Landscape Institute LI UK – History, Future and 100th Anniversary in 2029

Transcript of video.

What is the purpose of the Landscape Institute?

An institute is “an organisational body created for a certain purpose”. So, for the Landscape Institute, what is that purpose? My preferred answer comes from our best known and longest serving president: Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe. On the cover of his book on The Landscape of Man he wrote that: ‘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.‘ It’s an inspiring proclamation – and I love it. But to whom, does the “we” refer, in the phrase “We are promoting a landscape art”? It could be Geoffrey and Susan, but I don’t think so: he was 74 when the book appeared and, though he had no wish to retire, he wasn’t planning a promotional tour. So I think we can take it that the ‘we’ on the book jacket referred to the landscape profession and that the Jellicoes were contributing to its promotion by outlining the history of the art of designing “landscapes” for human use and enjoyment. Jellicoe was president of the Institute for ten years and could have secured a change in its original constitution if he had thought it necessary. So I think we can take it that he was as happy as we should be with Clause 2 of the ILA’s original Constitution (see Wikipedia on Landscape Institute). It states that: ‘The Institute shall be formed to promote the study and general advancement of the Art of Landscape Architecture in all its branches’ (the word ‘branches’ was well chosen!)

Jellicoe founded the International Federation of Landscape Architects in 1948, and its Mission Statement begins with the words ‘IFLA will promote the landscape architecture profession”. Jellicoe was never happy with the profession’s name and with IFLA having done so much to win acceptance for the term ’landscape architecture’ this raises an issue: should the profession continue using this term – or does it need a new name? I’ll conclude this video by recommending a solution which might have satisfied Jellicoe.

Landscape Institute UK logos (as assembled by Google)

Origin of the term landscape architecture

The famous American landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, is often described as ‘the father of landscape architecture’. But this, is wrong. He was the father of the landscape profession but he was born about 30,000 years too late, by Jellicoe’s reckoning, to be the father of the art of designing landscapes for human use and enjoyment. Jellicoe begins his history of landscape art with the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, in southern France, begun 30,000 years ago.
When a student, in 1969, I was taught that Olmsted had also invented the English term ‘landscape architect’. This too, is wrong. It was introduced by Gilbert Laing Meason about 30 years before Olmsted began using it. Meason was born in the Orkney Islands and used the term in the title of a book about ‘The Landscape architecture of the great painters of Italy’. Meason’s interest was in the aesthetic relationship between buildings and their contexts.
There’s also a possibility that Olmsted got the title ‘landscape architect’ from Jean-Marie Morel’s use of architecte paysagiste, but I’m doubtful about this. My view is that the term ‘landscape architect’ probably reached Olmsted from Meason, via John Claudius Loudon, Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux.
Vaux, who persuaded Olmsted to use the term ‘landscape architect’, was brought to America by Downing to help with the design of villas, and gardens. Downing was a great admirer of Loudon and must have known the Principles for Designing Villas in Book III of Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Cottage Farm and Villa Architecture. Loudon wrote that:
The Principal Defect of English Villas is in the want of a sufficient union between the house and the grounds ; or, in other words, of cooperation between the Architect and the landscape-gardener in fixing on situations, and in laying them out, ” Our parks may be beautiful,” Laing Meason observes, “our mansions faultless in design; but nothing is more rare than to see the two properly connected…. Two classes of circumstances require to be taken into consideration… The permanent considerations include climate, elevation, surface, aspect, soil, water, and the sea;” the temporary considerations “are chiefly its locality, present state, prospective improvement, and the personal peculiarities of the intended possessor. “
As set out in another video, Loudon also worked on urban planning. So, if Meason had not left for Italy and if Loudon had not devoted himself to the Arboretum Britannicum, which ruined him financially, this text could have grown into the Meason-Loudon Principles of Landscape Architecture and I wish they had.

Frederick Law Olmsted’s use of the term landscape architect

Inspired by the English Landscape Gardens of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Olmsted used the term ‘landscape architecture’ to describe an approach to designing URBAN park systems, cities and gardens in relation to architecture. His design style included what, in the nineteenth century, were called ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ elements. The ‘formal’ elements related to architecture and the ‘informal’ elements to natural scenery. Jellicoe was thinking on these lines when he wrote about the ‘projection into nature’ of ‘abstract ideas’.
The fame of Olmsted’s great projects in New York and Boston, including Central Park and the Emerald necklace, spread to Europe, and in the UK, as in America, influenced the development of the Town and Country Planning profession.
Patrick Geddes, Thomas Mawson, Thomas Adams and others argued for Olmsted-type open space planning and for the formation of a new professional institute in the UK. Mawson published a paper in 1911, which supported these ideas. Its title was ‘The Position and Prospects for Landscape Architecture in England’ and he wrote that: ‘The proposal for the formation of a Society of Landscape Architects for Great Britain, which has been much discussed in private circles lately has now been publicaly mooted in an article by Mr. Abercrombie’ . Patrick Abercrombie favoured the name ‘town planning’ for the new body. Mawson thought it better to use the American terminology and explained that ‘I would draw a clear distinction be­tween garden design, whether called” Garden Architecture” or” Land­scape Gardening,” and Landscape Architecture as practised in America. The first relates, for the most part, to the creation of those private gardens of which Englishmen have every reason to be proud; while the latter, though it certainly includes the design of gardens, is more concerned with works of a public nature, including, as Mr. Adams says, the planning of cities”.

Criticism of the term ‘landscape architect’

Mawson was however troubled that in Britain, ‘the term “Landscape Architecture,”… suggests to most people either unwarranted interference with Nature or a childish attempt to introduce her grandeurs into our towns by little patches of futile gardening.’ Olmsted and Jellicoe were also troubled by the term ‘landscape architect’. Olmsted wrote that ‘”I am all the time bothered with the miserable nomenclature” of landscape architecture. “Landscape is not a good word, Architecture is not; the combination is not – Gardening is worse”. Jellicoe declared that “The landscape architect, who was first called a landscape gardener, is still surely wrongly named.” Not to be left out, the London Times declared in 1948 that ‘The term “landscape architecture” is perhaps not altogether apt. It suggests classical temples and triumphal arches, nobly laid out and “improved” by landscape gardeners in the tradition of William Kent, Capability Brown or Humphry Repton.’ Not to be outdone, I wrote, in 1997, that if misconstrued, the term ‘landscape architecture’ is ‘as tyrannical as it is sacrilegious as it is preposterous’.
So what should we do?

Foundation of the UK Landscape Institute UK

In 1914, with Thomas Adams as first president, and with T Mawson and P Geddes as founder members, a new professional institute was established. Mawson had lost the argument so, instead of it being called the Institute, or Society, of Landscape Architects, a much newer term was selected. It became the Town Planning Institute and is now the Royal Town Planning Institute. Mawson became its president in 1923 and the Institute helped promote the art of Civic Design, on which, in 1911, Mawson had written a lavishly illustrated book. My guess is that Mawson and Adams were disappointed by the Town Planning Institute’s relative neglect of the art of planning parks, gardens, streets and other open spaces.
In 1927 Mawson had written, in an autobiography called The life & work of an English landscape architect, that ‘if I were asked which of my dreams I would like to see realised I would unhesitatingly place the school of landscape architecture first’ adding that ‘it ought to be located at either Oxford or Cambridge’, because they had botanic gardens.
In 1929, the garden designer, Stanley Hart, convened a meeting, in a tent at the Chelsea Flower Show, which decided to create a Society of Garden Designers. Then, in 1930 (according to Brenda Colvin) Thomas Adams persuaded the founders to change its name to the Institute of Landscape Architects and Thomas Mawson, ailing with Parkinson’s disease, was invited to become its first President.
Mawson saw the market for designing country house gardens as being in terminal design and thought the new body should focus on public projects as well as private gardens. The work of its members was promoted in a glossy magazine edited by Richard Sudell and called Landscape and Garden – and in the Institute’s first decade most of the work was private gardens. By the end of the 1930s, under Thomas Adams’ presidency, the ILA began to shift its centre of gravity from private gardens to public projects.
The outbreak of the second world war in 1939 accelerated this trend. Geoffrey Jellicoe, who had also been lucky not to be called up in 1918, at the age of 18, managed to keep the young institute alive while most of its members went to join the war effort.

