writings in scholarly and professional journals, book chapters and reference works documented with flair and precision the landscape development of Canberra in the NCDC years. In his retirement, research and further articles for the Australian Garden History Society provided useful references for garden history in Australia.
Professor Clough’s professional achievements were recognised by numerous fellowships and awards, notably the Australian Award in Landscape Architecture of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 1994. He maintained a strong interest in the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Program at the University of NSW, and joined the celebration of its 40th anniversary in August 2014.
He will be remembered with great affection by all his students and those who worked with him over his long productive life.
"Richard Clough succeeded Professor Peter Spooner as the second Professor of Landscape Architecture and Head of the School of Landscape Architecture at UNSW in 1981. He brought to the program immense experience in landscape design from his 22 years with the National Capital Development Commission, overseeing the largest work of landscape architecture ever undertaken in Australia – the mid-twentieth century modernist reinterpretation of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for the symbolic centre of Canberra. Professor Clough combined deep knowledge of plants, ecology and site engineering with a command of landscape space and sculptural form. His fundamental approach was cultural, informed by the eastern and western traditions of landscape design and his original research into the history of landscape architecture and garden art in Australia. In all these matters and more, he was the embodiment of wisdom communicated in his distinctive way with humour and brilliance." – Professor James Weirick
"On behalf of the Landscape Architecture Program, we honour Professor Richard Clough’s profound influence on landscape education at the University of New South Wales, following a significant career in which he shaped the landscapes of Australia’s national capital and contributed to the founding of a new professional institute of landscape architecture. We were delighted to welcome Professor Clough back to campus in August this year to celebrate the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture’s 40th anniversary—an event during which he took great pleasure in reuniting with colleagues and students from past and present. Our sincere condolences go out to this family and friends at this time." - Associate Professor Linda Corkery, Director of Discipline, Landscape Architecture