1927 - 2007

Esmée Cromie Bellalta

A native of London, England, Bellalta, née Cromie, immigrated to the United States to study at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, becoming one of the earliest female graduates of the landscape architecture program in 1952. The same year, she married Chilean architect Jaime Bellalta and moved with him to Chile, beginning her teaching career at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She was among the first female architects to practice in South America, and her work includes the competition-winning design for the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Santiago de Chile in collaboration with her husband. Their strategy for the building's relationship with a dramatically sloping site guided the growth of the monastery for decades and their celebrated exploration of indirect light in the landscape and the buildings influenced later buildings on the campus. She also designed streets, ecclesiastic gardens, school grounds, and gardens which were characterized for their social and ecological richness.

Following the Chilean coup d’état in 1973, the couple returned to the United States and joined the faculty of Notre Dame University in 1976. Bellalta taught at Notre Dame and as a visiting professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Ball State University, and Universidad de Chile until her retirement in 1995, continuing to focus on the study of landscape as ecological environment. Her activism led her to serve as co-director, starting in 1972, of the Institute for Research and Development of Holistic Design Ecology in Evanston, Illinois. In later life, she volunteered with the Justice Education Program at Saint Mary’s College. Bellalta died in Indiana in 2007 at age 79, leaving behind her husband Jaime and their 10 children.