Promoting and expanding the scope of landscape architecture

Jellicoe visited America in 1942, sent by the British government, and, greatly impressed by the wide range of work being done by members of the ASLA, the American Society of Landscape Architects, sought to emulate their achievement. This broadened the focus of the ILA to take on the range of projects with which the landscape profession is now involved. Jellicoe did this in several ways

  1.  by writing articles for what he and Susan re-launched as the Journal of the Institute of Landscape Architects
  2.  by publishing policy documents on future areas of work, such as roads, forestry and new towns
  3.  by inviting well-known designers and other famous people to join the Council of the Institute
  4.  by holding meetings with secretaries of state, civil servants and other public figures

In later life Jellicoe recalled a meeting at which he had been telling a cabinet minister about the many good things members of the ILA could do for society at large. Then, travelling in a taxi back to his office in Gower Street, he realised that one hand would pretty well suffice to count the number of British landscape architects then available to do the work.
The success of Jellicoe’s meetings with ministers left him convinced that the Institute should have an office near the Houses of Parliament. The ILA left his 12 Gower Street office and, after several moves, settled in 12 Carlton House Terrace. It was a great location overlooking two of the most important landscape design projects in Britain (for St James’s Park and for the ‘Processional Route’ which runs via Regent’s Street to Regent’s Park). Their designer, John Nash didn’t call himself a landscape architect but, with help from the Reptons, did design landscapes.
In the 1970s Jellicoe was saddened when the ILA moved its HQ to a less central location. So was I. It would have been better if the Institute had moved its ‘back office’ to a peripheral location and kept its ‘front office’ in St James’s . This principle was supported by the Reform Group, which was formed after the LI’s 2009 financial crisis, and was set out in its response to the LI President’s consultation on Future Visions for the Landscape Institute.
One of Jellicoe’s last acts as president, in 1948, had been to found IFLA, the International Federation of Landscape Architects, and it is entirely right that its highest honour is called The Jellicoe Prize. With 77 of the world’s 195 countries now having IFLA member associations, the future of the term ‘landscape architecture’ is secure but also in need of more clarity.
In 1949, Thomas Sharp took over as President of the ILA, four years after being President of the Town Planning Institute. Sharp loved what he called the ‘townscape’ of historic towns, just as he loved English villages and the man-made landscapes in which they were set.
Sylvia Crowe and Brenda Colvin, who became presidents of the ILA in their turn, were great friends with the Jellicoes and did much to take his vision forward with the books they wrote, including Land and Landscape, The Landscape of Power and The Landscape of Roads.

Frank Clark’s lament

The first ILA president I met was Frank Clark. He interviewed me when I applied for a place on the landscape architecture course at Edinburgh University and at the end of the interview he said ‘Well, if you’d like to join the course, we’d love to have you’. Frank was full of great stories but what I most often think of is these two recommendations:
Frank told us that ‘Landscape architecture is a wonderful profession. But “nobody understands us”. So it needs a new name – and if someone asks, at a party ‘what line are you in?’ tell them you’re a garden designer. You’ll see a happy glow appear on their faces, as they think of sunny afternoons, roses, tea and cucumber sandwiches.’
My dad was of the same view and advised ‘Don’t call yourself a landscape architect, Tom, – it’ll make people think you’re one of those awful people who put up tower blocks in grassy fields’. This reminds me of Auberon Waugh’s advice that ‘if you meet anyone in a pub, or at a party, who says he’s an architect, punch him in the face.’
The other recommendation of Frank Clark’s I have in mind, was that the ILA should not run examinations and should invite distinguished people to join – even if they had not even studied landscape architecture. He was surely thinking of the men Jellicoe had invited to join, including Lord Reith, Lord Holford and Sir Patrick Abercrombie. He knew how much they had done much to help the new Institute find its way.

Public perception of garden design and landscape architecture

Frank thought the Institute should leave exams to the universities, so that it could concentrate on promoting and developing landscape architecture. The Institute, at that time, ran a four-part examination covering planting, construction, design and professional practice. Today, it only examines professional practice and this too could be done by the universities. The landscape course Frank ran had a module on professional studies and I remember being told that the ILA was ‘half trade union and half learned society’. I don’t think this was correct but its quite a nice idea.
Frank died in 1971 and in the mid-70s concerns about the small size of the ILA led to a change of name, to the Landscape Institute, and to the formation of ‘divisions’ for landscape designers, managers and scientists – not garden designers, not landscape planners and not urban designers.

The ILA becomes the Landscape Institute UK

I was at the meeting when this decision was taken and wrote a note, for myself, to record that there seemed to be three main motives for the expansion, which I associated with three of its protagonists:
1. to increase the size of the ILA, which Bill Gillespie wanted,
2. to increase the influence of the ILA, which appealed to Cliff Tandy,
3. to bring in landscape managers, which appealed to Brenda Colvin.
Her concern was that people who learned about horticulture without learning about design, would not be able interpret design intentions. She recalled that a garden she’d designed in Poland had been fought over by the Germans and the Russians during the war. And this was, she said, the sort of thing that happened to a garden design without good managers.
My own concern about the decision to expand the ILA was that the concentration on landscape architecture as a design discipline would be diluted, as indeed it has been. I don’t think I voiced this concern, but I do remember making a point about Gilbert Laing Meason and the importance of the term that was about to be de-emphasised.
Remembering Frank Clark’s complaint, and that of and many others, that ‘nobody understands us’, I spent several years trying to think of an alternative to ‘landscape architecture’ as a name for the profession. Eventually, I concluded that it’s too late for a change but that we need to be very precise in our use of the key terms. With clarity on this point we will be able to understand our own aims and able to explain them to others, including fellow-professionals, those who commission work and the general public. So here’s my 3-point summary:
First. Landscape architects use the word ‘landscape’ in a specialised sense which developed in the eighteenth century. So we don’t use it in the senses given to it by painters, geographers, printers or poets. We use it, in a designer’s sense, to mean a place where landform, water and plants have been composed with buildings and pavings to make ‘good places’ for human use and enjoyment.
We therefore compose five primary elements to make designed landscapes much as architects compose walls, floors, roofs, openings and stairs to make buildings.
Second. We use the word ‘architecture’, in the same sense as Vitruvius, to mean the activity of bringing various technologies together to making places which have ‘Commodity, Firmness and Delight’. In today’s terminology, we want them to have good functional, ecological and visual qualities.
Third. Like Gilbert Laing Meason and Frederick Law Olmsted, we use the phrase ‘landscape architecture’ to express a special concern with public goods and with the relationship between our designs and the environmental contexts in which they are built.

Future prospects for the Landscape Institute LI

So what about the LI’s future? Well, most institutions are in need of reform and few more so than those approaching their 100th anniversary – which is where the Landscape Institute will be in 20-29. So I’ll end this video with some thoughts about what our Institute could do to get ready for a fresh start in our second century. Here are my suggestions.
One way or another, we need to resolve the ‘terminological’ problem identified by Olmsted, Mawson and Jellicoe – and summarised in Frank Clark’s Lament – that ‘nobody understands us’
Second, We need to learn as much as we can from Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe – particularly about the great antiquity of the art we practice, about the need for it to be promoted, and about the centrality of what he called the Collective Landscape. It can extend across the inter-related spheres of beliefs, art and action.
Third, and at the level of practicalities, I recommend more discussion of the points raised by the Reform Group, in our 2013 article on a ‘Future Vision for the Landscape Institute’. It included recommendations

  1. for Electoral Reform, Participation and Devolution
  2. for the Institute’s Committee Structure and Administration,
  3. for Resource Allocation to institutional objectives,
  4. for information and publishing policies
  5. and for a vigorous programme of Jellicoe-style Policy Initiatives.

There’s much to do. So we can look forward to eight busy years before our 2029 Anniversary.

Landscape Institute 100th Anniversary 2029

Posted in landscape architecture

Future Vision for the UK Landscape Institute LI

LI Landscape Institute Future Vision (Painting by Edward Hutchison FLI)

Future Vision for the Landscape Institute UK

This article by Robert Holden, Edward Hutchison and Tom Turner was written in response to a general request from the then president of the LI for articles about the its future. It was submitted to the journal Landscape in 2013 but was not selected for publication. The article is published here for record purposes and as a contribution to present debate about how the LI might evolve. Landscape_Institute_Future_Vision_06.11.2013-. The content of the article arose from many debates about the LI’s future by Reform Group members. The group was set up after the Institute  had suffered a financial crisis in 2009, convened and chaired by Edward Hutchison. It comprised two former presidents of the LI (Hal Moggridge  and Brian Clouston) and approximately 30 senior members of the Landscape Institute.

Landscape Institute LI Reform post-2009

There was also a discussion about LI Reform the LI on the members forum (Talkinglandscape.org) to which I submitted  An agenda for changing the LI on July 13, 2009. It is only accessible to LI members on TL so here are the recommendations which I made on, approximately, the 40th anniversary of my joining the Institute of Landscape Architects (which became the Landscape Institute) – so I have now been a member for ‘half a century’:

