Burgess Park 1943-2017 landscape architecture review

Burgess Park in Southwark, South London, was identified as a good site for a major new London Park in the 1943-4 Abercrombie County of London Plan. Sir Patrick Abercrombie, who was on the Council of the ILA (which became the Landscape Institute) had two reasons for choosing the site (1) many of the houses which then occupied the land had been damaged during the Blitz, making it an area of opportunity (2) it created one of the links in his brilliant proposal for a Londonwide web of open space.
Progress was slow in the 39 years until the lake was opened (in 1982) and the results were disappointing. This was because of the difficulty of clearing the land: the owners of the surviving houses and businesses did not want to move. Another problem was that four of the landscape architects involved died young: Simon Rendell, David Ashmore, Adrian Brunswick and Michael Norton.

Hunter Davies (famous as a biographer of the Beatles and editor of the Sunday Times Colour Supplement) wrote in 1983 that ‘no one, anywhere in the world, has ever bulldozed the urban landscape on such a scale, just to make a bit of open space’. The quality of the that ‘bit of open space’ declined in the next decade. But when Southwark Council took ownership from the GLC the park’s fortunes began to revive. The creation of Chumleigh Gardens was a great step forward.

In 2008 Boris Johnson announced a funding competition for London parks. Burgess Park won £2m. Southwark chipped in another £6m and LDA Design were commissioned to replan and redesign Burgess Park. Though not fully implemented, their work transformed a sad and neglected space into a very well-used public park. Their concept was bolder than the scheme that was built. But the key structuring principle, of two axial paths following desire lines, was adopted and must have a central role in making the park so much better used than it used to be. The planting, mounding and facilities were also greatly improved. As generous managers, Southwark Council allows cycling and BBQs. Let’s hope the Royal Parks managers follow its example.

Posted in public parks Tagged with:

Landscape Architecture ideas competition: design an island

Design an island – $10,000 to win!

ISLAND design ideas competition

There is still 4 weeks until the submission deadline: 1.59pm Eastern Time on Friday, June 2, 2017. The requirements, for an electronic submission, are: a name, a location, 500 words of text and three sheets with imperial dimensions (approx 2 No. A4 and one No. A3). The organisers are the University of Pennsylvania and the prize money is $10,000. See LA+ IMAGINATION Design Ideas Competition. There are no professional qualifications for entry. All you need is design imagination: 

Paradisiacal, utopian, dystopian, heterotopian – islands hold an especially enigmatic and beguiling place in our geographical imagination. Existing in juxtaposition to what’s around them, islands are figures of otherness and difference. Differentiated from their contexts and as much myth as reality, islands have their own rules, their own stories, their own characters, their own ecologies, their own functions, and their own forms.

Posted in landscape architecture

For want of a landscape architect London’s Garden Bridge was lost

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.

Remembering Benjamin Franklin’s version of an old proverb, I invite landscape architects to write a new version. For the penultimate line I suggest:
For want of a landscape architect a Garden Bridge was lost.
As discussed two years ago, the problem was that the Garden Bridge was in the wrong place.

  • It should have linked a pedestrian origin to a pedestrian destination
  • It should have linked a cyclist origin to a cyclist destination
  • It should not have been located in a section of the Thames with Very High Scenic Quality
  • The designer’s perspectives should not have ‘cheated’ by representing the scheme with birds-eye views. It should have been done with eye-level views from Waterloo Bridge

That said, I am sorry to see the Garden Bridge pass into the history books as a failed project. The Garden Bridge Trust and its designers showed real imagination, talent and drive. They just needed the help of an urban landscape designer.

Posted in urban design

Competition: Social Design Award 2017: Good Ideas for Green City Oases!

DER SPIEGEL is seeking entries for the 2017 Social Design Award. It is being offered for the fourth time and is very well suited to entries from landscape architects. The 2017 competition theme is: Ideas for improving life in our public green spaces. The submission requirements are answers to the following questions:


  1. What aspects of your idea fulfill the social criteria of the competition?
    (max. 1,000 characters, incl. spaces)
  2. What is it that makes your idea innovative?
    Please describe what it is that differentiates your design from similar ones that have already been implemented. (max. 1,000 characters including spaces)
  3. Which part of community life in the park or in public green spaces do you aim to improve with your idea?  Is there a specific problem that your idea is meant to solve? Or is there a particular aspect that is key to your idea? Please describe how your idea improves coexistence in parks or in green spaces and for whom. If the idea has already been implemented, please outline its impact. If it hasn’t been implemented yet, please explain which outcome you are hoping for. (max. 1,000 characters,including spaces)
  4. Is there anything else we should know about your idea? You can use this space to share details about what has motivated you personally to develop this idea, relevant anecdotes, personal statements or any other interesting details you would like to tell us about your idea. (max. 500 characters including spaces)
  5. Images. Please include 2-5 photographs of the competition entry. These can include plans, sketches of the design or photographs of the completed idea. The images should illustrate how the competition entry will look.
Posted in landscape architecture


