Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto is a garden historian and critic. Her scholarly research rests on three principal lines of inquiry: poiesis, historiography, and reception, with a focus on early modern gardens and productive landscapes on both sides of the Atlantic.
She is the author of Medici Gardens: From Making to Design (University of Pennsylvania Press), for which she received the Society of Architectural Historians’ Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award in 2010. In the book she questions the origin of a design process that is often taken for granted and casts doubt on the existence of the Italian garden as a timeless type, an issue on which she continued to work and that led to further publications.
Fabiani Giannetto’s work on historiography, and in particular her realization that the Italian garden type is largely a modern construct, has prompted her to ask the question of how such static definition of the Italian garden has influenced studies of its legacy outside of Italy. This led her to broaden her sphere of inquiry to North America in her edited volume, Foreign Trends in American Gardens: A History of Exchange, Adaptation, and Reception (University of Virginia Press) and in her most recent manuscript, Georgic Grounds and Gardens from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic World: Villa, Country House, Plantation, which examines the role of England in the transmission of villa culture between early modern Veneto and colonial America.
The interdisciplinary perspective of Fabiani Giannetto’s research extends the value and significance of landscape history beyond the boundaries of the professional environment that usually forms its audience. By striving to create continuity between the present and the past—an endeavor she has undertaken as a landscape historian teaching within professional schools—her work offers an example of how research in the humanities is not an end in itself because it may offer tools to reflect on several contemporary socio-political, environmental and economic issues. By addressing Palladio’s productive gardens and those of his English and American heirs in the context of the economic, social and religious climate in which they were created, her most recent book manuscript shows that landscape architecture is not only about the aesthetic of forms, but it is also an expression of the spirit of the times in which it occurs and a mirror of the society that engages in it. Drawing from a wide variety of primary sources, her research underscores the contemporary relevance of the latter.
Georgic Grounds and Gardens indeed inspired Fabiani Giannetto’s new anthology, The Culture of Cultivation: Recovering the Roots of Landscape Architecture (Routledge). The projects discussed in the volume restore to landscape architecture a continuity with its history and a useful attention toward georgic practices that are not only at the heart of the profession, but that were also at the center of garden making as a perfunctory activity, as her earlier work on Medici Gardens showed.
Fabiani Giannetto’s research has been supported by two fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks, the University Research Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, the American Philosophical Society, the Mellon Foundation and, most recently, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship awarded by the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has served as member of the editorial board of the journal Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. She has lectured in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, England, and the United States.
Think like a Historian, Imagine like a Designer: A Conversation on Landscape History and Design Education
Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto and Edward Eigen, Panelists
January 24, 2021