Lets be positive. After the useful discussions on Talking Landscapes, I offer the following agenda for changing the Landscape Institute:
ELECTORAL REFORM
1. The first and foremost requirement is to convert the LI into an effective participatory democracy.
2. All candidates for Council should stand for election on manifestos (expressed as texts, podcasts or videocasts)
3. Elections to all posts should be free, with no longevity restrictions on who can stand.
4. Those who are elected should take up their positions immediately (not after 2 years).
5. Significant decisions under consideration, by Council and by the Branches, should be aired on the TL Forum, inviting members to comment
My hope is that these measures will increase the number of candidates and the number of voters at Council and Branch elections, thus reducing the LI’s democratic deficit.
TRANSPARENCY
Any LI financial data which does not have to be confidential should be made accessible to members online, so that everyone can share in the responsibility for scrutiny, and the consequences of decisions, particularly with regard to resource allocation and expenditure data (both fixed and variable).
ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
1. When taking on new employees, the LI should give preference to qualified landscape architects with a deep understanding of, and hopefully a long-term commitment to, the well-being of the landscape profession
2. The Central London office should be closed as soon as possible, and plans made for low cost accommodation at a location central to the British Isles (eg Nuneaton, which has low rents combined with good rail, air and road connections).
3. We should aim to become as much of a ‘virtual’ (web-based) organization as we can, with as little as possible spent on staff and offices.
4. Full consideration should be given to outsourcing business processes and using Skype-type video conferencing instead of physical meetings
5. One council meeting/year should be held during the Chelsea Flower Show (eg in a hospitality tent) to show our ongoing commitment to the theory and practice of the discipline from which our profession has sprung: garden design.
RESOURCE ALLOCATION
The LI should allocate fewer of its resources to ‘status symbols’ (eg a prestige address, a large staff and a glossy journal) and more of its resources to influencing public debate and decision-making. We should explain how the landscape of town and country can be conserved and improved – and how the landscape profession can contribute to this mighty task.
INFORMATION RESOURCES
Since we are a knowledge-intensive and skills-intensive profession, we should allocate more money to the Library, to the Archive and to other Information Resources. Books and other information should be made available by post, in digital format and via the web. This is how we can become a highly-skilled profession. The LI’s offices should have a green roof and should contain extensive information resources, to encourage it to act as a Think Tank. All our publications should be edited from this resource base – they should not be produced by specialists in company reports. We should review all books of potential interest to landscape architects – so that their publishers get into the habit of sending us free copies for our members to read as postal loans.
PUBLICATIONS
1. We should make publishing a major aspect of the LI’s activities, as it once was.
2. The paper journal, Landscape, should be replaced by a range of high quality online publications, mostly written and mostly edited by landscape architects. There can be provision for Print-On-Demand (POD) for those who prefer print editions.
DEVOLUTION
More resources and more responsibility should be devolved to the Branches, particularly for policy making, because context-sensitive design (by Consulting the Genius of the Place) is at the absolute heart of landscape design.
EDUCATION
1. We should resolve the ‘problem of the specialisms’ immediately and do everything we can to support, for example, landscape planning, environmental assessment, garden design and urban design. Educational programmes should be accredited and work experience should count on the Pathway to Chatership.
2. Landscape Management should require the same length of education as the other specialisms.
3. Consideration should be given to incorporating an element of voluntary work, for the benefit of landscape architecture, in the P2C programme. It could be for the LI or for local communities.
POLICY STATEMENTS
As large a proportion of the membership as possible should become involved in writing, illustrating and promulgating policies relating to the landscape of town and country.

Tom Turner, July 2019

Posted in landscape architecture

Jordan Peterson: God, post-Postmodernism and Metamodernism

Is Jordan Peterson’s philosophical position Modern, Postmodern, post-Postmodern or Metamodern?

Jordan Peterson and Geoffrey Jellicoe both have a post-Postmodern enthusiasm for myth, symbols, narrative and a ‘something somewhere’ belief in God

Politically, the left castigates Jordan Peterson as ‘right-wing’ and even ‘alt-right’1. Sections of the right do admire him. But Peterson sees himself, reasonably in my view , as a classical liberal’2.  His intellectual position is best described as post-Postmodern. When a student, he espoused  religious scepticism, socialism and scientific Modernism. Today, he is a scientist who holds that religious beliefs have a central place in our psyches and in the conduct of our lives.  Since he accepts Modernism and goes beyond it, one could see his position as ‘Postmodern’ without an extra ‘post-‘. But there are reasons for not applying this label (1) Postmodernism connotes ‘skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism’  (2) since Peterson defines his own position in steadfast opposition to Postmodernism,  he is likely to reject the classification, just as he would not want to be described as post-Nazi or post-communist or post-something else. ‘Metamodern’ is an alternative, discussed below.

Jordan Peterson’s religious beliefs

Peterson might agree that the argument of his 1999 book (Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief 3) positions his views after modernism. And his use of the word ‘belief’ highlights a key difference from the religious scepticism that grew, with the scientific method, from Enlightenment rationalism4. It caused Ruskin to lament, in 1851, that ‘if only the Geologists would let me alone, I could do very well, but those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses.’5 Then Nietzche proclaimed, in 1882, that ‘God is dead’6 and Richard Dawkins wrote, in a book on The God delusion7 that ‘To succumb to the God Temptation in either of these guises, biological or cosmological, is an act of intellectual capitulation’8. Peterson and Dawkins both turned against Christianity in their teens, for scientific reasons, but Peterson has turned back.

The Wikipedia entry on post-postmodernism notes that :

Consensus on what constitutes an era can not be easily achieved while that era is still in its early stages. However, a common theme of current attempts to define post-postmodernism is emerging as one where faith, trust, dialogue, performance, and sincerity can work to transcend postmodern irony.

Peterson was raised in a Catholic family and relates that when a young man ‘I asked the minister, at one point, how he reconciled the story of Genesis with the creation theories of modern science. He had not undertaken such a reconciliation; furthermore, he seemed more convinced, in his heart, of the evolutionary viewpoint’9. Peterson therefore abandoned his childhood faith. But he is now sympathetic to religious faiths and persuaded of their importance to acting in the world. As well as Christianity, he references other faiths: Mesopotamian, Jewish, Greek, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and more. In a 2019 interview about his beliefs, Peterson’s answers included the statements that:

  • ‘To speak the truth and act it out, that’s what it means to believe.’
  • ‘Unless you act it out you should be careful about claiming it.’
  • ‘And so I’ve never been comfortable saying anything other than I try to act as if God
    exists.’

These answers are good evidence of Peterson having an intellectual position which, as the Wikipedia article on post-postmodernism phrased it, rests on ‘faith, trust, dialogue, performance, and sincerity’10.

Metamodernism

Jeffrey Nealon, in a book on Post-Postmodernism, acknowledges that the term is ‘just plain ugly; it’s infelicitous, difficult both to read and to say, as well as nonsensically redundant’. Yet he goes on to explain that ‘For my purposes, the least mellifluous part of the word (the stammering ‘post-post’) is the thing that most strongly recommends it’11. I agree, though the abbreviation PoPoMo is more chummy.
Some of the alternatives to post-postmodernism were collected by Alison Gibbons for an article in the Times Literary Supplement. Its title was ‘Postmodernism is dead. What comes next?’ She wrote that:

There are many terms for this new supplanting cultural logic, this shift in the ruling belief system: to name a few – altermodernism, cosmodernism, digimodernism, metamodernism, performatism, post-digital, post-humanism, and the clunky post-postmodernism.’

From this list my second choice would be ‘metamodernism’ and the Google Ngram, indicates that it has a 2020 lead over ‘post-postmodern’, with the declining trajectory of ‘postmodernism’ showing that it could be overtaken by either of the newer terms.

Ngrams showing Metamodernism+Post-Postmodernism (above) and Postmodernism+Post-Postmodernism+Altermodernism+Cosmodernism+Dijimodernism+Medamodernism+Permormatism (below)

The first use of metamodern was by Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, in 1975. He saw recent fiction as moving ’within the framework of a comprehensive private metaphysics, towards a
metamodern narrative’12. The kinship of ‘metamodern’ with ‘metaphysics’ is appealing (to me) and the term is well-supported, and promoted, in a 2017 book with the title Metamodernism Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism. Seeking to periodise the 2000s, the authors point to a range of aesthetic phenomena which are ‘characterised by an attempt to incorporate postmodern stylistic and formal conventions while moving beyond them’, and adding that ‘for us, this language is metamodernism. There, we’ve said it.’ 13

My reservation about metamodernism is that, though the authors of the book see it primarily as a ‘language’, its adoption as the name for a period could happen and would depend on another period name, Modernism. And this term is beyond its use-by date. Surely, cultural historians cannot long persist in their use of ‘Modern’ for a period which began before 1900. It’s ridiculous. So for me the built-in absurdity of ‘post-postmodern’ is an attraction. It dramatises the need for historians of art and culture to settle on a new set of period names, remembering, of course, that a lot of water had to flow under a lot of bridges before Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical and Romantic gained the relatively settled status they now enjoy14. Another problem with ‘Metamodern’ could be that it accepts too much of Postmodernism’s cynical political baggage. For the present, I think ‘post-postmodern’ is a good name for a group of ‘after-modern’ and ‘after-postmodern’ cultural trends.

Peterson, narrative, myth and design theory

For garden history, which is what I  have written most about, my 2013 suggestions for periodising garden design in the twentieth century were: Arts and Crafts Style, Abstract
Style, and Post-Abstract Style. I included a diagram for ‘sustainable gardens’ but didn’t call it the ‘Sustainable Style’. Then, in 2019, I suggested ‘Belief Style’ as an alternative15. ‘Style’ is not a popular term with designers but design historians can scarcely avoid its use. A style is something which you can see when you look back but which should not guide the creative process.

Instead of mentioning styles, as their eighteenth and nineteenth century predecessors would have done, current designers tend to overuse the personal pronoun. They say ‘I want…’, ’I like…’ and ‘I’m going to…’. And when they do this, my thought is ‘Come on folks. It’s not about you. It’s about the site, about the times you live in, and about your clients’. If the designers are students, I might then recommend Roland Barthes essay on ‘The Death of the Author’16.

