Is Rotherhithe the best place for the Brunel Bike Bridge?

East London needs new river crossings and a bike bridge would be very welcome. But the location needs to be chosen with regard to the pattern of cycle movements and the local landscape.

The Brunel Bike Bridge was planned as a link that would take LCN 425 traffic to Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, so that it would serve commuters as well as leisure users. As argued in the video, it is not well placed for this role. Though some routes can have both roles, leisure and commuting are separate objectives. Commuter cyclists require safety and directness. Leisure routes should go through good urban landscape. This is appreciated even by people who use a road bike as an outdoor equivalent of an exercise bike.
Sustrans explain the ‘leisure’ history of the Brunel Bike Bridge (BBB): ‘We originally identified this location as in need of a crossing when London was chosen to host the Olympics [in 2008].’ This it is not a good basis for providing London with a green transport network that cyclists and pedestrians will use and enjoy. The Rotherhithe location probably seemed a good idea because it is the site a  ferry between the DoubleTree Hilton and Westferry Circus, costing £4.20 each way in 2016.

The London Cycle Network shows what to avoid. Much of it was planned on underused roads. They were said to be safer and pleasanter. But their main characteristic was indirectness, which explains their quietness: they do not go from busy origins to busy destinations. LCN Route 425 from Burgess Park to Rotherhithe is an example. It was conceived as a leisure route and some of it is pleasant. But as the Strava map, above, shows, it is not well used by cyclists.

When it came to designing the Brunel Bike Bridge the location was moved 200m downstream. There was sense in this. But the new location has the disadvantage of turning two riverside green spaces into ‘land below bridges’. A friend used to call this ‘dead dog space’ because it was the kind of place dogs go to die. Durand’s Wharf Park and the historic entrance to Millwall Dock are valuable riverside open spaces which should have more life, not less life. The use of Hyde Park for widening Park Lane set a bad precedent for London transport planning. Allowing cycling in parks is good. Using parkland for building roads and bridge infrastructure is bad.

So the Brunel Bike Bridge should be moved a further 1500 m downstream, to Pepys Park. The west access ramp would flow into an existing footpath with an east-west alignment. The east access ramp would join the proposed north-south riverside cycle superhighway on the Isle of Dogs. Located here, the Bike Bridge would provide a short and direct connection to the CS4 Cycle Superhighway, which Mayor Sadiq Khan has approved. He has also approved the Brunel Bike Bridge and the two projects obviously need to work together and make their contribution to East Central London having as good cycle infrastructure as West Central London.

The proposed Brunel Bike Bridge should move from Rotherhithe to Deptford. Among other benefits this would relive congestion in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Posted in cycleways

Listed London landscape destroyed

from a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea blog in 2014: such records are vital to an understanding of what has been lost.

In the 1960s part of the London County Council’s Holland Park was given over to the new Commonwealth Institute. Designed by RMJM the new building was remarkable for its hyperbolic paraboloid roof. It was described as a tent in a park. And its grounds, carved out of Holland Park were handed over to the Commonwealth Institute by the London Council Council. Dame Sylvia Crowe designed the new grounds, it looked out on Knightsbridge High Street and marked by flags of all the countries of the Commonwealth. A canal alongside the avenue into Holland Park marked the way to the Institute. The avenue and main entrance was linked by a colonnade which bridged the canal. Between the flag pole plaza and the lawns leading to the Institute was a line of plane trees.

Sylvia Crowe’s only listed London landscape design
Sylvia’s Crowe’s design was placed on the Register of Designed Landscapes by the old English Heritage in 1998 (i) It was one of only fifty one post war designed landscapes and the only one by Sylvia Crowe (ii).
The copper roof was the glory of the building and also its flaw: it leaked and despite repeated recladding the Commonwealth Institute vacated the building in 2002. Since then Kensington and Chelsea and the old English Heritage have sought ways to find a new use for the grade II* listed building. Eventually a hero was found in Sir Terence Conran who helped fund a move of the Design Museum from Butler’s Wharf to a refurbished building. However, the saving of the old Institute building has come at a cost. The Historic England list of post-war designed landscapes has been reduced by one to fifty. Dame Sylvia Crowe’s design has been completely destroyed and replaced by an urban space by West 8. What was park has been destroyed. Clearly the 1960s design has not been valued sufficiently.

