Ruth Shellhorn

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External video
“Ruth Shellhorn: Midcentury Landscape Design in Southern California”, ALH North America by Design series

Ruth Patricia Shellhorn (1909-2006) was a Los Angeles-based landscape architect of the post-war era. She is known for the development of the "Southern California Look".[1] With a focus on indoor/outdoor living, she incorporated topography and nature into urban settings to create sustainable landscapes.[2][1][3] She was the Los Angeles Times 1955's woman of the year.[4]

Her work on the Shoreline Development Study became a precedent for development along the California Coast.[5][6][1] She designed Bullock's department store,[7] the Fashion Square shopping centers at Santa Ana, Sherman Oaks, La Habra and Del Amo in Torrance.[8] In 1956 she was hired by Walt Disney to create a comprehensive pedestrian circulation system for Disneyland, establishing central landscaping elements of the park.[5][8] city and regional park designs, university, and colleges.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Aerial view of Disneyland, Anaheim, California, 1963.

Shellhorn was born on September 21, 1909 and grew up in Pasadena. Her father was a dentist and her mother volunteered at numerous civic and city beautifying organization. Her neighbor, landscape architect Florence Yoch inspired her and recommended that she become a landscape architect.[2]

After high school, Shellhorn attended the School of Landscape Architecture at Oregon Agricultural State College from 1927 to 1930. In 1930 she transferred to Cornell University, where she took engineering and architecture classes. She was the only woman in her class of six in the Department of Landscape Architecture. When she returned to Southern California in 1933, she was one the rare designers to be professionally trained which distinguished her from most male practitioners.[2]


Name City US State/


Completed Other Information Image
Bullock's[9] Pasadena California 1947 Landscape Architect
Disneyland[10] Anaheim California 1945 Designed pedestrian circulation
University of California Riverside[11] Riverside California 1956 Designed expansion of campus
Western Home Office,

Prudential Insurance Company[12]

Los Angeles California 1948 Landscape Architect


  1. ^ a b c Comras, Kelly (April 1, 2016). Ruth Shellhorn. Masters of Modern Landscape Design Series. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press; Library of American Landscape History. ISBN 978-0820349633.
  2. ^ a b c d Motika, Libby (May 18, 2016). "Shellhorn Pioneered Landscape Ideas". Palisades News. Retrieved 2 April 2018. she counted on her excellent and elite education (most practitioners had come up through apprenticeships at nurseries)
  3. ^ Kaplan, Wendy (2012). "Introduction: Living a Modern Way". Cambridge: The MIT Press. p. 33.
  4. ^ "Kelly Comras Lecture on Ruth Shellhorn". Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  5. ^ a b "Ruth Shellhorn". The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  6. ^ Dümpelmann, Sonja; Beardsley, John (April 2, 2015). Women, Modernity, and Landscape Architecture. Routledge. p. 172. ISBN 978-0415745871.
  7. ^ "Ruth Shellhorn: Midcentury Landscape Design in Southern California". Library of American Landscape History. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  8. ^ a b Noland, Claire (2006-11-12). "Ruth Shellhorn, 97; landscape architect for Bullock's, Disneyland". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  9. ^ "Macy's | Los Angeles Conservancy". Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  10. ^ "The Book of Ruth - Part 1 - Disney History Institute". Disney History Institute. 2012-12-04. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  11. ^ Ruth Shellhorn: Midcentury Landscape Design in Southern California, retrieved 2018-04-06
  12. ^ "PCAD - Prudential Insurance Company of America, Prudential Square Building, Los Angeles, CA". Retrieved 2018-04-06.