The aspect of Peterson’s work of most interest to designers is his treatment of narrative and myth17. Ninian Smart, an analyst of faith traditions, saw mythology as one of the seven dimensions of religion but he writes of ‘a widely shared sense that myths are dead, mere curiosities of the past, and that the truly modern person has rid himself of symbolic forms, except in the arts, where they are carefully kept in a ghetto’. Modernists tend to see themselves as ‘author-gods’.

Modernism celebrated The Designer as an Author God

Peterson uses the Ten Commandments as examples of ‘myths’ which ‘we still act out… although we can no longer justify our actions’18. He sees science as a way of understanding the material world and myth as a way of understanding subjective worlds. The Commandments are psychological ‘maps’ which are useful for worldly action, just as cartographic maps are useful for finding your way from A to B. They show where you are and, like design drawings, where you want to get to. Peterson’s own Twelve rules for life became an international bestseller and a Youtube sensation19. Though appealing, especially to young men, they are idiosyncratic and lack the tested, timeless authority of The Ten Commandments.

Jordan Peterson, seen against Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with the Flight into Egypt (c1646, Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Denmark) showing the Holy Family fleeing from King Herod.

In his approach to myth, Peterson was inspired, like Geoffrey Jellicoe, by Carl Gustav Jung’s  concept of the collective unconscious. An interest in the structure and meaning of myth is  also associated with Mircea Eliade (who  Peterson admires), and with Sir James George Frazer, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Vladimir Propp  and many others. Their work led to the structuralist’ ambition ‘to uncover the  structures that underlie all the things that  humans do, think, perceive, and feel.’20 Peterson summarises his argument in this way:

The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We  describe the world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however – myth, literature, and drama – portray the world as a forum for action. The two forms of representation have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have
not yet formed a clear picture of their  respective domains. The domain of the former is the “objective world” – what is, from the  perspective of intersubjective perception. The domain of the latter is “the world of value” – what is and what should be, from the  perspective of emotion and action.21

Designers, like clinical psychologists, engage with the world both as ‘a place of things’ and as ‘a forum for action’. They must analyse and understand the often invisible physical and biological ‘structures’ which underlie the individuality of places (the genius loci). Then
they must recommend courses of action. It’s a complex task which can gain much from ‘the techniques of narrative’. They are of value in developing and explaining concepts – and in persuading clients of their worth. Geoffrey Jellicoe was a master of this craft, and the three volumes of his Studies in landscape design 22 are, for this reason, the most significant of his books, and the twentieth century’s best examples of how to develop and explain sophisticated landscape architecture proposals.

With his design for the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, Jellicoe developed a particular interest in ‘the invisible world’ (I’ve tried to explain this in a Youtube video). For him it was the world of ideas. For the design approach known as landscape urbanism, it is more to do with the landscape structuralism: geology, ecology, hydrology, climatology and so forth23.

In 1994, I classified Jellicoe’s design approach as ‘postmodern’24. Later, having read more about postmodernism and critical theory, this was modified and I wrote in a blog post that ‘You could see it as a progression from Renaissance to Modern to Postmodern. Or, like me, you can take the view that [Jellicoe’s] approach was always postmodern: using the term in the sense given it by Canon Bernard Iddings Bell. 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’).’ Jordan Peterson uses this principle.

In his 1926 book, Postmodernism and Other Essays, Iddings Bell argued that religious fundamentalism is unacceptable, because of the advance of science, and that a full Modernism is also unacceptable, because science only takes you so far. Equating Modernism with the Liberal theology of George Tyrrell and Alfred Loisey, Iddings Bell put forward a Postmodernism which welcomed the insights of science but held firm to the core principles of Christianity. Here are some quotations25:

  • The Bible can no longer be regarded as an inerrant touchstone, the wholly infallible gift of the Eternal to struggling man.(p.4)
  • Modernism is, properly, a way of looking at religion which originated with Loisey and Tyrrell, two eminent and deposed Roman Catholic priests. (p.7) [Both were
    excommunicated]
  • There is no art for art’s sake. All art exists for the sake of Truth. (p.13)
  • The scientific intelligentsia now realizes, and for the most part freely admits that, merely by scientific methods, nothing of basic importance, of primary
    importance, of ontological importance, can be discovered. (p.21)
  • Fundamentalism is hopelessly outdated. Modernism has ceased to be modern. We are ready for some sort of postmodernism. (p.54)
  • Insofar as he exists at this moment, the Post-modernist is apt to be a man without a Church. Protestantism, Modernism, and Romanticism alike seem to him to miss
    the point. (p.65)

Peterson and Jellicoe can be placed in Bell’s category of ‘men without a church’. They respect modern science and they respect the myths which have guided humans throughout the ages.26 My great aunt, who lived through the religious debates of the early twentieth century, would have classified their beliefs as ‘something somewhere’. I classify them as post-postmodern.

Inspired by Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, I will end with two conclusions, which might be described as 2 Rules for Design which involve myth and allegory (1) urban and landscape designers should use what Peterson calls Maps of Meaning (2) we should all adopt Jellicoe’s narrative approach and to developing and explaining design proposals. This is what I attempted for the Druk White Lotus School, which will be the subject of a future podcast.

Notes and references

1 A film on The Rise of Jordan Peterson provides ‘an intimate portrait depicting the rise to fame of beloved and reviled best-selling author and professor Jordan Peterson’ and a review by Quilette sees the film as ‘particularly notable’ because ‘
it neither shies away from the political controversies surrounding Peterson, nor allows itself to be defined or limited by them.’ Peterson is very popular on Youtube. The mainstream media acknowledges him as a ‘leading public intellectual’ but, particularly from the left of centre, he is much criticised (eg by
Vox Haaretz and the Guardian). David Brooks, began an opinion piece the New York Times by writing that ‘My friend Tyler Cowen argues that Jordan Peterson is the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now, and he has a point’.

2 Peterson explained this stance Youtube Jan 28, 2018

3 Peterson, J., Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Routledge 1999

4 Daniel Fusco has urged the church to embrace post-postmodernism but, to my surprise, found a greater enthusiasm for its predecessor. He wrote that ‘Modern evangelicalism is obsessed with postmodernism. There are books being written by the thousands on the subject. A recent search of an online website for a major Christian bookstore revealed almost six hundred titles with the word postmodern in it.’ (Fusco, D., Ahead of the Curve: Preparing the Church for Post-Postmodernism Tate Publishing, 2011 p.14) The main influence of pos

5 Ruskin, J., Works 36:115 Letter to Henry Acland, 24 May 1851

6 Nietzche, F., The Gay Science 1882 (Dover Edition, 2006 p.81)

7 William Reville criticised Dawkins in the Irish Times (Thursday 16th January 2014) arguing that ‘Philosophers must oppose arrogance of scientism’. See also: Wikipedia entry on scientism.

8 Dawkins, R., The God Delusion 10th Anniversary Edition Penguin 2006 p.12

9 Peterson, J., Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Routledge 1999 p.xi 

11 Nealon, J., Post-Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism Stanford University Press 2012 p.ix

12 Zavarzadeh, M. (1975). The Apocalyptic Fact and the Eclipse of Fiction in Recent American Prose Narratives. Journal of American Studies, 9(1), 69-83

13 van den Akker, R., (Editor), Gibbons, A. (Editor), Vermeulen, T. (Editor), Metamodernism Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism (Radical Cultural Studies) Rowman and Littlefield International Ltd., 2017 p.3

14 Stephen Knudsen, in a brilliantly written and illustrated article, expresses a preference for metamodernism to ‘the hideous term post-postmodernism, let’s pray that it is simply a place marker’. ( ‘Beyond postmodernism. Putting a face on metamodernism without the easy clichés’, Artpulse Magazine 2013)

15 See Youtube video The Belief Style of garden design published 12th October Oct 12, 2019

16 Barthes, R., Image music text Fontana 1977 p.142ff

17 I have written more about story patterns in Chapter  3 of Turner, T., City as landscape, Spons, 1996. ‘In the days when stories were passed on by word of mouth, from generation to generation, details became blurred and
structural patterns were laid bare. Vladimir Propp initiated the structural analysis of wonder tales, or fairy tales, which others have taken up. An amazing worldwide uniformity has been found in such tales. Their themes are hope and tragedy. Paradise is lost and paradise is found again. Cinderella is a classic example. She lived in paradise until her mother died. Then came trials, tribulations, mysterious happenings and, eventually, a happy ending’ (p.31) This chapter is also available as an illustrated Youtube video with the title
Landscape Architecture Ideas: design process and as an unillustrated podcast.

18 In Maps of meaning (p.19) Peterson writes that ‘The great forces of empiricism and rationality and the great technique of experiment have killed myth, and it cannot be resurrected – or so it seems. We still act out the precepts of our forebears, however, although we can no longer justify our actions. Our behavior is shaped (at least in the ideal) by the same mythic rules – thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet – that guided our ancestors, for the thousands of years they lived, without benefit of formal empirical thought… If myths are mere superstitious proto-theories, why did they work? Why were they remembered?’

19 Peterson, J.B., 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos Penguin 2019

20 Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuralism accessed 12th October 2020,

21 Peterson, J., Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Routledge 1999 p.xxi

22 Jellicoe, G.A., Studies in landscape design, Oxford University Press Vol 1 1960, Vol 2 1966, Vol 3 1970.

23 It would be interesting to know how landscape urbanism theorists, like Charles Waldheim and James Corner, classify their views: Modern? Postmodern? Metamodern? Post-postmodern? Please ask them if you have the opportunity.

