Brexiteers have called for London to become a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ and one aspect of this is very attractive. Singapore has seen itself as a Garden City for many years and it agreed a landscape replacement policy in 2009. LUSH 2.0 is a policy for Landscaping Urban Spaces and Highrises. The aim is to create ‘a green and lush living and working environment’ for everyone.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) explains that ‘Through an incentive program, we replace greenery lost on the ground from development with greenery in the sky through high-rise terraces and gardens. This adds another layer of space for recreation and gathering. In Marina Bay, all developments comply with a 100 percent greenery replacement policy. The Pinnacle@Duxton, the tallest public housing development in the world, has seven 50-story buildings connected by gardens on the 26th and 50th floors. You can even jog around a track on these levels, which are also equipped with exercise stations’.
Singapore Landscape Replacement Policy
London has always thrived by attracting talent, from the UK, Europe and the World. To continue doing this it has to create a high quality environment for living and working. This involves green transport, green living, and green working. So let’s make London a lush city. Henry Steed, who appears in the above video is a member of the Landscape Institute. So is Andrew Grant, who explains his design for Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay in the below video.
Once upon a time all our ancestors were nomads. They had neither houses nor gardens. But they had a keen understanding of landscapes. They knew where to hunt, where to gather and where to hide.
The first buildings they made were tombs and temples. They needed to keep moving, to find food, so they couldn’t build settlements. But in the landscapes through which they roamed, certain places became significant. Stonehenge, in southern England is a great example. There’s evidence of the site having been in use 10,000 years ago and the first stone circle dates from 5,000 years ago. It was a a place where people gathered on ceremonial occasions, including cremations and burials.
The beliefs of the time, described as animist, centered on features in the landscape, including objects, animals and places associated with spiritual qualities and unseen powers, including hilltops, riversides, forest edges and crossings. It’s probable that these landscapes were culturally significant long before they became sites for building temples. Gobekli Tepe, a hill in the south of Turkey is ,thought to have the world’s oldest surviving temples, begun about 12,000 years ago. They are inside mounds on top of a hill. There are expansive views in every direction, to the south over what is now a rich agricultural plain. Gobekli Tepe doesn’t count as a work of architecture, because it wasn’t built for human habitation. But it is a work of landscape architecture.
The world’s oldest literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh, contains what reads as an account of landscape architectural composition. It is a story about a Mesopotamian king who lived about 4,000 years ago. Its authors invite the reader to: “Go up on the wall of Uruk and walk around. Examine its foundation. Inspect its brickwork thoroughly. Did not the Seven Sages themselves lay out its plans? One league city, one league palm gardens, one league lowlands, the open area of the Ishtar Temple, three leagues, and the open area of Uruk the wall encloses.” A league was about two and a half thousand metres.
The landscape of cities
Uruk, which may have given its name to Iraq, was one of the earliest cities. At later dates, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and North Europeans learned from West Asia how to make cities with palace gardens and temple gardens. These cities became centres for civilization. The words civilization and city derive from the Latin root civitas meaning a community which had learned how to build cities and live in cities and enjoy what we call the arts.
Cities and gardens probably developed independently in several parts of the world, as did agriculture. There were surely currents of influence but their histories are separate and I won’t try to deal with them in this podcast.
In Europe, the many arts involved in making cities, gardens and landscapes declined and fell, when the Roman Empire declined and fell. But they were revived during the Renaissance and spread to northern Europe the Americas and elsewhere. For the creation of public goods, municipal authorities took over the leadership role from princes and bishops. This fostered the development of specialised professions, including surveyors, engineers, architects and landscape architects.
The term ‘landscape architect’
The English term ‘landscape architect’ first appeared in the title of a book, published in 1828. It was then used by an English garden designer, William Andrews Nesfield, and by an American gardening author, and designer, Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing much admired John Claudius Loudon, who had used the term ‘landscape architect’ but not with its present meaning.
Frederick Law Olmsted, founder of the landscape architecture profession
Frederick Law Olmsted was the man who gave ‘landscape architect’ a fresh meaning. In the 1860s he used for the work of creating a really great public good: Central Park in New York City. The fame of this project, and of the ‘Emerald Necklace’ of parks and greenways, he planned for Boston, led to the creation of what is now a worldwide profession.
