Clarke and Rapuano, Landscape Architects

April — better known as the month of showers, Frederick Law Olmsted’s birthday, and Earth Day — has also been designated National Landscape Architect month.  Aside from Olmsted, however, landscape architects continue to fly largely under the radar.  A case in point:  Clarke and Rapuano, a firm with enormous impact on New York City’s urban landscape, whose name is hardly known outside the profession.

Gilmore D. Clarke (1892-1982) and Michael Rapuano (1904-1975) began their professional partnership in Engineering and Landscape Architecture in 1934.  Their first collaboration was on the design of the Henry Hudson Parkway.

Henry Hudson Parkway, circa 1937. PR 80, Clarke and Rapuano Landscape Architecture Collection.

Encouraged by the success of their pilot project, the two went on to become one of the first multi-discipline landscape architecture firms in the country.  In association with Robert Moses,  the firm was responsible for designing many of New York’s important public spaces, including Bryant Park, the United Nations, the Conservancy Gardens in Central Park,  and the Brooklyn Heights promenade.

Bryant Park. PR80, Clarke and Rapuano Landscape Architecture Collection.


In addition to shaping most of the parks, parkways and housing projects of the Moses era, Clarke and Rapuano were also involved in designing both of New York City’s World Fairs.   Most iconically, it was Gilmore Clarke who came up with the design for the recently restored symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair — the Unisphere.

The Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair. PR80, Clarke and Rapuano Landscape Architecture Collection.


While the Unisphere has always been a popular (if not critical) success, Clarke and Rapuano were also involved with some of Moses’ more reviled highway projects,  such as the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, the Van Wyck Expressway in Queens, and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  For controversial projects, at least, anonymity has certain advantages.



  1. Charles Love says

    Hi The picture of the Unisphere was designed by Mr. Gilmore D. Clarke on a napkin in a small restaurant as I watched . He handed the napkin to me and told me to make a scale model of the design. I worked for both Mr. Rapuano and Mr. Clarke after I graduated from The School Of Industrial Art, N.Y.C. in 1956. Mr. Clarke called me Chuck and Mr. Rapauno called me Russel but it was still the best place to work and be.

    • sue says

      Dear Charles,

      I loved getting your comment . . . this kind of personal detail makes history so much more alive. Thank you for sharing your story!

      Sue Kriete
      Archivist, N-YHS

    • says

      I’ve just stumbled on this post, and wonder if Sue (or perhaps Mr. Charles Love?) know anything about Clarke, Rapuano & Holleran. We have many sites in our What’s Out There database (http://tclf.org/landscapes) which Clarke & Rapuano were involved with, but only at the New York Botanical Gardens have we found attributions to a distinct firm name including Holleran (I’m assuming Leslie). Thanks for any insights you can share (you can email me directly at courtney@tclf.org if that’s easier)

    • Robert Talboys says

      My father, Robert Talboys Sr worked at C & R for many years. I’ve fond memories of this company and the people dad called friends. Chuck Love, Victor Harris, & Ed Gaudy all came to our house in Closter, NJ for summer bar-b-ques.
      I hope Chuck Love, if he’s still with us, will read this. I’d love to hear from him.

  2. Vera says

    I worked at Clarke and Rapuano from 1982-1990 as a civil engineer, and it was a great place to work. Even though the founders were no longer around at that time, the people I did work with were of a high caliber both personally and professionally. Those co-workers who had been with the firm for many years always had lots of interesting stories to tell about Clarke and Rapuano themselves. I still keep in touch with some of them to this day. Working there, I got to be a part of some interesting projects that helped me with my career going forward. I came to Clarke and Rapuano after recently emigrating to the U.S., and I learned so much about living in NYC, the USA, and life as an American because I was lucky enough to work at this firm.

  3. Jim Sousa says

    Vera, I was a structural engineer at C & R from 1981-1985. Like you I enjoyed working there. I learned the craft of structural engineering from Don Hartog while working at C & R..

  4. Andre Martecchini says

    My father, Peter Martecchini, was a structural engineer and principal of Clarke + Rapuano for many years. He was the structural engineer who developed the tripod design for the Unisphere. He used one of my rubber balls to develop a model to demonstrate the design. I later joined the company in 1984 and remained with them until it was sold in 1991. It was a great place to work with many talented landscape architects, architects and engineers working collaboratively together.

    • Donna Willis says

      Andre, what a coincidence. Mr Rapuano was my boyfriend’s cousin. He also designed the Rose Garden in Syracuse’s Thornden Park.

  5. Janet Benton says

    My first job as a Landscape Architect was at C+R,1984-85. I came across from Scotland as a new graduate, was interviewed by Jim Coleman and Nick Annese and worked with Brad Greene, Charlie Gardiner and others on a variety of projects including the Westway, a couple of projects on Staten Island and planting schemes for the Port Authority. I remember the landscape team actually replanting the seasonal displays at the World Trade Centre that Xmas!

    It was the most educational year or so of my career, working with all the very experienced engineers, technicians and LAs who were so generous to me, sharing their knowledge. (Wish I could remember their names, I’d honestly like to thank them). Many happy memories. The collaborative model mentioned by Andre WAS excellent. It’s only since then that I’ve discovered how rare it is!


  1. […] Clarke and Rapuano then submitted a more modest plan for Marine Park that essentially preserved Gerritsen Creek’s course south of Avenue U. The yacht basin in the design below is today’s Dead Horse Bay, the Plumb Beach section of the park is kept separate by Shellbank Creek, and the artificial islands inside Gerritsen Creek resemble what  later became White Island. The plan appears more pastoral than urban, but it still required plenty of work. […]

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