24 Turner, T., British gardens: history, philosophy and design Routledge 2013, p.389

25 The page references in brackets are to: Bell, I.B., Postmodernism And Other Essays Morehouse Publishing Co. 1926

26 Ninian Smart, grouped the ‘Narrative and Mythic’ dimensions of religion as ‘stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and human’s place in it’. His approach to comparative religion is described as phenomenological. With regard to his own beliefs, Smart told an interviewer that ‘I often say that I’m a Buddhist-Episcopalian. I say that partly to annoy people…. I like to annoy people who think that a religion can contain the whole truth. No religion, it seems to me, contains the whole truth. I think it’s mad to think that there is nothing to learn from other traditions and civilizations. If you accept that other religions have something to offer and you learn from them, that is what you become: a Buddhist-Episcopalian or a Hindu-Muslim or whatever.’ I have not come across a reference to Smart by Peterson but it seems likely that he is familiar with Smart’s work.

Posted in landscape architecture, landscape design theory, landscape urbanism

Victoria Tower Gardens Holocaust Memorial: a landscape architect’s objection

Victoria Tower Gardens UK National Holocaust Memorial

Following the refusal of planning permission by Westminster City Council, an inquiry into the applicant’s appeal starts on Tuesday 6th October 2020 and is expected to last for 4 weeks. Here is my letter of objection (with apologies for my trumpet blowing, which is said to be valued by assessors). You can email an objection with the subject line  Appeal 3240661 Victoria Tower Gardens  to Helen.skinner@planninginspectorate.gov.uk ] Here is my letter:

Dear Helen Skinner

Proposed Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens

I wish to object to the proposed memorial for the reasons detailed in this letter and summarised at the foot of the letter. They arise from my having lived in London and known Victoria Tower Gardens for 50 years, from being a professional member (now retired) of the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Landscape Institute, from having written a report on Urban Parks (1992), with Robert Holden, for the Landscape Institute, from having produced a report on A Green Strategy for London, (1990, for the London Planning Advisory Committee, a predecessor of the GLA), from writing an article on ‘Open space planning in London: From standards per 1000 to green strategy’, Town Planning Review, Vol. 63, No. 4 (OCTOBER 1992), pp. 365-386, from having published 6 books (on urban design, landscape planning and garden history), and from having made two Youtube videos about the current proposal [ https://youtu.be/JNKtPuKkSc8 and https://youtu.be/mfWH7_SWoZM ]. I also edit the Landscape Architects Association website. My reasons for objecting to the proposed Holocaust Memorial follow.

Site selection

Insufficient thought was given to the choice of site for the proposed memorial. The proposers’ seem to have reasoned that because the site is in public ownership the responsible department can do whatever it wishes with its own property.

The consideration of alternatives is an integral aspect of the environmental assessment procedure and for a high profile proposal of this nature special attention should have been given at the initial planning stage, to the landscape and visual impact of building the Memorial in different locations. The UK Landscape Institute publishes a book on how to do this. As mentioned in one of my videos, the Garden Bridge proposal was rejected largely because it was in the wrong place. Members of the public have much knowledge and strong views on contextual factors, including heritage, scenic quality, ecology, hydrology, sensitivity to change, pedestrian movements, views and related issues.

Consultation

Surveys of contextual issues have been an aspect of British town and country planning since its inception in the first decade of the 20th century. Sir Patrick Geddes, one of the profession’s founders and leading theorists, argued for thorough surveys and for decisions to be taken in the context of regularly updated Cities Exhibitions.

In the 1960s this aspect of planning became known as public participation. Today, it is practiced as consultation which often amounts to little more than giving the public a say before proceeding with the original plan. This appears to be what happened for the proposed development in Victoria Tower Gardens. The public should also have been told what alternative locations were considered and given an opportunity to participate in the decision making. Public projects must have public support.

The heritage importance of Victoria Tower Gardens

The Gardens are one of the few examples in London of a Victorian public garden to have survived with few changes to their classic simplicity. It has great trees, public walks (often described as ‘promenades’ when they were made), soothing grass, some flowers, some statues and some other features.

In 1833 a House of Commons Select Committee on Public Walks was charged to “consider the best means of securing open spaces in the immediate vicinity of populous towns, as public walks calculated to promote the health and comfort of the inhabitants.” This led to Britain becoming the first country to make public parks for public use, as distinct from the continental practice of making royal gardens and granting public access under certain circumstances – male visitors had to wear a sword when visiting Versailles. There can be no better place for a well-conserved heritage public garden than beside Britain’s Parliament.

The visual quality of Victoria Tower Gardens

The planners of the Holocaust Memorial may have seen Victoria Tower Gardens as ‘just grass’ and with visual quality comparable to that of a football pitch (which, in the years after the First World War became a common use of public parks). Should this be what was thought, it was a fundamental mistake.

The Gardens are a brilliantly romantic composition of buildings, trees, other planting, other structures, walks, steps, sculpture and the Buxton Memorial, which formerly stood in Parliament Square and which celebrates the successful campaign for slavery to be abolished. This was a very great achievement and nothing should be done to encroach on its splendour.

Views in to the site

Seen from Westminster Bridge, the visual context of ‘the mother of parliaments’ includes the line of London planes arching over the Thames, with the Victoria Tower a link between ‘urb’ and ‘rus’. Should any of the trees die because of the underground development it would be a blow to London – and a slur on the Memorial. Whatever assurances may be given by arboriculturalists, it is not a risk that should be taken.

Views out from the site

The views out from Victoria Tower Gardens are as romantic as they are rich in solace. Seen through the branches and leaves, the Thames has something of its pre-Roman glory. The proximity of Westminster Hall, marked by the Gothic character of the Victoria Tower, is a reminder that when the Normans began the development of Westminster it was a country retreat, well away from the City of London. Henry VIII appreciated this aspect of Westminster when establishing what are now London’s Royal Parks. Victoria Tower Gardens, though not part of his hunting reserve, is now managed by the Royal Parks Agency and has more of its late medieval character than St James’s Park.

Pedestrian movements

Unlike the Central London Royal Parks, Victoria Tower Gardens does not form part of London’s pedestrian circulation network: people do not use the Gardens as a direct route to somewhere else. They come for physical and spiritual ‘health and comfort’.

Its two ‘public walks’ offer the quiet solace of views over grass and views over water. As shown on the development proposal submitted by the applicants, the main feature of the Gardens will become a ‘pedestrian superhighway’ with wide grass verges. With the projected traffic of 1 million visitors/year, the solace of the gardens would be destroyed. Mothers would be in fear of losing their children. Sunbathers would become too self-conscious to relax. MPs would not find a private place for sensitive discussions or TV interviews. The old and the unemployed would lose their retreat. The raised river-view seats would be dominated by tourists taking selfies of each other.

As one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Europe, Westminster has become a very busy place, its bustle itself an attraction. Victoria Tower Gardens is a most-welcome contrast to the crowds and should be protected from being overwhelmed.

The perspective drawing submitted by the design team is significantly misleading with regard to pedestrians. It shows approximately 100 people using the greenspace and 10 people on the new path to the Memorial (and they look more like local residents and local workers than visitors from afar). If the Memorial attracts 1 million visitors/year the percentage of local users is more likely to be 10% than the 90% shown on the illustration.

Landscape character

Building a Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens would change the public image and character of the space from green to grey.The distinction is set out as follows in Chapter 16 of my 1996 book, City as landscape:

Grey space is solemn. It surrounds tombs and memorials, encouraging us to reflect on the transience of human life and the glory of the departed.

Green space is made by mixing yellow with blue, to calm the diversity of the yellow and restrain the sublimity of the blue. It should be relaxing in every way. City dwellers love green space, of course. Amid the noise and stress of city life, it’s wonderful to come across an island of green. But one does not want every public open space in every city to be green.

The space outside the Palace of Westminster can be characterised as Red Space:

Red space is exciting. As blood is red, the colour symbolizes excitement in every country.

There is a danger that space between the entrance to Victoria Tower Gardens and the obelisk on Lambeth Bridge would become red space instead of the somber grey space which befits the terrible tragedy it commemorates. Tourists enjoy eating, drinking, joking and buying things.

Respect for the donors

In 1879, WH Smith, of newsagent fame, gave £1000 and parliament gave another £1400 for ‘enclosing and laying out for the use of the public the ground to the south of the Houses of Parliament which has recently been embanked’. Previously, the land was unembanked and in commercial use. The original design was modified in 1914 and 1955 but it remains very much as the original donors intended and should not be purloined for a use which has no connection with promoting the ‘health and comfort of the inhabitants”.

Respect for the local community

Victoria Tower Gardens was planned and designed as a community space, as it is still used. Members of the community welcome visitors and are proud to be guardians of the very special character they come to enjoy.

The Holocaust was a horrific event of world significance, filling us all with irremediable sadness. Building a Holocaust Memorial on this site would forever change its character from a community space into a world space. It would change a place of joy into a place of sorrow.

