New-York Historical Society

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.

5 Comments to Clarke and Rapuano, Landscape Architects

  1. Charles Love's Gravatar Charles Love
    August 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • August 30, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      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)

  2. Vera's Gravatar Vera
    November 10, 2012 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    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's Gravatar Jim Sousa
    November 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    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..

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