Beckenham Place Park development

Beckenham Place ParkA 96 hectare, well wooded, park on the southern boundary of Lewisham Council, Beckenham Place was a country house and park for the Cator family in the eighteenth century. The house was built by Sir John Cator c. 1773 and is a simple rectangle, but with a later, clumsy addition of an oversized portico from another house, in a composite order. Comparison is made with the house at Danson Park, Welling by Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788). Beckenham Place Mansion is grade II* listed.

The 96 ha park, was bought by the London County Council in 1927 having remained with the Cator family until the early twentieth century, and by then included an 18 hole golf course, established in 1907. The park passed to the Lewisham Council in 1972. Both the park and golf course are now managed by Glendale under contract from Lewisham (i).

The park slopes down to the banks of the River Ravensbourne on the eastern edge, but is divided in two by the Nunhead to Bromley railway built on embankment and running parallel to the river. There is one bridge connection between to the two parts of the park. Originally there was a long lake on the lower slopes, along a stream running into the Ravensbourne. The park east of the railway was until recently laid out as football pitches, but these appear out of use, in October 2015. There is woodland and the Capital Ring walk passes through the park.

In 2014 Lewisham Council announced a successful bid for Heritage Lottery funding of £4.9 million to restore the stableblock, and bring back the lake, as park-wide restoration works, gardens, visitor centres and recreational feature (ii). The council’s proposals include closure of the golf course. The mansion is subject to a separate Heritage Lottery bid. Additionally the Environment Agency are working on a flood storage scheme on the land east of the railway with LUC as consultants.

On a first visit in October 2015 the park was being well used by walkers and the golf course was similarly popular. Given the active and passive recreation works well here, and there is room for both why close the golf course? Currently a stay of execution of one year for the golf course has been granted until December 2016. The Friends of Beckenham Place Park are campaigning against the golf course closure (iv).

Many golfers up and down the country visit their local golf courses as often as they can. Whether that be to improve on their swing or their putting, or to relax with a group of friends and enjoy this time they have together. Closing the golf course could be devastating to some of these golfers. Even though they are able to play golf simulators indoors, which can provide them with a similar sort of experience, some people may find that it is just not the same as going to your local course in the sun to play. There will be many people who will be hoping that this golf course stays open.

Beckenham Place Park plan

Refs (all accessed 13.10.2015)

i) http://www.glendalegolf.co.uk/Beckenham-place-golf-course

ii) https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/news/Pages/Beckenham-Place-Park-scoops-£4.9m-lottery-win.aspx

iii) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lewisham-and-catford-flood-alleviation-scheme/lewisham-and-catford-flood-alleviation-scheme

iv) http://www.beckenhamplaceparkfriends.org.uk/

 

 

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London Housing Crisis

Costs of London rents and freehold properties are rising beyond ordinary workers’ means (to £474,544 in June 2015 (i)). People are having to travel from outside the Greenbelt at great expense. The Mayor’s draft Housing Policy (2014) forecast a need to “42,000 new homes a year, every year, for the next twenty years” (ii).
The growing need for homes is because of:

  1. a) population growth, “London’s population has grown rapidly, from 6.8 million in 1986 to 8.4 million in 2013 and is now projected to surpass its 1939 peak of 8.6 million as early as 2016” (iii);
  2. b) increasing numbers of single person households;
  3. c) low rates of house building in the past, especially since the 2008 recession; and
  4. d) land hoarding by developers and investors.

Reactions to this challenge include building high and building in the Green Belt. However, there are counter arguments. Estate agents Stirling Ackroyd find that “570,000 extra homes can be built within the capital over the next decade, and according to research can be completed without building on any green space.” (iv).

From a very different standpoint, the Green Party Spokesman on intellectual property, Tom Chance, has  argued for densification, particularly in outer London. He calculates that densification of outer London to the median level for housing in Greater London as a whole would produce 6,500,000 homes (twice as many homes as in the whole of London at present). The great advantages of this are no development of green belt, exploitation of the current public transport network and relatively little strain on new utilities and minimization of commuter times.

