Sylvia Gibson was a landscape gardener, a writer, and a teacher.
Sylvia Gibson was born in Gothenburg in 1919. She grew up outside of Sweden, mainly in Great Britain and in Belgium. She trained as a landscape gardener and like several other Swedish women she studied at the Horticultural College for Women in Swanley, Kent from 1936-1939. She had already worked at a private garden in Sweden before she began her studies. After gaining the General Horticultural Certificate in 1939 Sylvia Gibson worked in Belgium. She then undertook more practical work in Sweden, including at Magnus Johnson’s Plantskola and office in Stockholm. She did further training in the horticulture department of the Alnarp institute (now Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, SLU) (agricultural university of Sweden). She graduated in 1947, and then worked at Sven A. Hermelin’s and Inger Wedborn’s office from 1947-1954. Her projects from that period included the Svedmyra pensioners’ home in Stockholm, company flats for Norrbotten railway, and Villa Meiton in Djursholm, the Studentstad (student village) in Uppsala, and several parts of the residential area of Hässelby. One of Sylvia Gibson’s first independent commissions from the early 1950s was the garden at Villa Ranängen in Djursholm, designed by Léonie Geisendorf.
Sylvia Gibson ran her own agency in Stockholm from 1955-1966, sometimes employing several landscape gardeners and mappers. One of her agency commissions was to create outdoor areas at mental health facilities, including Frösö hospital at Frösön, Vipeholm in Lund, Mellringe in Örebro, Sundby hospital, and Salberga in Sala. The most common commissions involved ground planning in residential areas and during the little more than 10 years that Sylvia Gibson ran her agency she and her colleagues worked on about 30 residential areas, including in Växjö, Jönköping, Arboga, Örebro, Kungsör, Västervik, and Sundbyberg, Stockholm. One of her biggest projects was that for the single-family homes area in Västerås (Nordanby gärde, Brandthovda, Östra Malmaberg, Talltorp, and Viksäng). This was mainly for the Aroseken housing foundation, during 1958-1966.
These commissions, which came as a result of the expansive housing policy of the era, involved both general and detailed elements: planning the street layout, common park areas with seating and other facilities, townhouse garden areas, playgrounds, nurseries, and so on. Her commissioners included Hyresgästarnas sparkasse- och byggnadsförening (HSB), municipal companies, and local foundations. Further to these residential areas Sylvia Gibson was also tasked with projects involving private gardens and oil refineries and other similar heavy industries. Between the years of 1966 and 1974 she was engaged by the park authorities in Gothenburg, including aspects such as traffic routes and landscape analysis for development, as well as residential areas such as Gårdsten. In tandem with these works as a creative landscape gardener, Sylvia Gibson also taught at Kungliga konsthögskolans arkitektutbildning (architecture programme at the royal college of art) in Stockholm from 1967-1972. From around 1970 onwards she also taught at Chalmers technical college in Gothenburg.
Syliva Gibson was professionally active in the landscape gardeners’ union matters and in training quality issues, as shown by her board memberships, international connections, and enquiry involvement. She was on the board for Föreningen för Dendrologi och Parkvård (dendrology and park maintenance association), Sveriges Hortonomförbund (Swedish horticultural association), and Föreningen Svenska trädgårdsarkitekter (Swedish landscape gardeners’ association). She also made major contributions by being the Swedish representative to the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) from 1954-1966, and also as a member of IFLA’s training committee and charter committee, as well as being a delegate at most of the IFLA’s conferences across the world.
Sylvia Gibson’s written output is comprehensive and reflects her interest in international affairs. She mainly published in publications which were directed towards professional landscape gardeners such as Havekunst and Landskab, as well as IFLA publications. She also presented her own projects, often providing comprehensive representations of the projects. She even wrote pieces such as Hem i Sverige aimed at the general public which ranged from how to create a nice space for the car in the garden to how to benefit small birds, or which summer flowers to choose for planting. Sylvia Gibson also took on comprehensive editorial work for the annual publication Lustgården, and for the Nordic journals Havekunst and Landskab. Along with Madeleine Hönig she was joint-editor of Trädgården som hobby, which was first published in 1953 and then released in three further editions.
One can follow societal developments during the 1950s and 1960s through Sylvia Gibson’s creative projects and written output, with the arrival of large-scale hospital environments, increased housing projects, and a major expansion in traffic routes.
Sylvia Gibson died in 1974. She is buried at the Östra cemetery in Gothenburg.