Money from property development
This is because the money to save the old Institute building came from property development. This has been in the form of development of three large apartment blocks designed by OMA. Set at 45° to Knightsbridge High Street these bite into what were lawns so removing Crowe’ design. Plus maybe a lack of valuing Crowe’s design? So loss of important Sylvia Crowe design, plus loss of London park. So sad, see more on


(i) the English Heritage listing is reproduced on the Parks and Gardens website,
(ii) for a list of the fifty one designed landscapes see English Heritage Landscape Advice Note: Examples of post 1945 Designed Landscapes included on the Register of Parks and Gardens :2013

Posted in landscape architecture, public parks

Landscape planning for post-Brexit agriculture

Neonicotinoid pesticide coatings on oil seed rape kills bees

George Monbiot (like most Guardian journalists) is bitterly opposed to Brexit. But he also understands how bad the Common Agricultural Policy has been for Britain’s much-loved rural landscape. He therefore makes a similar point to LI President Merrick Denton-Thompson that one of the opportunities of Brexit is to plan ‘a multi-functional countryside’ for the UK. Monbiot puts it like this:

The only fair way of resolving this incipient crisis is to continue to provide public money, but only for the delivery of public goods – such as restoring ecosystems, preventing flooding downstream, and bringing children and adults back into contact with the living world. This should be accompanied by rules strong enough to ensure that farmers can no longer pollute our rivers, strip the soil from the land, wipe out pollinators and other wildlife, and destroy the features of the countryside with impunity.

The UK’s opportunity is to buy public goods from farmers and, while doing so, help them produce higher quality sustainable foodstuffs which can sell at premium prices on world markets. British agriculture needs to be run like the Duchy of Cornwall’s farm enterprises.

Neonicotinoid pesticide coatings on oil-seed rape

Also in today’s news, oil seed rape provides a case in point.  Greenpeace reports today that: ‘Neonicotinoid pesticides should be considered a serious threat not only to honeybees but also to many other species, according to a scientific review published today (12 January) by Greenpeace.’ The EU imposed a ban but the UK obtained a temporary exemption because reducing pesticide levels lowered crop yields. Should farmers be given a subsidy for not using pesticides? No. They should be fined for destroying public goods. But they should also be paid for providing public goods, like reducing the flow of surface water in ditches, streams and rivers.

Posted in landscape planning

TfL does not recommend Q1 Quietway 1 for cycling for commuting, even from Greenwich DLR to the National Theatre

Quietway 1

On 9th January 2017 the TfL Journey Planner did not recommend using Quietway 1 to cycle between its start and finish points. Sensible. Nor does TfL recommend Sustrans’ National Cycle Network Route 4. Also sensible. The mauve line is the old London Cycle Network 2 (parts of which have become Q1) and the purple line is a route I have not seen on another cycle map.

Quietway 1, the first of its kind, was opened in June 2016. It follows an indirect and rather shady route that is unsuited to commuter use, especially at this time of year. So most cyclists use the A2 or the A200 – as they have always done. Nor is Q1 suited to leisure use. The urban landscape is pleasanter than the A roads but nowhere near pleasant enough to attract sightseers users. Imay have two uses (1) short journeys to local destinations (2) trips by people who appreciate cycling as an end in itself.

I looked up the Journey Planner to see if the route was affected by the Tube Strike. It wasn’t, but a bike in Central London is useful on a day like this.