The landscape profession specialises in the planning and design of municipal public goods, including greenways, parks and other public open spaces. They’re great projects. But specialising in them led to landscape architects being thought of, primarily, as greenspace people. Even today, the Encyclopedia Britannica definition of landscape architecture opens by stating that ‘Landscape architecture’ is ‘the development and decorative planting of gardens, yards, grounds, parks, and other planned green outdoor spaces’. This is a limited and restricted view. It makes no mention of urban design, city planning, forestry, ecological planning, hydrological planning or garden design (see blog post on definitions of landscape architecture).
Geoffrey Jellicoe, founder of the International Federation of Landscape Architects IFLA
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, who founded the International Federation of Landscape Architects, in Cambridge, in 1948 had a broader view. Both a historian and an imaginative designer, Jellicoe exemplifies Winston Churchill’s belief that ‘the farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see’. Jellicoe wrote:
“The world is moving into a phase when landscape design may well be recognized as the most comprehensive of the arts. Man creates around him an environment that is a projection into nature of his abstract ideas. It is only in the present century that the collective landscape has emerged as a social necessity. We are promoting a landscape art on a scale never conceived of in history.”
Definition of landscape architecture
My own definition of the art is that ‘Landscape architects compose buildings and pavings with landform, water and vegetation to create places which satisfy the three Vitruvian objectives’.
In Classical Latin, the three objectives were utilitas, firmitas and venustas. Henry Wotton translated them into English as Commodity, Firmness and Delight.
They derive from the ancient world and have guided all the design professions since then. For their use by landscape architects, Ian Thompson has suggested the terms Ecology, Community and Delight. They are design objectives for good outdoor space. It should be useful, beautiful and sustainable.
A longer, but still short, history of landscape architecture may be found in this eBook.
Images of Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles, Humphry Repton’s before and after of Brondesbury Park, in London, and of Brondesbury Park Station
Repton, who was by far the most important landscape architecture theorist of the nineteenth century, used images (left, above) to make the case for opening the view of Brondesbury Park to the public.
Malcolm Gladwell, in a Revisionist History podcast on A good walk spoiled, makes the same point about the luxurious Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles. He says the club gets gargantuan tax breaks but provides no public goods in return. Walkers and joggers suffer from the traffic and the chain link fencing. His podcast, once you get past the ads, is powerfully argued. My only point of disagreement is with his view that golf courses are beautiful. Very few are and they most are anti-ecological.
The public at large has a claim over the architecture of a country. It is common property, inasmuch as it involves the national taste and character: and no man has a right to pass himself and his own barbarous inventions as a national taste, and to hand down to posterity, his own ignorance and disgrace, to be a satire and a libel on the knowledge and taste of his age. Against this, we have all an interest in entering our protests; and thus, for the present, ends the explosion of my architectural anger. Do, my dear Scott, put yourself in a passion for once, like Archilochus, and write some Iambics against these people.
The podcast, I’m pleased to say, has a contribution from a landscape architect.
The video refers to important stages in the development of Jellicoe’s approach landscape architecture and design theory. You could see it as a progression from Renaissance to Modern to Postmodern. Or, like me, you take the view that his approach was always postmodern: using the term in Canon Bernard Iddings Bell’s sense. One could take the same view of TS Eliot’s poetry. It was forward looking and modern while also traditional. As Winston Churchill said in 1944:’I confess myself to be a great admirer of tradition. The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward’ (often misquoted, rather well, as ‘the farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see’).