We all have sadness in our lives but Horace’s advice to “seize the day” (carpe diem) is written on garden sundials for good reason.

The architecture and landscape architecture of the proposed memorial

Both are of high design quality. Yet both are hostile to the context of Victoria Tower Gardens.

Design historians will probably classify the design character as Postmodern. Its neighbours have a Gothic character (the Palace of Westminster) a Neoclassical character (the apartment blocks) or a Modernist character (the North Wing of St Thomas’s Hospital). I am not suggesting the design should adopt these styles but the designers should explain how the style was chosen, what it symbolises and in what respects their design approach is intended to fit in with neighbouring structures.

Much of the proposed accommodation is underground, which has its own symbolism, but the parts which are above ground have a strong character, which I would describe as ‘snarling’. The Corten steel teeth at the entrance to the underground chambers can be seen as aggressive.

The grass mound which, like gums, slopes down from the “teeth” threatens to engulf the Buxton Memorial. There is also a serious arboricultural concern that however much care is lavished on these ‘gums’, and on the structures they conceal, some of the great London plane trees will suffer terminal damage. Their roots cannot grow south, because of the impermeable paving and granite Embankment. They are dependent on the grassed area for their nutrition. Building an underground structure will be harmful and raising the level of the grass will be harmful.

The ‘sombre’ character referred to in the design brief is intrinsic to the nature of a Holocaust Memorial and very well expressed by the Caprice (by Atar Arad – Ron Arad’s brother) used in the design team’s video presentation of the Concept behind UK Holocaust Memorial. But the choice of music is as misleading as the perspective sketch of the design. Placing a memorial in the Gardens would confer tension and darkness, especially with the accommodation raising an angry face from a hidden lair.

Summary

Victoria Tower Gardens provide Central London with a romantically calm greenspace with a lawn, sculpture, children’s play, two great avenues of London plane trees, beguiling views of the Thames and a spectacular view of the Palace of Westminster. They are appreciated by tourists and much used by office workers and local residents.

Though opposed to building ever-more memorials on Royal Parks’ land, I accept that building underground is better than building above ground.

For this project, there are arboricultural risks, the symbolism is poorly judged and the landscape/heritage context has been completely ignored.

My personal view is that the evil of the Holocaust should not be buried. It should be exposed to the light of day, to the four winds and to the purity of falling rain. The organisers should look for an appropriate site.

Yours sincerely

Tom Turner

Landscape architect

 

 

Posted in landscape architecture

Landscape architecture podcasts

Podcasts about landscape architecture, urban design and planning

Here is the page list of landscape architecture podcasts. Many of the podcasts, by Tom Turner, are also available (or will be available) as illustrated Youtube videos. The podcasts published to up to the 3rd July 2020 are:





Posted in landscape architecture

Nine Lectures on Landscape Architecture


A lecture series organised by the London Branch of the Landscape Institute (LI_London) , the Friends of the Landscape Archive at Reading (FOLAR) and the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) is going to be published on Youtube on Sunday evenings (7-8pm) from 19th April to 14th June.

By visiting each of the URLs listed below you can request notifications to be sent to your phone and computer. The URLs are active but the videos can’t be watched  until the time of publication. The aim is to gather online to watch ‘together’ and chat while they play. Popcorn is allowed. Youtube will show a countdown for 2 minutes before the video appears. They will run for  about 30 minutes and will be followed by a Q&A session. Further discussion can follow on on Twitter. Please include the hashtag #LandscapeHour. The first Season is in three parts: 

The  Landscape Architecture of High buildings and Skylines 

  1. 19th April Benz Kotzen  The future landscape of high buildings – a world view 
  2. 26th April Tom Turner  City skyscape policies 
  3. 3rd May Robert Holden: London can be densified without resorting to high buildings 

Heroines of British landscape architecture

  1. 10th May Elizabeth Crawford   Fanny Wilkinson – a pioneer London park designer 
  2. 17th May Wendy Tippett Sylvia Crowe’s work on the landscape of roads, in Bristol  
  3. 24th May  Paula Laycock Sheila Haywood, a notable modernist landscape architect  

The landscape of  state-financed industry

  1. 31st May Jane Findlay introduction & Alan Powers on  The Role of Post-War Nationalised Industries, the commanding heights of the economy, and the work of landscape architects
  2. 7th June Helen Neve Landscape and Environmental Planning for construction of the Natural Gas Network 
  3. 14th June Richard Flenley Landscape of Coal: deep mining and the Opencast Executive

PDF schedule for 9 lectures on landscape_architecture

Posted in landscape architecture

Thirlwall Claire, From Idea to Site: A project guide to creating better landscapes, book review

Publishers are trained to ask ‘so who is your book aimed at?’ when considering a proposal. My usual thought, if not my answer, is ‘everyone’. Claire, I assume, gave a better-targeted answer: ‘practicing landscape architects’. This is good. The landscape architecture profession has suffered from too few skills, too little knowledge and too little ambition. Our focus has been on what Elizabeth Beazley described in the title of her book as The design and detail of the space between buildings.

For practitioners, Claire Thirwall’s book opens a door to new techniques, new approaches, a wider conception of the landscape profession’s role – and how to do it. Every landscape office should have a home on its bookshelf for Thirlwall’s  ‘project guide to creating better landscapes’. It is available direct from the publisher.

Side boxes and case studies reinforce the text, as do reflections from the author’s practice. She is attracted by ideas, which is significant. As a student, I was taught the Survey > Analysis > Design (SAD) method. It had no place for ideas at the inception of a project. One had to be content with a small ‘creative leap’ towards the end.

Claire draws on her own practice. Very wisely, she advises practitioners that a single point of contact between the client and a lead consultant is not a good idea. The RIBA Plan of work is rightly criticised for virtually ignoring the client. On this issue, I stand with Hassan Fathy and believe that the best designs result from 3-way cooperation between the client, the builder and the designer. It’s essential, but the author is also right to advise that attendance at meetings should be billed as per item fee.
‘Case Study 1.1 reviews the Living Building Challenge, run by the International Living Future Institute and described as ‘the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for building’. Interestingly, the assessment method centres on targets, described as ‘imperatives’ and ‘petals’, instead of on ‘criteria’. The eight imperatives are Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. For example, the target for water is ‘Creating developments that operate within the water balance of a given place and climate’.
I was particularly taken with Case Study 2.2: Cloud Point Scans of Historic Broads Drainage Mills on which Claire worked as an expert adviser to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It involved 3D laser scanning to generate 3D digital models. The wind mills are fascinating and one can’t gain a full appreciation of the Broads without understanding their role and that of the peat-diggers who created the Norfolk Broads. I hope there will be another Lottery project to map and model the underwater landscape. Prior to the work Joyce Lambert in the 1960s the Broads were viewed as natural features rather than the medieval peat excavations they in fact are. Cloud scans could map the peat excavations. Drones could model the existing landscape. A 3d model of thousands of years of landscape change could be created.

Digital models and photographs of the mills and the Broads

Here is a video with more on the use of drones and cloud point software in landscape architecture

Posted in landscape architecture

Climate change mitigation through landscape planning

Podcast on climate change mitigation through landscape planning


Landscape factors, both human and non-human, influence climate change and can be managed to mitigate  adverse consequences. Human factors include agriculture, forestry, urbanisation, power generation and transport. Natural factors include changes in the sun, volcanoes, the Earth’s orbit and  the composition of the atmosphere.

Climate scientists investigate the physics, chemistry, geology, biology etc our changing climate. Landscape architects should focus on practical measures relating to land planning, management and design. There is much that can be done and more that may become possible. To date, there has been an imbalance between the necessary research on why our climate is changing and the equally necessary research on how urban and rural landscapes can be adaptated to mitigate the the consequences of climate change.

The examples of multi-objective landscape planning discussed in this podcast are in Upland Britain, London, Egypt and Ladakh. There is a transcript of the text below and a Youtube video will follow in due course. The landscape measures will, I believe, be significantly more effective than a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. But for other reasons I am a great believer in recycling plastic and designed Gyre Island as a contribution to the de-plasticization of the ocean environment.

A landscape planning approach to mitigating climate change: transcript of the podcast + links

There’s widespread scientific agreement that human use of fossil fuels has become a primary cause of global warming – and that a transition to renewable energy is therefore necessary. We need to reduce the overall demand for energy and we need to increase the supply of non-carbon fuels. I agree with this. But if carbon dioxide is not the only cause of global warming, which it isn’t, then other solutions, will also be necessary.


William Ruddiman, a geologist and palaeo-climatologist, put forward the Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis and it’s been raised to the level of a Theory. He argues that human influence on climate change began at least six thousand years ago and was caused by emissions of the three main greenhouse gases:

  • Levels of Carbon Dioxide, CO2, were raised by forest clearance in the ancient world and by the use of the cleared land by early farmers
  • The release of Methane, CH4, was increased by livestock rearing and rice cultivation, also in the ancient world
  • The release of Nitrous Oxide, N2O, increased with the use of artificial nitrogenous fertilizers, particularly after 1960. Nitrogen now pollutes rivers, lakes and water supplies

William Ruddiman’s theory of anthropogenic climate change is based on graphs showing cooling and warming in previous interglacial periods. The graphs show that, geologically, the Earth is nearing the end of a warm interglacial period, called the Holocene, which followed the Pleistocene glaciations. Also known as The Ice Age, the Pleistocene lasted for 2.6 million of the Earth’s four and a half billion year lifetime. That’s not much. Previous extinction events are associated with geological processes, including plate tectonics, volcanoes and meteors.
Earth’s climate was much hotter before the Pleistocene and in 90% of the preceding 500 million years, the north and south poles had no permanent ice.