Posted in cycleways

Architecture, Planning, the Collective Landscape and Environmental Impact Design

Architects provide buildings; farmers provide food; foresters provide timber. What do landscape architects provide? Good outdoor space as a public good – for functional, aesthetic and sustainability objectives, in Geoffrey Jellicoe’s phrase, a Collective Landscape. The above video uses public domain images to illustrate this text:

In town and in country there must be landscapes where we can walk in safety, pick fruit, cycle, work, sleep, swim, listen to the birds, bask in the sun, run through the trees and laze beside cool waters. Some should be busy; others solitary. Rivers should be prized out of their concrete coffins and foul ditches. Quarries should be planned as new landscapes. Forests should provide us with recreation, timber and wildlife habitats. Wastes should be used to build green hills. Routeways should be designed for all types of user, not just for motor vehicles. Old towns should be revitalised and new villages made. In growing food, farmers should conserve and remake the countryside. Buildings should stop behaving like spoilt brats: each should contribute to an urban or rural landscape. But what is a ‘landscape’? In this website, the word is used to mean ‘a good outdoor place’: useful, beautiful, sustainable, productive and spiritually rewarding. [Quote from the Preface to the 1998 edition of Landscape Planning, by Tom Turner].

  • Architects serve the interests of the specific groups who use and commission buildings.
  • Town and country planners are employed in the public sector to serve the public interest.
  • Landscape architects work with land owners to produce public goods.
Posted in landscape planning

The landscape architecture of highways

The current LI President spent eight years, as a volunteer, trying to protect Twyford Down from the M3 motorway. Merrick Denton-Thompson’s account of the Battle for Twyford Down is in the above video (8.48 to 21:20). It was lost and Barbara Bryant, a fellow protester who wrote a book about it asked: ‘And so, was it worth it? Yes, unhesitatingly yes. Winchester was worth it, Twyford Down was worth it, and our heritage is worth it. The desecration of Twyford Down was undoubtedly a tragedy.’  ‘The crucifixion was carried out by the UK Government in 1992’ (p.xi).

landscape architecture highways

The M3 ‘crucifixion’ cutting through Twyford Down, which was in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the landscape contained two scheduled ancient monuments and two SSSIs (photo Geograph)

The Twyford Down Association was set up after the 1987 public inquiry. It challenged the government in the High Court for failing to implement the EC’s Environmental Impact Directive. The appeal failed but a further appeal to the European Commission succeeded. The UK was then faced with halting a large number of public works projects, including the Twyford Down cutting. To save the EC from bad publicity in the runup to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union, a murky deal was done by Jacques Delors and John Major. The UK received an exemption from the EIA Directive and motorway works were allowed to proceed. Twyford then became ‘the launching ground for the direct action road protests of the 1990s’ and Swampy became a media star.

Landscape design for roads 1350 BCE to 1950 CE

  • The Ancient World had royal roads (as in Amarna) and sacred ways (as from Athens to Delphi).
  • The Romans held triumphal processions from the Campus Martius (outside the pomerium) and by way of the Porta Triumphalis, the Via Triumphalis, the Via Sacra, the Forum and the Capitoline Hill to the Temple of Jupiter.
  • Avenues in Baroque gardens inspired radial town planning, with avenues, in Rome, Paris, Washington DC, Moscow and many other cities.
  • Picturesque landscape parks included aesthetically planned serpentine roads and curvilinear tree-lined streets in public parks and nineteenth century cities.
  • American parkways, designed by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and others were designed as urban ’pleasure roads’ and as recreational routes, like the Blue Ridge Parkway. This led to the involvement of landscape architects in highway design.
  • The Roads Beautifying Association (RBA) was founded by the UK Minister of Transport in 1928. Its emphasis was on planting ornamental trees and shrubs beside roads. The founder’s family estate in Wimborne St Giles had an important place in the history of landscape design dating from the 3rd Lord Shaftesbury.

UK landscape design and planning for roads 1950-present

  • The ILA published two articles by American landscape architects on the landscape of roads and asserted ‘that the landscape architect, with his specialised knowledge of plants, trees and soils, and his training in design and construction, fills a gap between the architect and the town planner and adds to the value of both’.
  • In 1946 the ILA published a booklet on Roads in the Landscape. It was probably written by Brenda Colvin and a revised edition was published by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England in 1954 as The Landscape treatment of roads

    Roads landscape architecture

    Roads in the Landscape was published by the Institute of Landscape Architects ILA in 1946. The Gower Street address is that of Geoffrey Jellicoe’s office but the report was probably written by Brenda Colvin

  • The UK Advisory Committee on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads (also known as the Landscape Advisory Committee)
    Landscape architecture motorways