Jellicoe’s design method deserves much more attention than it receives. Following Vitruvius, he had a deep concern for functional, technical and aesthetic issues and a brilliant way of fusing them under the auspices of a design concept. Here is my interpretation of Jellicoe’s design method:
Consider the client’s needs and wants
Make the acquaintance of the genius locii
Investigate the technical opportunities
Use conscious and subconscious inputs to formulate a design concept
Produce diagrams and/or models to explain the concept
Use diligence to sort out all the details
Write a design account of the project, explaining how the Vitruvian objectives have been satisfied [I do not think Jellicoe referred to Vitruvius but he certainly balanced Commodity, Firmness and Delight in his his design approach]
born in Chelsea
gained a love of Latin literature and classical civilisation
studied at the Architectural Association
visited and studied Italian gardens
designed the Caveman Restaurant in the Cheddar Gorge, with Russell Page. The design style was Abstract Modern but the design approach Post Modern: it was context-sensitive and it told a story (about man’s evolution from the ‘miasmal mire’).
included a serpent (formed with trees) as part of his design for the Cadbury factory in Moreton
included another serpent (formed with water) in his design for the Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead New Town
Hal Moggridge is giving a lecture on his life and work, preceded by a short interview (by Ying Li). Thursday 17 October 2019 18:00 – 20:00 BST, Lecture Hall (Room: TC001), Francis Close Hall Campus, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ. Tickets from Eventbrite.
Hal Moggridge OBE PPLI VMH FIHort RIBA was principal of Colvin & Moggridge, the oldest surviving British landscape practice, from 1969, when he joined the late Brenda Colvin who founded the practice in 1922, until 1997 when he became consultant, a position he still enjoys. He was President of the Landscape Institute 1979-81 and LI delegate to IFLA 1980-90 & 2002-06. He served on the Royal Fine Art Commission 1988-99 and the National Trust Architectural Panel 1991-2009. He has illustrated the wide scope of his landscape work, countryside, industrial, historic restoration, urban parkland, etc in his book ‘SLOW GROWTH on the art of landscape architecture’
Landscape architects care about cycling for 3 main reasons:
many of us are cyclists, because we know it’s the fastest, healthiest, most sustainable and most economical transport mode ever invented
we all care about a creating good urban/rural environments, saving the planet and combating climate change
we know, as professionals, that we can make a valuable contribution to the planning and design of cyclepaths, cycleway networks and related infrastructure
For these reasons, I’ve been helping with organising the UK National Cycling Protest that will be held on Saturday 7th September 2019 in London. Mostly, I’ve been making videos for Youtube and posting on Twitter and Facebook. We’re going to ride from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Parliament Square. It would be great to have more landscape architects come along. The headline call is for investment in UK cycling infrastructure to be raised from 72p/head/year to the UN-recommended 20% of the transport budget. For the UK, this would be £112/head/year. The reasons for this being such good value for money are set out in the in the above video. With the man who made the case for Central London’s excellent cycleways (Andrew Gilligan) now the government’s transport adviser, the timing of the Protest is fortuitous. The Protest is organised by Stop Killing Cyclists in partnership with XR Extinction Rebellion.
So what skills can landscape architects contribute to cycling infrastructure? Three things.
First, a focus on the cyclist’s user experience. This is intrinsic to landscape architecture – and not to transport planning or highway engineering. We know how to assess urban landscapes and plan routes that cyclists will want to use; an understanding of desire lines is part of the landscape profession’s DNA.
Second, we know that different types of user require different types of cycleway. There are separate requirements for commuter cyclists, leisure cyclists, sport cyclists, off-road cyclists and young cyclists. One size does not fit all. Cycleways are an aspect of street design, park design, greenway design and urban design.
Third, since our first introduction to landscape architecture we have known that use must be combined with beauty. As Stephen Switzer put it, in Christopher Hussey’s translation
He that the beautiful and useful blends,
Simplicity with greatness, gains all ends.
Really good news, I hope. Andrew Gilligan is to join the Prime Minister’s team as transport adviser. Previously, Gilligan was Johnson’s cycling commissioner at the Greater London Authority GLA. His new duties must including cycling and I believe that, with timely pressure from Stop Killing cyclists (at the 2012 TfL cycling protest) Gilligan was the prime mover in the switch from Phase 1 Slippery Blue Paint Superhighways to Phase 2 Segregated Superhighways.
Let’s hope that, with more pressure from 2019 National Cycling Protest on 7th Sept, we can have a UK-wide Cycleway Network programme funded at the UN-recommended rate 20% of the transport budget. This would be 155 times higher than the present UK rate of investment in cycle infrastructure (72p/head) But at £112/head/year, would only amount to the cost of three London cappuccinos per person per week for a year.