A lecture by Robert Skidelsky on Keynes (gosh he is so sharp at the age of 79) prompts thought of eco-economics, which he mentioned as one answer to the post-2008 slump critique of mainstream economics. Maynard Keynes of course had a wider view than many mainstream economists.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_economics#/media/File:Diagram_of_natural_resource_flows.jpg

Ecological economics has quite a history. The current interest dates back to the 1980s. This led to Ecological Economics: energy, environment and society: (1990) by the Spanish economist Juan Martinez-Alier. Although one can trace some ideas back to E.F Schumacher’s Small is beautiful – a study of economics as if people mattered (1973) or beyond to the likes of the Austrian economist Karl Polanyi.

Eco-economics is characterised firstly by recognising an economic system has both an impact on the ecology and is in turn influenced by it. For example, different ways of organising production and consumption affect our natural environment in ways which differ, and similarly the response of the natural environment also differ. Secondly eco-economics uses thermodynamic theory and ideas of entropy to examine the relationships between economic and ecological activity. Key to this is the idea that natural systems cannot be monetised as a set of commodities. Rather energy flows, use of renewable and non-renewable resources and the use of the planet as a sink for waste should each be monitored separately and in physical terms. Thirdly eco-economics is used to argue that the potential costs of inaction are so severe that a democratically approved course of action should be pursued.

Eco-economics differs from environmental economics in this respects, it rejects the notion that natural capital can be substituted by human-made capital. And this argument can be extended to the notion that there is not necessarily a technological fix for all environmental problems.

Malte Faber (of Heidelburg) in his lecture How to be an Ecological Economist argues that mainstream economics lacks adequate concepts of nature, justice and time and he argues that “interest in nature, justice and time are the essential characteristics of Ecological Economics” He also argues that:
A successful politician, a wise judge, an effective manager and a good
       scientific adviser all have in common that their decisions and counsel cannot be deduced entirely          from scientific concepts. What distinguishes them is the quality termed in the German philosophic          tradition “Urteilskraft”, in English “power of judgement”, “prudence” or “practical wisdom” (i).
And as the Wikipedia article on ecological economics argues “issues of intergenerational equity, irreversibility of environmental change, uncertainty of long-term outcomes, and sustainable development guide ecological economic analysis and valuation” (ii).

The earth’s carrying capacity is a fundamental concern of eco-economics, and this was a key issue of the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth 1972. And this leads to concern for sustainable agriculture, fishers and energy production. Some economists forecast a crisis and unrest if energy growth is not contained (iii) and this is increasingly echoed in military academics and defence think tanks.

There is much in this which is of interest to landscape architects. Water to drink, air to breath, soil to produce food, biodiversity to maintain ecosystems are all of interest to us.

(i) Malte Faber. (2008). ‘How to be an ecological economist.’ Ecological Economics 66(1):1-7 https://ideas.repec.org/p/awi/wpaper/0454.html p. (accessed 15.4.2017) p.3.
(ii) Ecological Economics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_economics ((accessed 15.4.2017)
(iii) Nicholas Stern Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change HM Treasury: 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100407172811/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/stern_review_report.htm (accessed 15.4.2017)

Posted in landscape architecture Tagged with: , ,

London. There is no better place in the world than this wondrous city

City of London skyline landscape

City of London skyline landscape

In writing about London for Der Spiegel  Christoph Scheuermann starts with three problems to which the landcape architecture profession can make a contribution. The crap weather, the traffic, the noise, the obscene amounts of money, the horrific rents, the Central Line during rush hour, the greed, the indifference, the Russians in Mayfair, the French in Notting Hill, and the price of a pint has long since risen above six euros: There are, of course, a number of reasons to hate London. But then the sun peaks through the clouds for a second, the woman sitting across from you in the subway smiles and you are given a ticket for a theater premier — and all the aggravations are forgotten. In such moments, it becomes clear: There is no better place in the world than this wondrous city. Nowhere is more exciting or more polite, nowhere else gives you more, despite terror, despite Brexit and despite the constant chaos. Landscape architects can:

Scheuermann then argues that Brexit could kill the golden goose. I completely disagree. London’s destiny is to be, as it has since the renaissance, a world city as well as a European city. Like Venice, it became great because of its separateness. But it does need more and better landscape architecture.