    Geoffrey Jellicoe produced the photomontage on the cover of the BRF’s booklet on The case for motorways. His aim was to show that good landscape architecture roads could fit into landscape contexts

    was established in 1955 as a successor to the RBA and disbanded in 1994. Its terms of reference (in 1978) were to advise the Secretary of State on ‘alternative routes’ and ‘alternative standards’ while ‘having regard to the features and qualities of the landscape which would be affected and to other related environmental considerations’. The Advisory Committee was a QUANGO. It cost little to run and did some good work. But it was amateurish and unable to provide the professional advice required for large-scale infrastructure developments. The experts were volunteers who, when asked, could good company, good food and a coach trip to visit interesting countryside. Sylvia Crowe wrote to The Times about their work, in 1959. She was President of the ILA and was about to publish a book on the Landscape of Roads. Her comment was that the Landscape Advisory Committee was ‘no substitute for built-in professional advice’. Her book on The landscape of roads was published in 1960 (with illustrations by John Brookes).

  • Crowe’s opinion of the Landscape Advisory Committee was confirmed by its inability to secure a satisfactory landscape design for the M1 in the 1950s and by it sanctioning the destruction of Twyford Down in the 1980s.
  • Geoffrey Jellicoe published an essay on Motorways in 1960, explaining that it was based on the belief that ‘roads could and should add to the exhilaration of daily life, and that a long journey upon them could be a continuous and positive delight’. His conclusion was that ‘No rules or guidance in themselves ever produced a work of art. The professional trained in the arts is the only one ultimately qualified to design a landscape as a painter paints a picture… The great profession of civil engineers is courageous and audacious within its own field of physical works. We can be equally audacious in the arts. May the years before us bring forth a collaboration and a consequent scenery that will make the man on the road murmur to himself, “It’s good to be alive”’.

Landscape design for the M1 Motorway

landscape architecture motorways

Owen Williams standardised M1 Motorway bridges were designed to be ‘part of the road’, not ‘part of the landscape’. His forestry consultants wanted to plant garden shrubs on the central reservation and by the bridge abutments

Sir Owen Williams became chief engineer for the first section of the M1. Also a brilliant architect, he asked the Institute of Landscape Architects to recommend landscape consultants for Britain’s first motorway. ‘After discovering the high fees recommended by the ILA, the Ministry decided that the consulting engineers should employ their own consultants’. They chose two foresters (Archibald Long and AJM Clay) who are unlikely to have been asked about the road alignment or the much-criticised design of the bridges. Brenda Colvin said the bridges ‘were very heavy in design’ and the embankments had ‘hard sharp lines and clumsy angles’ . The planting was also challenged. ‘Sir Eric Savill questioned the proposals to plant forsythia and pyracantha, while Sir David Bowes-Lyon and the whole committee ‘agreed that flowering plants of a semi-garden character were misplaced in real countryside’. The Landscape Advisory Committee, to its credit, was highly critical of the landscape treatment of the M1.

European EIA Directive

The European Commission’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive ( EIA Directive (85/337/EEC)) has led to more involvement of landscape architects in road projects but the results of their involvement are themselves in need of assessment. It could be done under the auspices of the Landscape Institute or the Department for Transport. I hope I am wrong but my impression is that more effort goes into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) than into Environmental Impact Design (EID) or the matters within the Landscape Advisory Committee’s brief.


UK government policy on the landscape planning and design of roads  has been penny-wise and pound-foolish.  A relatively trivial expenditure on expert landscape advice would have produced better roads at less cost on a shorter timescale. One can understand the government’s wish to be frugal but shoddy workmanship does not save money.


Posted in landscape architecture

Bike sharing schemes in London and Beijing

The Flying Pigeon bike (on display in London’s Design Museum) was made in Tianjin and based on the English Raleigh Roadster (which I hankered after in my teens)

The Flying Pigeon Bicycle is on display in London’s new Design Museum.  Chairman Mao approved the manufacturer as New China’s bicycle company, in 1949, and 30 years later Deng Ziaoping defined prosperity as ‘a Flying Pigeon in every household’. Mao also gave China the world’s best urban cycleway network but Deng’s reforms caused a steep fall  in the popularity of cycling. In 1980, 63% of commuters cycled to work. The figure is now below 12% but set to rise as bike-sharing booms in China. The Kingdom of the Bicycle may ride again.

