Landscape architecture as a job and a career


The Landscape Institute video (on landscape architecture as a career) provides a very good overview  of:

  • the history of the landscape architecture profession – which has its feet in the stone age, its body in the last two centuries and its head in the future
  • the extraordinarily wide range of work undertaken by the landscape architects
  • the use of sketches, plans and models to convey design ideas and contractual information

One couldn’t ask more from a 6 minute video but there is, of course, much more to be said about the landscape architecture profession, including information about jobs, offices, salaries and career development paths.  Entrants to the profession may also be interested in these two videos which outline the definition of landscape architecture as a professional activity.

Posted in landscape architecture

Westminster Bridge urban landscape design and pedestrianisation – TfL consult on cycle lanes

Westminster Bridge needs cycle lanes – and it also needs to be pedestrianised

Westminster Bridge needs cycle lanes – and it also needs to be pedestrianised

TfL are consulting on the creation of superhighway-style cycle lanes on Westminster Bridge, as discussed in the video, below, by Robert Holden and Tom Turner. The consultation period ends on 22.12.2015. Our conclusions are:

  1. TfL and Lambeth Council should consider the urban landscape design aspects of Westminster Bridge, as well as the traffic and highway engineering aspects
  2. The 2.3m wide cycle lane is a better option than the 1.8m wide cycle lane. It is less-protected from vehicles but is less of a hazard to pedestrians.
  3. Pedestrians are not considered in the current design and the volume of the pedestrian flows were not counted
  4. We estimate that pedestrians are about 50% of the Bridge’s users but that pedestrians only have 30% of the street space
  5. On summer weekends pedestrian usage may be 80% of Westminster Bridge’s users
  6. In the short term the bridge should be pedestrianised on Sundays
  7. In the medium term Westminster Bridge should be fully pedestrianised

Posted in cycleways Tagged with:

Crossrail Place Roof Garden London by Gillespies

Crossrail Roof Garden at Canary Wharf (landscape architects: Gillespies)

Crossrail Roof Garden at Canary Wharf (landscape architects: Gillespies)

The Crossrail station at Canary Wharf is topped by a public roof garden. The design for the garden evokes a ship laden with unusual and exotic specimens from around the globe – a nod to its maritime past. Under a transparent semi-permeable lattice canopy – open at the top to draw in light and natural irrigation – are hundreds of plants collectively representing and showcasing the many native countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company, which unloaded their wares where the station now sits.

The geographic location of the site – directly north of Greenwich – places the docks virtually on the Prime Meridian, dividing the western and eastern hemispheres. This positioning inspired the planting division of the gardens into two geographic zones. Plants from the Western hemisphere such as ferns and Sweet Gum are on the west side of the Meridian line, with Asian plants such as bamboos, magnolias and maples on the east side. The semi-permeable canopy structure enclosing the garden helped to create a localised microclimate allowing the use more sensitive and rare species of plants.


Landscape Architects: Gillespies

Architects: Fosters + Partners

Specialist Planting Consultancy: Growth Industry

Client: Canary Wharf Group

Posted in green roofs Tagged with:

More London urban design by Townshend landscape architects

Townshend Landscape Architects More London

Townshend Landscape Architects urban design for More London

More London is an office development on the south bank of the River Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The brief given to the landscape architects, in 1998, was to create a unique place with both an individual character which the flexibility to evolve as part of an ever-changing city. The Scoop is an outdoor arena in which events are programmed. The design brought together the riverside walk and two principal areas of public space. A flowing rill provides a water link between the Thames and two ‘water plazas’. The Thamesside plaza has dancing fountains and the Tooley Street Plaza has slabs to waist level with water triclking down their sides. Buildings glazed on both sides at ground level provide another water-like view.
Landscape Architects: Townshend Landscape Architects
Client: Morelondon Developments
Architect: Foster and Partners
Structural Engineer: Arup
Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon & Everest
M+E Engineer: Roger Preston & Partners
Water Feature Consultants: The Fountain Workshop
Lighting Engineer: Equation