Posted in urban design

Westminster Bridge should be pedestrianised

Westminster Bridge should be pedestrianised

Westminster Bridge should be pedestrianised

We argued in 2015 that Westminster Bridge should be pedestrianised. Following this afternoon’s tragic attack on pedestrians we repeat the call.

Posted in urban design

London cycle network planning: 18 videos and blog posts

East Central London Cycle Network

18 cycling videos made as part of a landscape architect’s survey-assessment-analysis-design for an East Central London Cycle Network

Please give Amazon-style *Ratings for: A2, A200, CS3 Cable St, CS3 Embankment, Quietway Q1, Thames Path, Sustrans NCN1, Sustrans NCN4, Sustrans NCN13.  The themes of these videos are (1) planning for London cycling has been terrible, with the exception of the post-2015 cycle superhighways (2) there is a distinction between planning for cycle commuters and planning for recreational cycling (3) the Quietway programme, like the LCN network, is a failed compromise (4) cycleway planning should be integrated with the urban landscape architecture of  roads, streets, parks and greenways (5) all London cycle routes should be subject to survey, assessment, analysis and design.

  1. Cycle planning in East Central London A cycle network for East Central London: planning, design and landscape architecture of cycling infrastructure facilities
  2. London’s best and worst cycling conditions The landscape architecture of cycling and cycle planning A snapshot of the best and worst cycle routes, lanes and paths through London’s landscape architecture.
  3. London’s busiest cycle route: the Cable Street section of CS3 The Canary Wharf to Tower Hill section of Cycle Superhighway CS3 is the busiest cycle route in the UK. It needs better planning  a design competition and a redesign
  4. London’s only super Cycle Superhighway: CS3 Embankment section London has one super Cycle Superhighway, the Embankment section of CS3. The landscape architecture is great, but air pollution and traffic noise make it a 4-star instead of a 5-star cycling route,
  5. Sustrans National Cycle Network Route 1 NCN1 on the Isle of Dogs National Cycle Network Route 1 was planned by Sustrans for leisure cycling. Review of the section of NCN1 on the Isle of Dogs. It is not suited to commuting by bike.
  6. Cycle infrastructure assessment methods Assessment methods for London cycle infrastructure: CROW, CLoS Cycling Level of Service, SCRAM, Simplified Cycle Route Assessment Method for cycleways, bike paths, bike lanes, cycle routes etc
  7. London cycle route maps and mapping Cycle mapping in London is chaotic but the OpenCycleMap, using OpenStreetMap data, is better than the cycling maps by TfL and Sustrans – and better than the cycling strategy maps in the London Borough plans
  8. Great cycling in the Royal Parks and by the River Thames The best cycle loop for a trip to see the landscape architecture of Central London goes through the Royal Parks and along the Thames between Westminster and the Tower of London
  9. Q1 Review of Quietway 1 cycle route  Quietway 1 in SE London goes from Waterloo to Greenwich. Q1 is a compromise between planning for leisure and planning for commuter cycling. It falls between two stools.
  10. Brunel Bike Bridge: Rotherhithe or Deptford? The Brunel Bike Bridge was approved by the Mayor of London in 2016. It will be a great cycle facility for East London. But if it was moved 1500m downstream, from Rotherhithe to Deptford, it would be a much more significant component of London’s cycling network
  11. Sustrans National Cycle Network Route NCN4 from Greenwich to Southwark National Cycle Network Route 4. Review of the section of NCN4 from Greenwich to Southwark. It was planned for leisure cycling trips and serves as a feeder route for some cycle commuting.
  12. National Cycle Network Route NCN13, from the Tower to Limehouse . NCN13 is the bike route from Tower Bridge to Limehouse. It should have been designed as a bike path – for cycling as well as pedestrian use.
  13. The A2 as a bus-bike lane from Blackheath into London Cycling on the A2 in London, using the Bus Bike Lane for a trip from Blackheath to the Elephant and Castle
  14. The A200 will be Cycle Superhighway CS4 instead of LCN183 The A200 is the route of LCN183 and is set to become Cycle Superhighway CS4. This video reviews its character in 2016.
  15. Thames Cycle Path from the Tower to Greenwich Less than half of the Thames Path between Tower Bridge and Greenwich is a designated route for leisure cycling.
  16. TfL Olympic Cycle Route on the Isle of Dogs  Transport for London TfL planned a cycle route on the Isle of Dogs to take cyclists to the 21012 Olympic Games. It’s a disgrace, with no segregated facilities, no cycle path and no useful cycle lane.
  17. The proposed Isle of Dogs Cycle Superhighway A cycle path of superhighway standard is proposed for the west bank of the Isle of Dogs in London. It would link the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to Canary Wharf, CS3, the City and Westminster. Approximately 97% of the land is paved and has public access. See also:
  18. Southwark Borough Council’s wicked cycling policy Southwark’s policy was to remove cycle lanes and use cyclists to slow up HGVs
Posted in cycleways, London cycle network Tagged with:

National Cycle Network Route 13 NCN13 in Wapping, Shadwell and Limehouse 

If you would like to do an assessment of NCN13, please retain your impartiality by doing the assessment before reading the post or watching the video.  List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.

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National Cycle Route NCN13 planned by Sustrans

National Cycle Route NCN13 was planned by Sustrans. It is an enjoyable ride from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf (via Wapping, London Docks and Limehouse Basin) passing attractive landscapes and architecture

National Cycle Route 13 is planned to run from London to Norwich. This video follows the section from Tower Bridge to Limehouse Basin. I like it. Though you do feel as if you’re being allowed to cycle on a route which was designed in part for cars and in part for pedestrians. A surprising 56% of it runs beside water and most of the route is segregated from motor vehicles. Scenic and environmental conditions are good – though a fair-bit of the track is cyclist-unfriendly. It goes through the area which used to be called London Docks and looking for surviving fragments is fun. This part of docklands was used for luxury goods, like tobacco. It would have been a good place for a ship museum.
The first section, beneath the Tower Hotel, is the worst section, and a reminder that the hotel has been voted London’s ugliest building. Twice. Cycling on the waterfront would be much pleasanter – but obviously can’t be done when it’s busy with pedestrians.
St Katherine’s Dock takes its name from the medieval church which was destroyed to build the dock – to a design by Thomas Telford. After it closed, in 1968, the dock became a commercial success for the first time, and set the standard for docklands redevelopment after 1981. The planners completely ignored cyclists. Retrofitting of a cycle network has taken place but there is more to do.
NCN13 goes through the old London Docks,

NCN13 goes through the old London Docks, making use of  the Ornamental Canal – a waterside greenway designed in the 1980s

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network

East Central London Cycle Network: reviews, transport planning and landscape architecture

For most of the past half-century London’s cycle transport planners have had their heads in the sand. Instead of looking for desire lines which link origins to destinations, as  other transport planners do, they have looked for underused ‘quiet’ roads and for underused space on busy roads. They don’t seem to have realised that the usual reason for roads being underused is that they go from nowhere to nowhere. Painting white bikes on the road and putting up  blue and white road signs cannot make indirect routes through housing estates popular with cyclists. Commuting by bike is not the outdoor equivalent of a session on a fitness bike in a gym. It can be a heavenly experience or a hellish experience. Too often, it is a purgatory experience. We ride in fear.  List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.
Transport planners and landscape architects should together work to create a cycle network which is functional and enjoyable. The Embankment section of East-West Superhighway 3 has both these qualities. I could spend a happy day riding back and forth between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. But it is only a good quality urban landscape because of what was there before TfL built the excellent cycle route. When combining use and beauty in a cycle route is impractical, as in Upper Thames Street, then:

  • For journeys to work, to school, to the station, to the shops and to other destinations, cyclists need routes which are as short and as safe as possible. Directness is much more important for cyclists than it is for motorists.
  • For recreational journeys, estimated to be 35% of all trips, the pleasure is as much in the travelling as in the arriving. Cyclists want to experience fine streets, gardens, forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and the other visitor attractions in which London is so rich. I guess this applies even to people whose reason for cycling IS the outdoor equivalent of an exercise machine.

The map of designated cycle routes in South East London is superficially impressive (see post on cycle mapping). But the 2014 Government data showing how much of this exists as facilities on the ground tells a very different story. It’s like bits of branch without trees. It’s not a network.
The admired Netherlands CROW manual argues for a network that connects origins with destinations. This is very good. But we also need leisure routes.