Ofo is a Chinese bike-sharing startup backed by Tencent and Didi Chuxing (which forced Uber to withdraw from China by investing to undercut Uber’s prices). Ofo bikes cost £30 to buy (compared to £3000 for a Santander bike) and are rented for £0.12/hour. Usage is tracked by smartphones and riders are sent a code to unlock the bikes. Ofo was founded in 2015 and has 50,000 bikes for hire in Beijing. The company’s founder is 25 years old and plans to expand overseas. He would be very welcome in London. I’d like TfL to send its cycle planning team for a short break in the Chinese capital. The good news for Ofo is that a glistening Flying Pigeon can can be viewed free of charge in London.

The Ofo bike-sharing scheme was launched in 2015 and now has over 250,000 bikes on hire in China



Posted in cycleways

Design objectives, theory and methods for landscape architecture – and for cooking

Definition of the term ‘landscape architecture’

Happy Christmas Pudding

Happy Christmas Pudding to all our readers

Drawing on Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definitions:

  • Design objectives are things ‘aimed at or sought; a target, goal, or end’
  • Design theories are a ‘statement of rules or principles to be followed’
  • Design methods are procedures ‘for attaining an object’

For a great many design activities, including landscape design and cooking, the objectives fall into the categories set out by Vitruvius

Cooking Landscape design
Meals should:

  • look inspiring
  • taste good
  • be healthy

Theories can be classified as:

  • medieval theories
  • renaissance theories
  • modernist theories
Designs should have:

  • artistic quality
  • functional quality
  • technical quality

Theories can be classified as:

  • medieval theories
  • renaissance theories
  • modernist theories
Daoist theory influenced garden design and cooking

Daoist theory influenced landscape design, garden design and cooking

Daoist theories were applied to cooking and to garden design through the principle of seeking harmony between opposites. Yin and Yang are complementary. Hot and cold are complementary. Horizontal and vertical are complementary. The eternal unattainable dream is harmony. Many of these things can be seen in teachings from cooking classes near me, especially if one focuses on Asian cooking techniques.

The products of Medieval, Renaissance and Modernist theories of cookingb

The products of Medieval, Renaissance and Modernist theories of cooking

Medieval European cooking depended on the produce of medieval gardens. Since there were few methods of preserving vegetables through the winter, there was an emphasis on peas and beans, which could be stored dry, and on kale and other tough greens which could survive hard winters. Both were cooked, long and slow, in a stew pot in the middle of a room without a chimney. Medieval landscapes and gardens were designed to provide meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
Renaissance European cooking, for the rich, could draw on a much wider range of ingredients. Fresh meat was available in hunting parks. New techniques for storing fruits and vegetables were invented. Books on cooking and trained cooks were becoming available. High renaissance gardens and landscapes continued the tradition of design for food production but were also designed to incorporate large scale aesthetic concepts drawn from religion and science.
Modernist European cooking drew on an ever-widening sphere of nutritional knowledge, specialised techniques, and ingredients from around the world. Scientific knowledge was applied to the design of meals with good nutritional qualities and a broad concern for the health of the consumer. Modernist gardens and landscapes were also planned and design on the principle that the form should follow the function.

Kathryn Gustafson summarized her design method as ‘Words-Diagrams-Models’. It is excellent advice. But it is much closer to a ‘personal approach’ than a theory of landscape architecture. Like a personal approach to cooking (or a recipe) , it is more general than specific. I don’t know if Kathryn agrees but I would describe the theory she applies to large-scale projects as landscape urbanist.