Location: Lat/Long 51.504920, -0.080982

Posted in urban design Tagged with:

George RR Martin, on architects, gardeners and landscape architects

The opening sequence of each Game of Thrones episode needed better landscape architecture

The opening sequence of each Game of Thrones episode needed better landscape architecture

Game of Thrones’ author, George RR Martin, identifies two kinds of writer: the gardener and the architect (see eg this Youtube interview from 26:00, excerpt below). When a building is started the architect knows how many windows, flights of stairs and so forth there will be. It has all been worked out ‘in blueprints’ (Martin does not use a computer for writing). The gardener starts in an different and much older way. She starts by digging a hole, throwing in a seed, watering it ‘with blood’ and hoping something will grow. Martin describes himself as ‘about 90% gardener’.

Landscape architects, I believe, make a serious mistake by trying to be, in terms of design method, ‘about 90% architect’.

The landscapes, gardens and architecture used in the Game of Thrones TV series are pre-renaissance. In part this is because the series is set in the time of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) and the influence of the Renaissance had reached English literature without having a significant impact on its architecture, gardens and design methodology. Design-by-drawing had not taken hold. Buildings and gardens were designed by what Martin sees as a gardening method.

Landscape architects need to consider the extent to which what Martin sees as the gardener’s method could and should be used in contemporary landscape architecture. Obviously, it was not used for the ugly computer games imagery used at the start of HBO’s TV series (in the images above and the clip below). For the purpose of criticism and review, I have put quotations from the quoted interview and imagery in the video clip – seeing this as fair dealing and not an infringement of copyright law.

Posted in garden design

The Bible and Landscape Urbanism

The basic principle of Landscape Urbanism is illustrated by the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders

The basic principle of Landscape Urbanism is illustrated by the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders

Too often, landscape urbanism is explained in the difficult language of structuralist and post-structuralist philosophy. It can also be explained, in Biblical language. The Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders  (The Bible, Luke 6:46-49 and Matthew 7:24–27) illustrates the fact that good landscape planning must inform and support  urban development – or great will be the fall of it.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;

For the background to the above illustration, please see 2:38ff on this video:

Posted in landscape urbanism

Beautiful courtyard garden in Vietnam

Naman Spa (image MIA Design Studio))

Naman Spa (image MIA Design Studio)

Browsing landscape architecture on G+ let me find this beautiful image of Naman Spa. Small courtyards are not easy to design, if their primary role is to be a light well, but this courtyard has other virtues: the creepers are local plants and form a delightful example of a green living wall; the path is part of the circulation system of the building (which Christopher Alexander identified as a key factor in the success of a courtyard); the path provides an indoor-outdoor experience; the creepers are likely to enhance the the ventilation, the air quality and the solar gain of the building. Well done Mia Design!

Posted in green living walls

Bank Junction to be pedestrianised with a Democratic Allocation of Street Space DASS

It's great news that Bank Junction is going to become a pedestrian-bus zone

It’s great news that Bank Junction is going to become a pedestrian-bus zone. It needs good landscape architecture.

The Guardian reported (on 20th November 2015) that ‘The City of London Corporation, local authority of the Square Mile, is to close off the whole of the famous yet famously inhospitable Bank junction to all motor vehicles except buses, starting late next year. Chairman of Planning and Transportation Michael Welbank describes this complex of Mammon’s crossroads as “dysfunctional, dangerous, dirty, congested and polluting” and “completely inappropriate to form the heart of a modern city.” If it works, the plan could set a standard for the rest of London to follow’. I am very pleased. In the mid-1980s I turned off here on my bike heading for London Bridge when a bright red Ferrari sounded like an F-15 hurtled past me. A motor cyclist then drew up beside me and said ‘God, that man nearly killed you’. That’s when I started wearing a cycle helmet for all the good it might have done me.