Typically, a Pleistocene glaciation lasted for 90 thousand years, and interglacial periods for about 10,000 years. The cycles, of glacials and interglacials, coincided with changes in the Earth’s orbit known to geologists as eccentricity, obliquity and precession. Since the current interglacial period began about 12,000 years ago, we are believed to be approaching the next glacial period – and global temperatures ‘should’ be falling. But human activity appears to be delaying the advance of the ice.

The geological era in which we live is therefore described as the Anthropocene, derived from the prefix ‘anthropo’, meaning ‘human’. It is defined as: ‘the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment’. If Ruddiman’s Theory is correct, the Anthropocene results:

  • in part from the Neolithic Revolution, when agriculture began
  • and in part from the Industrial revolution, when we came to rely on fossil fuels

We therefore need measures to deal with the adverse side effects of two revolutions on the Earth’s climate.
The measures discussed in this podcast are examples of Sustainable Landscape Planning. Humans could migrate from coastal areas and the tropics towards the north and south poles. But if global warming continues, and we want to stay where we are, then in both urban areas and rural areas we will need plans:

  • For reducing our use of fossil fuels
  • For reducing the output of methane and other greenhouse gases
  • For sequestering the carbon we have already released into the atmosphere during the past 6000 years

The examples I’m going to discuss of how to plan for this come from areas where I have lived and worked: three are in Britain, one is in Egypt and one is in India.

1. Let’s start with the landscape planning Britain’s Uplands

By international standards, they’re not high. Most of the area is under a thousand meters in elevation. It’s character is bare hills with expanses of heathland and blanket bog. These Uplands constitute 38% 38% of Britain and are much influenced by public policy. Without human intervention most of the upland area would be woodland, as indeed it used to be before we cut down the trees for fuel and replaced them with hill sheep farms.
Today, we subsidise sheep farming, which stops trees growing on the hills, and we subsidise conifer plantations behind high fences, to keep out sheep and deer.
With climate change objectives now centre stage, we need landscape plans for redirecting public investment in the uplands to public goods. These plans are likely to centre on multi-objective land management, including rewilding, reinstating woodland habitats, accumulating biomass in trees scrub and soil, detaining water, and managing livestock in woodland pastures. IQ2 hosted a great debate on this issue with arguments for and against re-wilding.

2. Landscape planning for London’s Green Belt.

There are several videos and blog posts about this on the Landscapearchitecture.org.uk website.
The original Green Belt idea, as put forward by Ebenezer Howard, had two main aims: to constrain London’s growth and to create a public amenity for residents of the metropolis. In practice, the first aim has greatly outweighed the second.

As it exists today, the Green Belt is a mainly rural area three times the size of London. Its small towns and villages are dominated by the metropolis and getting permission for new building is really difficult. Agriculture survives without prospering. The belt has a lot of horses and horse grazing, a wealth of golf courses, many small badly managed woods, some country parks, not very well managed, and a few good routes for walking and cycling.
Most of the Green Belt is not in public ownership and provides few public goods. But this could change, and the feasibility of managing the London Green Belt to help combat Global Warming should be thoroughly investigated.
Medieval castles and palaces were surrounded by great hunting parks, which belonged to their rulers. 21st century cities could have comparable green belts in which public money is used to create landscape public goods.
Natural capital should be developed with a full awareness of its potential contribution to climate change objectives. The Wikipedia entry on Natural Capital explains the idea as follows:
“It is an extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services provided by the natural environment. For example, a well-maintained forest or river may provide an indefinitely sustainable flow of new trees .. or fish… Natural capital also provides people with essential services, like water catchment, erosion control and crop pollination by insects, which in turn ensure the long-term viability of other natural resources”
In the Green Belt, public money should be used to develop natural capital, instead of giving financial support to intensive agriculture. This would contribute to the costs of carbon sequestration, wood pasture, foraging, rewilding, aquifer recharge, water supply, recreation, scenic beauty and other public goods.
With regard to food supply, the quantity would be reduced and the quality increased. Wild food provides a wider range of nutrients than the products of industrial agriculture and intensive food processing. This fits with the dietary advice to eat less meat, but higher quality meat. Other nutritious possibilities include the use of woodland to supply Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Chestnuts, Berries, Fruit and Fungi – including Truffles. Their prices are rising because they are important to vegans and veganism is growing. The Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa, is well suited to London’s green belt. I did an optimistic post about this on the Gardenvisit.com website in 2011 but now see collecting chestnuts is more of a healthy hobby than a commercial enterprise.
Brazil, said to have the world’s best Dietary Guidelines, advises everyone to ‘Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet’. Green belts rich in natural capital can help improve our diets.

3. My third set of examples of planning to combat climate change, are for Greater London

‘Could landscape planning reduce the city’s impact on global warming?’
‘Yes’.
Like other cities, London can become more sustainable by reducing its inputs and reducing its outputs. Stuff needs to be recycled and reused.
There’s a diagram to illustrate this principle in the book from which I took the title for this set of podcasts: City as landscape. It’s on page 91. Water, energy and materials are shown as examples of inputs to be reduced. And as examples of outputs to be reduced, I used water, wastes and pollution.

Let’s take water first, because it’s both an input and an output.
I first read about the need and potential for aquifer recharge in Ian McHarg’s book on Design with nature. Later, I discussed it in a book Landscape planning and environmental impact design. This quotation is from Chapter 9 on Rivers and Floods:
“In all the industrial countries, rivers have suffered from forest clearance in the uplands, farm drainage in the lowlands and water-proofing in urban areas. Forest clearance took place on the hills, in the valleys and on the plains. This accelerated water runoff. Ploughing and drainage took place in agricultural areas. This accelerated water runoff. River channels were deepened, widened, straightened and fixed. This accelerated water runoff. Large new urban areas were rendered partially impervious, with roofing and paving materials. This accelerated water runoff. The capacity of washlands and flood plains to accommodate peak volumes was diminished by building upon them. Accelerated water runoff raised flood peaks. It then became necessary to place urban rivers into underground culverts or concrete canals, or to supplement their capacity with ‘flood relief channels’. The net effect of all the changes was a dramatic increase in peak storm discharge. Embankments had to be built to prevent overtopping by floodwater. When these works are viewed together it is clear that they do not constitute a good use of public or private expenditure.”
Large sums of money and megawatts of energy were spent on concreting flood defenses and pumping water from one place to another.
In London, the egregious current example of this approach is the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It’s a vast new sewer being built under the River Thames with the design aim of accelerating the flow of storm water from the land to the sea. The sustainable and climate-friendly solution would have been a low-impact drainage scheme, known in the UK as Sustainable Urban Drainage.
The principle is that storm water should be detained, infiltrated and evapo-transpirated on or near the ground on which it falls. With storm water returned directly to the aquifer, London’s sewer network would not be overburdened in periods of heavy rain and the new tunnel would be superfluous.
What London really needed was a reclamation project for its lost rivers. Engineers buried them. Landscape architects should daylight them.
To feed its rivers and aquifers with clean fresh water, London also needs a network of swales, ponds, channels, rain gardens, living walls and living roofs.
Compared to surface water sewers, they are cheap to build and a welcome addition to the urban landscape.
From a global warming perspective, they would save on the use of fossil fuels to build, operate and extend the stormwater sewer network. The Thames Tideway Tunnel alone will cost £4 billion pounds. Then there will be running costs for ever and ever.

Cycle infrastructure and climate change

Transport is another issue. This sector was responsible for 33% of UK CO2 in 2018. Though being reduced, this is happening at a much slower rate than that achieved by the residential, business and energy supply sectors.
By far the most effective and greenest way for the transport sector to reduce its use of energy is to plan and design for a switch: from motorised commuting to commuting by bicycle and on foot. I’ve made a number of Youtube videos about cycling policy.


In the UK, over 80% of the people live in urban areas and over 60% of the trips they make are done by car. Most of our cycling infrastructure is dreadful and less than 2% of all trips are done by bike. In Denmark and Holland, the cycling infrastructure is good and the urban cycling mode share is approaching 50%. This saves a lot of money, a lot of fuel and a lot of air pollution.
The greenhouse gas emissions from mass bicycle transport are below one eightieth of the emissions from travelling the same distance by car.
And the Benefit:Cost Ratio for building Cycleway Networks is between 2 times and 20 times higher than the typical 2:1 BCR for motorised transport projects.
Cycling is the fastest, cheapest, healthiest, safest and most sustainable transport mode for half of all urban trips.
To get more people travelling by bike, cities should build good cycleway networks. Quantity and quality matter. The key principles are:
First, cycleways must be safe and must look safe. This includes protection from accidents and from air pollution. After dark, cyclists feel safest when there is good lighting and good visual policing.
Second, cycleway routes must be based on desire lines, as they are understood by landscape architects. Commuter cyclists want fast A-to-B connections and are much influenced by the quality of the route. A well-designed greenway, though longer, can attract cyclists from shorter but heavily trafficked routes.
It’s not enough for a cycleway to be ‘engineered’ as a mini-road, using standard design criteria. To attract users Cycleways should also be works of landscape architecture: useful, beautiful and sustainably context-sensitive. The design aim is to design a cycle network routes that persuades cyclists not to use motorised transport modes.