There is a real opportunity for change and we all need to support Gilligan in his coming battles with the Department for Transport. Gilligan opposes HS2. The new Minister of Transport (Grant Shapps) owns his own plane and may not have a deep committment to funding cycle infrastructure. We need Gilligan to focus on cycling. Compared to all other mechanised transport modes it is faster, cheaper, healthier, quieter and much more sustainable. Cycling is the mass transit system of choice for the cities of the twenty-first century.
Summary of the benefits from investing £6.2bn/year in cycling infrastructure for bicycle mass transit
(1) Every town in the UK will have a safe and segregated Cycleway Network of the kind being built, far too slowly, in London
(2) The proportion of urban trips done by bike will rise from under 2% to over 40%, as it is in the cities of Denmark and Holland
(3) There will be a 20% reduction in UK emissions of greenhouse gases so that climate change will be slowed.
(4) Air quality in cities will be greatly improved, with less nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and particulates to damage your lungs
(5) People will be healthier with less obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and depression
(6) With less money being wasted on hydrocarbons, the UK balance of payments will be improved and household expenditure on transport will fall from its current £62/week
(7) Cities will be quieter, with the roar of traffic giving way to the sounds of birds, bees and breezes
Note: the UN Environment Programme advises countries to spend 20% of their transport budgets in Non Motorised Transport. For at least a decade, the best value opportunity in the UK is investment in cycle infrastructure, including cycleways, bicycle parking, home zones. For 2019-20, 20% of the UK transport budget is £6.2 billion #6Billion4Cycling .
The Benefit:Cost Ratio (BCR, aka Cost:Benefit Ratio CBR) is much more favourable for bicycle infrastructure than for road or rail infrastructure projects. A £2 return for £1 invested (2:1) is considered OK for road and rail. For cycle mass transit BCR ratios range between 5:1 and 50:1 (more research is required to collect information). My calculations (as a time-expired economist) are that for cycling infrastructure in London the direct transport benefits are about 20:1 and the health and environmental benefits are also 20:1. If correct, this offers a total Benefit:Cost Ratio of 40:1. See also: Invest 20% of the transport budget to raise the cycling mode share by 2.5%/year
Public investments in road and rail typically have a BCR of 2:1. For cycle mass transit the ratio can be 40:1.
The National Cycling Protest will take place on 7th September 2019:
12 Noon Assemble in Lincolns Inn Fields, London
1 pm Procession
2-3.30 Rally in Parliament Square
The rally will call for:
£6.2 billio/year to be invested in cycling infrastructure
Reversal of the fuel-duty cuts
Car-free villages, towns and city centres with safe neighbourhoods for kids
The aim is to ‘Copenhagenize‘ UK towns by raising the percentage of trips done by bike from its present level, of under 2%, to the Copenhagen level of over 41%. In 2019 Copenhagen, with a population of 602,000 has 250 miles of segregated cycleway. This compares with the 7.5 miles of superhighway-standard segregated cycleway in Central London. Taking London as an example, because that’s where I live, the above video presents the evidence to show that if London were to invest as much in cycle infrastructure as it invested in Crossrail 1 (£170/head/year) it would raise the cycling mode share from 2% to 41% in 8 years. This would add capacity for 3.8 billion trips/year compared with the 200 million trips/year that Crossrail is expected to carry. That’s 20 times as many trips for 2/3rds of the money with completion in 2/3rds of the time. And that’s an outstanding return on investment.
Brasilia is famous for its aesthetics – NOT for the social or ecological quality of its public open spaces
Beyond Green: Rethinking Nature in Urban Public Spaces
Is the idea of nature relevant to public open space in urban areas? Yes.
Should landscape architects be involved? Yes.
But what, why, how and where can and should nature influence the planning and design of public open space in urban areas. A good way to learn more is to attend the forthcoming CDP event in Cheltenham, organised by the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Gloucester on 12 June 2019 11:30am – 14:00pm. Book with Eventbrite.