This contrasts with the current London Plan policy of development just  on brownfield sites and exporting growth to beyond the greenbelt. Development of London’s suburbs is not his absolute prescription, but as he says “But it gives you an idea of what’s possible. Maybe this is what would have happened if we had a sustainable planning system during the 1930s, when these sprawl suburbs were built?” (v). The point is that there is plenty of opportunity for densification in outer London, the challenge is how to unlock land, without building on London’s parks and gardens and just adding a storey to many properties would go some way to this.

densification potential of London

densification potential of London

 

Refs. (all accessed 12.10.2015)

(i) http://www.homesandproperty.co.uk/property-news/news/new-land-registry-figures-reveal-average-cost-buying-home-every-london-borough-june-2015-0

(ii) Mayor of London ” Homes for London, London Housing Strategy” draft April 2014: http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Draft%20London%20Housing%20Strategy%20April%202014_0.pdf

(iii) ibid p. (accessed 2.10.2015) p.7

(iv) Stirling Ackroyd http://www.stirlingackroyd.com/News/6638/Will-London-be-able-to-meet-property-demand-.aspx

(v) http://tomchance.org/2014/01/18/densifying-london-part-two/

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The landscape architecture of Le Corbusier and the other Pioneer Modern Masters

If Walter Gropius had been as interested in de Stijl landscape architecture as he was in de Stijl architecture, he might have taken inspiration from the front cover of de Stijl Magazine (used here to replace one of the Bauhaus lawns with a landscape design)

If Walter Gropius had been as interested in de Stijl landscape architecture as he was in de Stijl architecture, he might have taken inspiration from the front cover of de Stijl Magazine (used here to replace one of the Bauhaus lawns with a landscape design)

  • Edwin and Joy Hoag, in a 1977 book, identified the Masters of Modern Architecture as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. Their relationship with landscape architecture deserves more attention than it normally receives.
    Thinking of modern architecture more generally, I believe the principle of abstraction, on which it rested artistically, led to buildings being conceived in abstraction from contexts – so the style could be, and was, described as ‘international’. Natural landscapes were regarded as good settings for buildings. Gardens were thought of as bourgeois baubles. But generalisations have exceptions. Frank Lloyd Wright did a wonderful job of integrating Falling Water with the surrounding landscape. Mies van der Rohe created a masterly composition of architecture and landscape for his Barcelona Pavilion.
    Le Corbusier was very interested in the integration of architecture and landscape but was a poor landscape architect. This point is best illustrated by his designs for Chandigarh . Part of the problem, notwithstanding the Modulor, was that he thought more on an Alpine scale than on a human scale. He also loved aerial views. The places he made were too large and insufficiently people-friendly – as with the Ville Radieuse (below). There is a remarkable contrast between the total failure of Corbusier’s design for the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh and the total success of the design for the adjoining site (Nek Chand’s Rock Garden) by an untrained roads inspector who worked illegally and without funding.

    Four posts re Chandigarh urban planning, landscape architecture and garden design

Le Corbusier treated greenspace as something to be seen rather than used (Ville Radieuse)

Le Corbusier treated greenspace as something to be seen rather than used (Ville Radieuse). Experience has revealed that this type of green space receives very little social use

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Chandigarh 3 (of 4): The garden design of Nek Chand’s Illegal Rock Garden

Nek Chand Saini’s (नेक चंद सैनी) Rock Garden in Chandigarh is a remarkable contrast with Corbusier’s Capitol Complex, which it adjoins. Corb’s work is sterile, vacant, glaring and unused. Chand’s work is fascinating, cool, shady and very popular. How is it than a poor man from a poor village with no education beyond high school, could be so much more successful than that of a man who is often claimed to be as the greatest architect of the twentieth century? This leads on to other questions.
Was Corbusier’s espousal of an international style a fundamentally mistaken approach to landscape architecture?
Was Corbusier’s approach to landscape architecture too ‘architectural’ in the sense of focusing on objects instead of on the space which separates the objects?
Could an application of Modernist principles to ecological design, as in the Amsterdam Bos Park, have saved Corbusier’s project from failure?
Or was it a lack of concern for the social use of outdoor space which derailed his design for the Capitol Project?
Was Charles Jencks right to see Corbusier’s design for the Capitol Complex as more Postmodern than Modern? Yes, but it not as Postmodern as Nek Chand’s approach to landscape architecture.