Climate-friendly building is a third issue.

With their acceptance of the Modernist design principle that form should ‘follow function’, architects began making exteriors a consequence of internal use of buildings. So contextual issues were ignored. This was a wrong turn.

Buildings should look green, in the sense of vegetated, and they should be green, in a broad environmental sense.
NO DEAD SKIN is a good climate-friendly policy for relating buildings to contexts. In addition to their traditional roles, exteriors should support vegetation, detain and transpire water, generate energy and let buildings make friends with their neighbours, socially, aesthetically, climatically and ecologically.
Most building skin should be designed to support vegetation. Plants and substrates can insulate interiors from heat loss and from heat gain. Vegetation sequesters carbon, supports wildlife, absorbs noise and lessens surface water discharge. Living roofs can be gardens, open to the sun, isolated from traffic noise, free from fumes. Or they can be wildlife habitats, contributing to biomass and biodiversity.
Other parts of the building skin should allow for interiors to be naturally lit and naturally ventilated. This is sweeter and healthier than energy-consumptive heating and ventilation systems. South-facing walls are good places for solar arrays to generate electricity.
Tall buildings should be designed with special attention to their impact on microclimates. Towers can reflect sunlight into dark corners and gloomy alleys. In hot countries, buildings can provide shade and ventilation, as they did in the ancient South, East and West Asia. In cold countries, groups of buildings can be designed to provide shelter from strong winds.
Singapore has a really good ‘landscape replacement’ policy for vegetating buildings and their surroundings. Launched in 2009, it requires all new developments to provide: “Landscape Replacement Areas which in total are at least equivalent in size to the development site area.” So a hundred square meters of land must have at least a hundred square meters of vegetation. In 2017, the policy was extended

  • To include vertical greenery and green roofs
  • To support rooftop urban farming, and other sustainability-related features; and
  • To set Green Plot Ratio standards for private developments


Singapore has a great acronym for its policy: LUSH. The letters stand for Landscape for Urban Spaces and Highrises.
Most cities need to do much more than ‘replace’ habitats destroyed by current development and redevelopment projects. They also need to replace the natural habitats which were built over when the land was first urbanised. Their pre-industrial lushness can and should be restored.

4. My fourth example of landscape planning to combat global warming is from Egypt.

I worked there in 1975 on a UNDP financed Regional Plan for the Suez Canal Zone. The project team leader was Jac Smit, who later became known as ‘the ‘Father’ of ‘Urban Agriculture’. My responsibility was for the environmental section of the plan.
Having studied landscape architecture at Harvard, where he was inspired by Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and Patrick Geddes, Jac Smit was a great believer in landscape planning. With a broader view than mine, he argued that Egypt’s agricultural land should be protected and that its fast-growing population should be housed on the desert land which fringes Egypt’s delta. His policy was not followed. Instead, Egypt has reduced its carbon sequestration by building on farmland, destroying topsoil and removing vegetation. This is also being done in India, China and most of the developing world. It’s a climate-unfriendly and most unwise policy.

In 2015, forty years after publication of the Suez Canal Regional Master Plan, Egypt took Jac Smit’s advice and began construction of a new city in the desert between Cairo and the Suez Canal. In design terms, the plan looks like an unhappy marriage of northern Baroque and Modernist design principles. Who would ever guess that this is a desert city in a hot arid environment? It looks as though it was designed by a Chinese company – and it was.

5. My fifth example of landscape planning to combat global warming, is from Ladakh

It is a part of Northeast India where I’ve been helping to make a garden for a Buddhist-influenced school. It illustrates the point that different places require different approaches to planning for climate change.

Ladakh is a Himalayan region. It borders Tibet, with a similar language and even less rain – about 100mm per year. The elevation of the garden is three and a half thousand meters above sea level. Without water from melting snow, agriculture would not be impossible. Its glaciers are retreating and its snowfields contracting. The weather is always sunny, warm in the summer and very cold in the winter. Geographically, it’s classified as a cold desert and it’s river valleys are oases.
Ladakh has been called ‘the canary in the coal mine’ for global warming. When the snowfields have melted the region will become uninhabitable.
The region’s travel sector is booming but tourists are less environment-friendly than the local people. They like their hotels to be built on Ladakh’s very-scarce agricultural land. For everyday living, they use much more water and much more energy than the Ladakhis.
The Druk White Lotus school was built, as Jac Smit would have liked, on desert land. This saves agricultural land from being lost but exposes the school community to extremes of heat, cold and wind-blown dust.
The architects, Arup Associates, applied sustainable principles to the building design and have won many architectural awards for their work. The building stone, granite, was locally sourced and squared by hand. The heating is passive solar, using Trombe walls. Electricity is generated by solar panels and used to pump water from, we think, a dynamic aquifer. After use, the water seeps into the River Indus.
All the toilets are composting. The planting policy is based on hydrozones and soil development zones. Local plants are being used to establish shelterbelts as protection from dust storms and to shade outdoor areas. Building on deserts is much more sustainable than building on farmland.
The land surrounding the school is being made into a Dragon Garden. The design strategy is secular but Buddhist-influenced. Dragons symbolise compassion and gentle power. The Lotus, as used in the school’s name, is a symbol of enlightenment. It’s a climate-friendly garden – and there’s a good deal of information about it on Youtube. See playlist of Youtube videos on Druk White Lotus School landscape and garden.

Interim conclusions on landscape planning in an era of climate change

Well, having looked at examples of how landscape architects can help combat global warming, I’ll finish with some general thoughts about climate change.
The fundamental point is that you can’t argue with thermometers. If sufficient records say the climate is changing then as far as I’m concerned, the climate IS changing. And if this is going to lead to the flooding of densely populated coastal areas, then effective action should be taken.

Now for a short digression. I remember looking out of an aeroplane window on my first night-flight, in the 1960s, and being amazed at the quantity of artificial lighting in urban areas. My thoughts were that ‘This can’t be good’ and that ‘This can’t last’.

  • In the 1970s I didn’t need the Club of Rome to persuade me that, one day, the oil will run out, though I was sceptical about when this might happen.
  • In the 1980s, as a London cycle commuter I became ‘interested’ in the air pollution, noise and road safety arguments for reducing car transport.

I should therefore have been an early adopter of the climate change argument for transitioning away from fossil fuels. But I was put off by three aspects of the campaign.

  • First, I heard too little discussion of the influence of Nature on climate change. Everyone who’s studied geology knows its importance. Though man’s impact on climate may be greater at present, the influence of non-human factors will surely be greater in the longer term and we are, of course, part of nature
  • Second, I dislike the comparison with holocaust deniers implied by the phrase ‘climate change denier’. The comparison is insultingly ill-judged.
    Scientists should be sceptical and should welcome criticism. They have weakened their case by becoming politicians and by saying so little about the historic and the non-anthropogenic causes of climate change
  • Third, too many proposals for dealing with global warming are un-researched, unrealistic and trivial. I remember asking the checkout lady who first refused me a polythene bag for my shopping if she thought her employer’s policy would ‘save the planet’. ‘Oh no, she said, but it may gie us a few extra minutes’.

These factors have weakened the case for taking effective action on climate change.
My own assumption is that William Ruddiman’s Theory of Anthropogenic Climate Change is correct. So I think man’s influence on climate began with the Neolithic Revolution, became more significant with the Industrial Revolution, and became even more significant with the Oil Power Revolution of the 20th century. Ruddiman’s graphs show that from a geological perspective the past 10,000 years have been most unusual for their relative climatic stability. We’re over-warming the planet now and it could be a wise policy to hold back hydrocarbon reserves until global warming is needed.
Avoiding global cooling without an excess of global warming will require Climate Management, Geo-Engineering and CaLP. That’s Climate and Landscape Planning. The present need is to reverse global warming. But when we have exhausted the world’s hydrocarbons, an opposite policy may be required, just as we switch between central heating and air conditioning between winter and summer.
For this to be possible, we will need much more information on the consequences:

  • of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
  • of changes in the size of the world’s population
  • of landscape planning policies, as discussed in this podcast
  • small-scale policies which get a lot of publicity, like banning single-use plastic bags,

Research on the costs, effectiveness and acceptability of policy alternatives should proceed in step with research on the causes of climate change. Policy changes should be evidence-based.

A landscape approach to climate change mitigation

Posted in climate change mitigation, landscape planning

London Landscape Replacement Policy

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.

Posted in green living walls, green roofs, green streets, landscape architecture

The story of landscape architecture – podcasts


You can subscribe to the series on  Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic (+ other hosts) though the frequency podcasting is sure to be variable. The first podcast in the series tells the history of landscape architecture as a story (with the same soundtrack as the above video).

The landscape of nomadic pastoralists

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.

Introduction to landscape architecture Kindle eBook,  designed for use on mobile devices

Posted in landscape architecture