Congratulations to the Stop Killing Cyclists campaign. The City Corporation had been thinking about closing Bank Junction to non-bus traffic and was goaded into action by a protest. We live in very safety-conscious times and cyclists have had far more success campaigning on this issue than on any of the sustainability objectives which bicycle transport so obviously serves.

The City Corporation’s statistics for human and vehicular use of te Bank Junction are revealing. During the morning rush hour there are:

  • 18,000 pedestrians
  • 4,500 people aboard 220 buses (ie 20.45 people/bus)
  • 1,600 cyclists (up from 700 in 2010)
  • 1,600 people in 1,430 motor vehicles (the number of taxi passengers can’t be >1600-1430=170)

There is a strong case for what can be called a Democratic Allocation of Street Space (DASS). Pedestrians must have priority. They form the largest group and on a per/person basis they take up the least space. Therefore Bank Junction should be re-designed as a pedestrian plaza with accommodation only for need-to-drive vehicles. Bus passengers appear to come next in the pecking order  for space allocation but several factors count against them (1) the current fleet of diesel buses produces substantial negative side effects (noise, pollution, accidents etc) (2) we can guess that only 25% of passengers alight at bus stops near the Bank (3) bus occupancy ranges from 90% a peak periods to 10% off peak. Cyclists form the next largest group of users and their number is increasing at a rate that may soon be found in other parts of Central London because other mechanical travel modes cannot keep up with London’s fast-rising population. Unlike buses, bicycles produce no negative side-effects of the kind which weigh heavily against buses in cost-benefit analysis. The fourth category ‘motor vehicles’ is obviously the least deserving  of scarce street space. It comprises private cars, taxis and other commercial vehicles. Deliveries should take place between 10pm and 6am.

I look forward to the landscape architecture competition for the re-design of Bank Junction and then to the application of DASS-based planning throughout Central London. The DEFRA Noise Map data and the DFT Traffic Count are available online.

Bank Junction is 'the heart of the City'

Bank Junction is ‘the heart of the City of London’

Posted in cycleways, urban design

London cyclists demand great landscape architecture


It’s true that London cyclists can be curmudgeonly. So we don’t spend enough time ringing our bells for what we really and truly want – which is to cycle in great landscape architecture. So here are some examples of what cyclists enjoy:

  • Great cycling on the Thames Path
  • Great cycling on The Mall, on a Sunday
  • Great cycling on the Embankment, when it’s closed for our delight
  • Great cycling in the Royal Parks, on those few paths where it is permitted

The East-West Embankment Cycle Superhighway is great: BUT WILL IT BE TOO POPULAR?

The North-South Cycle Superhighway is also great: BUT IT SHOULD BE THE SHORTEST ROUTE FROM A-to-B

Posted in cycleways

Will London’s East-West Cycle Superhighway be too popular?

The Embankment East-West Cycle Superhighway will probably be unsafe for four reasons:

  1. bi-direction cycle lanes are inherently less-safe than uni-directional cycle lanes, according to Dutch cycle infrastructure guidance (CROW)
  2. this bi-directional cycle lane is unlikely to have different tidal flows in morning and evening (as can be expected for the North-South Superhighway south of the River Thames)
  3. the East-West Superhighway is narrow by Dutch standards
  4. the Superhighway users are likely to be a mix of London ‘boy racer’ cyclists + slow and wobbly family groups of overseas visitors many of whom have learned to keep right

I am unsure why the median strip which separates the cycle path from the motor vehicle lanes is so wide. Possible explanations are (1) to stop overhanging loads hitting cyclists (2) to provide parking space for coaches, emergency vehicles and breakdowns (3) to accommodate pedestrians waiting for buses. If any or all of these explanations is correct, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be some variation in the width of the median strip. Also, it should be scrutinised to see if there is any space for planters on the strip. There is a great need for visual and acoustic separation between motor vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians (as in Royal College Street but with a suitable design). Does anyone know who the landscape architect for the East-West Cycle Superhighway was?

Posted in cycleways