Four posts re Chandigarh urban planning, landscape architecture and garden design

The relationship of Nek Chand's Rock Garden to Corbusier's Capitol Landscape Architecture is not so much that of Postmodernism:Modernism. It is more that of Good Design:Bad Design.

The relationship of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden to Corbusier’s Capitol Landscape Architecture is not so much that of Postmodernism:Modernism. But it is a relationship of Good Design:Bad Design.

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Chandigarh 2 (of 4): The landscape architecture of Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex

Of the four ‘masters of modern architecture’ (Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe) Corb was the most interested in the integration of architecture and landscape. His design for Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex is a major example of the Abstract Modern approach to landscape architecture. But it was also a disaster and it looks terrible. The explanations, as discussed in the above video, are in part bad maintenance and in part the high security which discourages visitors.
But, Corb’s design is of considerable interest: it is a really good example of really bad landscape architecture. In Space Syntax terms it is very poorly integrated with Chandigarh; it is abstract visual space – not social space or ecological space; it is far too European in conception; it is the world’s largest public square – and far too big. So what should be done? It needs a re-design which keeps the good features of Corb’s landscape architecture and rights its wrongs.

 

It is difficult to think of any context which would have been suitable for Le Corbusier's landscape design for the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh. The design included a single line of trees; the mounds are shaped like giant water drops; there is enough space for several runways. But it is an interesting and innovative work of landscape architecture

It is difficult to think of any context which would have been suitable for Le Corbusier’s landscape design for the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh. The design included a single line of trees; the mounds are shaped like giant water drops; there is enough space for several runways. But it is an interesting and innovative work of landscape architecture

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Chandigarh 1 (of 4): Le Corbusier’s urban design and planning

Corbusier’s urban design for Chandigarh is seen in the west as a disaster. This assessment dates from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when the roads had few motor vehicles and the roadside trees were saplings (see photos of Chandigarh’s roads, below). Corbusier’s Rule of the Seven Roads then seemed ridiculous. But Chandigarh, like most Indian cities is now thronged with vehicles and they can move about more easily in Chandigarh than in other Indian cities. The above video reviews Chandigarh’s planning, urban design and landscape architecture – and agrees with Indian critics that ‘it’s pretty darn good’. Corbusier’s design for the Capitol project will be the subject of a future video. See also: The landscape architecture of Le Corbusier and the other Pioneer Modern Masters

Chandigarh's roads were bare and empty when westerners began criticising the design of the new town. Today, the roads are very busy and well-shaded by banyan trees (photo from The Rotarian, 1959). They are now well-shaded, busy and convenient (right, photo in 2013)

Chandigarh’s roads were bare and empty when westerners began criticising the design of the new town. Today, the roads are very busy, shaded by banyan trees, busy and convenient (left photo from The Rotarian, 1959, and right photo taken in 2013)

Four posts re Chandigarh urban planning, landscape architecture and garden design

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Landscape urbanism and architecture in the design of Edinburgh New Town

Too many old cities, like Beijing, have been destroyed to make way for modernity. And two many have been extended without due regard for landscape architecture. Far too often, design teams have been led by architects, engineers, planners or real estate specialists. Their skills are essential but the first steps in making new urban areas should be led by landscape architects with expertise in composing landform, vegetation and water with buildings and paving.
Edinburgh’s New Town, which was an extension of its Old Town, was planned in 1766. The design resulted from a competition won by James Craig. Though sometimes described as an ‘architect’ Craig served his apprenticeship with a stone mason and his inspiration, like that of many eighteenth century landscape designers, came from poetry. Craig’s maternal uncle was the famous landscape poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons and of Rule Britannia.
Edinburgh New Town’s streets, squares and views were planned before any of its buildings were designed. This excellent procedure is now described as landscape urbanism or, if embodies a deeper understanding of ecology, ecological urbanism.

