Mary Jaqueline Tyrwhitt

Mary Jaqueline Tyrwhitt (Jacky as she preferred to be known to her friends) was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on 25 May 1905, as her British father, an architect, was working there at the time. Two years later her mother brought Jacky and her infant sister back to England. The sisters spent their childhood in London but during that time they paid long visits to their grandmother and great aunts in the country, all of whom had beautiful gardens.

Jacky attended St Paul's Girls School in Hammersmith and hoped to work for a history scholarship to Oxford, but her father did not allow her to pursue that course and so instead, in 1923, she entered the Royal Horticultural School and the following year obtained her General Horticultural Diploma. She then decided to take a course at the Architectural Association School in London where she was greatly influenced by Patrick Geddes' view of town planning as organic growth responding to the needs of society rather than as a pattern to be imposed on society. After various jobs and study periods in gardening, agriculture, architecture, town planning and industry, which included a spell as parliamentary secretary to the M.P. Sir Richard Bull, she was, during the war, made Director of Research at the School of Planning and Regional Reconstruction as well as Director of Studies at the School of Planning and Research for Regional Development, positions that she held for seven years, during which time she was much involved in the reconstruction of a devastated post-war Britain.

It was in 1947 that she met the Swiss art historian Siegfried Giedion and subsequently became one of his fervent admirers, translating and editing all his major works. Subsequently her links with thinkers in the international architectural world became stronger and in 1951 she left England for Canada.

The next fourteen years were spent mainly in north America, working for the School of Graduate Studies in Toronto, for the United Nations, and then at Harvard University, all in the field of town and regional planning. It was while she was working for the UN in India in 1953–54 that she met the Greek architect and visionary, Constantine Doxiades, who became the third major influence, after Geddes and Geidion, on her thinking. Doxiades had developed a science of human settlements, which in its application aimed at achieving harmony between the inhabitants of a settlement and their physical and socio-cultural environments, to which he gave the name 'Ekistics'. In 1955 the Ekistics journal was launched with Jacky as its editor, and from then on she was much involved in Doxiades' work and began to spend most of her summers in Greece. In 1969 she retired from her professorship at Harvard and came to live permanently in Greece, on the Attic hillside known as Sparoza, near to the village of Peania. In addition to creating her garden there and giving hospitality to a constant stream of family, friends, students and colleagues from all over the world, she continued to work as an editor, teacher and consultant.

The night that she died, 21 February 1983, she was working on the final details of her gardening book.

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