And so to the Global Christmas Pudding at the top of this post. Every cook has her, or his, own recipe. But, if it is to be a ‘best of British’ Christmas Pud a classical design theory should guide the work:

  • Functional Quality: the ingredients should be rich and rare to hearten the diner in the heart of winter
  • Symbolic Quality: the pudding symbolises Christ and the empire
  • Technical Quality: the pudding uses ingredients which are available when scarcely anything is growing and farm animals are being slaughtered and preserved for the frozen months ahead

These quotations are from the Wikipedia article on Christmas Pudding:

  • “Many households have their own recipe for Christmas pudding, some handed down through families for generations. Essentially the recipe brings together what traditionally were expensive or luxurious ingredients – notably the sweet spices that are so important in developing its distinctive rich aroma, and usually made with suet”
  • “There is a popular myth that plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to a custom in medieval England that the “pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the Magi and their journey in that direction”
  • “The pudding had the great merit of not needing to be cooked in an oven, something most lower class households did not have”.
  • “The ingredients used to make the pudding had to be changed to reflect the ideals of the Empire. The origins of each ingredient had to be carefully manipulated to represent each of the Empire’s many colonies. Brandy from Cyprus and nutmeg from the West Indies, which had been inadvertently forgotten in previous recipes, made special appearances”.
Posted in landscape design theory

Landscape, Townscape and Seascape Character Assessment

LI London held a meeting about Character Assessment on 28.11.2016. It was chaired by Robert Holden and the speakers were Christine Tudor (Natural England) Chris Drake (Kent County Council), Jon Rooney (AECOM) and Ben Croot (LDA Design).  Having given the subject little thought for 20 years, I found the evening interesting and enjoyable.

Natural England has given welcome support to the development of landscape character assessment for many years. It’s  website states that: ‘We’re the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide’. Given its statutory role, NE’s descriptive approach to landscape assessment is proper. But landscape architects need to go further. We have, or should have, a central role in the protection, conservation and enhancement of the natural and built environment for the public benefit. As well as description, this requires evaluation.

Landscape Assessment began as a qualitative approach, It can be traced back to task of selecting the post-1947 UK National Parks and defining their boundaries. This was done by expert judgement. Similarly, when the oil industry ‘hit’ Scotland in the 1970s a qualitative assessment of potential sites for construction yards was necessary. David Skinner, then teaching at Heriot-Watt University, was given one of the best commissions a landscape architect can ever have had. He was asked to walk those parts of the Scottish coast he had not already walked and to make qualitative assessments. Remembering this background, I asked the speakers a question (which can be heard in the last few minutes of the above video): ‘How is the evaluative component dealt with under the current assessment system?’

The answer, I believe, is that it has been dropped. It was in the 2002 Assessment Guidelines but it is there no more. This is a pity. I think of an ‘assessment’ as something which requires professional judgement and is categorically distinct from ‘description’ however much professional expertise is deployed in both tasks. To use a medical analogy, it resembles the distinction between diagnosis and treatment. A radiologist can describe what is wrong with a limb. It requires a physician to evaluate which treatment is most likely to be successful. The skills are distinct but related.

Geoffrey Jellicoe was asked to advise on the siting of an oil platform yard in a location with high scenic quality: Loch Kishorn, in Scotland’s west highlands. The commission may have resulted from Skinner’s work or from a similar planning application on the other side of the Loch, which had been rejected. In either case, the significant point is that Kishorn was recognised as an area of high scenic quality and high sensitivity. The advice Jellicoe gave on Kishorn was excellent and should have been followed in detail.

Robert Holden and I undertook a landscape scenic quality assessment of the proposed site of London’s garden bridge. We concluded that King’s Reach has some of the highest scenic quality in Central London and that an alternative site for the Garden Bridge should be found. If the bridge is not built, as seems perfectly possible, our reaction may be ‘we told you so’.

Townscape assessment

A landscape scenic quality assessment was used to challenge the proposed location of London’s Garden Bridge. If a full landscape assessment of the project had been done at the outset many of the project’s ongoing problems could have been avoided.

Posted in landscape planning, urban design

FOLAR lectures on the landscape architecture of the British New Towns

FOLAR has published a video of lectures on the landscape architecture of the British New Towns. They were given at the FOLAR study day on 19th March 2016. The speakers included: Oliver Rock, Elain Harwood, Caroline Gould  and Tom Turner. My lecture is not on the video but can be found in an LAA post on The knights of landscape architecture who planned the British New Towns and on Youtube.



Posted in landscape architecture