  • South of the Thames, East Central London has signposted routes which are of little use for either leisure or commuting. Quietway 1, opened in 2016 is a compromise which makes a poor stab at both objectives. The area needs a Cycle Superhighway on the A200, as is promised, and the Thames Path needs to be adapted for cycling.
  • North of the Thames, East Central London’s cycle planning is much better. CS3 is a good, fast, A to B connection and a key component in East London’s cycle infrastructure. Though it could be safer and more of a pleasure to ride. NCN13 is also good – but as a scenically attractive leisure route, planned for this purpose, by Sustrans, and largely segregated from motor vehicles.
  • The Isle of Dogs could be transformed into a cyclists paradise, instead of a tangled wire pie without wire, by completing the Cycle Superhighway on its West Bank and making a leisure cycleway on its East Bank. The Isle could have London’s first Five Star Cycling Greenway.

Planners are catching up with the fact that cyclists are now a quarter of Central London’s commuter traffic. So they now need a five-year plan for doubling this figure. Like the money homeowners spend on insulation and double glazing, investment in cycle facilities produces long-term benefits – and without the ongoing costs of fuel, health-damaging air pollution or climate change. Planning for the bicycle has to become a fundamental aspect of urban landscape planning and design.

East Central London needs a cycle route network

A network is an important aspect of a London Cycling Landscape (LCL) with full consideration for the needs of both commuter and leisure cyclists. This proposal, made in 2017, is based on the evidence from assessments of cycle routes in the area east of Central London. It shows a network which could have been made and should be an aspect of  the All London Green Grid.

My experience as a London cycle commuter

After becoming a London commuter in 1973 I read about Cycle to Work Week (now Bike Week). The hour-long walk-and-train journey seemed un-cyclable but I decided to give it a go, riding from Wimbledon to Baker Street. There were few other cyclists, the traffic was terrible and the air choked me – but I loved it. The weather was beautiful and I’ve now been cycling in London for 45 years, in wind, sun, rain, snow, fog and floods.
My first experience of a signposted cycle route was in the early 80s. I was riding along the A2, as usual, and noticed a sign to what is now London Cycle Network Route 2. So I turned off, got lost 6 times, fell off my bike and ended up at the Elephant and Castle instead of Westminster Bridge. There was no cycling infrastructure at all and the route was longer, slower and more dangerous than riding on the A2. This absurd and tokenist approach to London cycle planning continued until the first of the 2015 cycle superhighways opened some 40 years later. After using many of the routes shown on the above map I revisited them and produced a set of videos:

East Central London Cycle Network 18 videos

18 cycling videos (see Youtube LCL Playlist)  made as part of a landscape architect’s survey-analysis-design for an East Central London Cycle Network

The landscape architecture of cycleway planning and design

The video at the top of this post proposes a landscape approach to London cycleway planning and design. To make a good cycle network, engineers and landscape architects need to work together – just as engineers and architects need to work together to make good buildings.  Individual routes are important. The aim is to plan and design a cycle network which is a joy to use and which takes cyclists from origins to destinations, including leisure destinations. It’s likely that:

  • Some routes will have the primary role of taking commuters directly from A to B,
  • Other routes will have the primary role of letting cyclists experience great urban landscapes

You can see the advantages of this approach by riding the Royal Cycle Loop in Central London. Amazingly, it now has both a high quality commuter cycle route and a high-quality leisure cycle route – some parts of which have to be walked because there are so many pedestrians.

London is in urgent need of cycling  plan. It should connect origins to destinations, including leisure destinations, and the routes should be designed to get high scores on cycleway assessment methods, typically for:  Safety, Directness, Coherence, Comfort and Attractiveness. London also needs better cycle maps – which tell the truth about their qualities. Maps of backstreets daubed with white bikes and blue signs are a waste of everybody’s time and money.

Bike Bridges and Skycycle Tubes

As London moves, slowly but surely, towards becoming a Great Cycling City, more imaginative investment projects will become feasible.

  • Mayor Sadiq Khan has approved pedestrian and bicycle bridges for Nine Elms and and for Rotherhithe. This is good. But they were not planned in the context of a London cycle network plan and I believe Deptford would be a better location than Rotherhithe. It would give the bridge a  significant place in East London’s cycling landscape.
  • London’s first cycle tube could be built above London’s first railway track – the London & Greenwich Railway. The capital cost would be a fraction of providing equivalent capacity on trains and the running costs, year after year after year, would be negligible. Charmingly, and the air pushed forward by each cyclist in a one-way tube would help other cyclists going in the same direction. Oli Clark, a London landscape architect, did some great designs in 2014 and Norman Foster helped publicise them with the name Skycycle.

Cycle Route Maps

London cycle maps are better than its cycle network – but chaotic. The recommended solution is for public bodies and local councils to contribute data to the OpenStreetMap database.

planning for leisure cycling in East Central London

35% of cycle trips in London are made for leisure – so recreation should become an important objective for cycleway planning

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network