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Green Streets and air pollution

Those interested in actually tackling the issue of high levels of particulate pollution in city streets can measure particulate levels by taking part in the ISPEX scheme, between 1 September and 15 October 2015, and measure particulate levels on their mobile phone (iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S). You receive a fitment to place over your mobile phone and take photographs of the sky (best in the morning and evening), an app translates the light to particulate figures.

Cities involved are : Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Manchester, Milan, and Rome (pity Istanbul and Moscow are not covered).

iSPEX-EU is part of a LIGHT2015, a project funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. In Britain the Institute of Physics (IOP), is leading the local campaign activities, working closely with the Science & Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (STFC-RAL) and the iSPEX team at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The University of Manchester is collaborating as well. In London you can just collect the mobile phone fitment at the Institute of Physics, 80 Portland Place, London W1B 1N

It would be good if landscape architects supported the project by taking readings outside their homes and offices and on their journeys to work. Landscape architects can help ameliorate particulate pollution by planting urban street trees and vegetating buildings and can reduce particulate levels by promoting alternatives to hydrocarbon fuelled movement in cities, e.g. walking and cycling

Info generally on http://ispex-eu.org/

and for London write to:

london@ispex-eu.org

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Crossrail

 

Crossrail Regional Route map, (credit Crossrail Ltd.)

Crossrail Regional Route map, (credit Crossrail Ltd.)

Finally, decades after Paris began its RER system, London  is building its first Crossrail, which is west-east and due to open in 2019. Like Paris’s RER it is being built to continental GB loading gauge and it eventually could take double deck trains.

It will transform cross-London communications: in London Whitechapel, Woolwich, West Drayton, Ealing Broadway and West Ealing will boom. As will Slough and Maidenhead on the west section.

Journey times will be Woolwich to Heathrow Terminal 4 in 56 minutes, Woolwich to Tottenham Court Road in 19 minutes. It will add 10% to London’s total rail capacity. It is Europe’s largest contraction project in 2015.

So what are landscape architects doing? Gillespies designed the Canary Wharf Roof Garden, Hyder’s landscape architects are working on Whitechapel Station, BDP are working on Ilford, and Maryland stations and surrounds. In total there will be 24 new station forecourts, 12 improved forecourts, 1,335 new cycle parking places, 328 new trees and 20 new pedestrian crossings. Designs for many areas include wider pavements, new pedestrian areas (including pedestrian prioritisation), paving, signage and road alterations to slow and reduce road traffic, improving safety.

However, the overall regeneration effects will be far beyond just that.

Refs:

Re loading gauge: Letter 28 July 2010 Department of Transport to Peter Storey https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/40322/response/103683/attach/html/2/100728%20Response%20to%20Peter%20Storey%20about%20Crossrail%20technical%20specification.doc.html

Effect of Crossrail on home prices and potential regeneration http://wip10.ragedev.com/jll/2014/EMEA/crossrail/client-version/

Journey times calculator http://www.crossrail.co.uk/benefits/crossrail-in-numbers?fromStation=2&toStation=30&journey-request=Search

 

 

 

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Wynyard Hall garden design by Alistair Baldwin landscape architect

Garden design for Wynyard Hall by Alistair Baldwin landscape architect

Garden design for Wynyard Hall by Alistair Baldwin landscape architect

Alistair Baldwin, a landscape architect who used to teach at Leeds Met, has designed a garden for Sir John Hall at Wynyard Hall Hotel in the Tees Valley. The press viewed it as a ‘stunning £1.6m rose garden’. Alistair explained the design as ‘a rose garden for the 21st century, in which this most quintessentially English flower is intermingled with swathes of flowering plants from around the world. The layout takes inspiration from the historic evolution of the walled garden, from the strict geometric order of Persian grids, through the raised beds of the English kitchen garden, to the babbling rills of the Moorish gardens of paradise.’ Also:’The grid pattern of the eastern end of the garden is reminiscent of the rigid geometry of the traditional kitchen garden, while the babbling rills echo the calm of Moorish oases. Cedar wood pillars lend immediate height and create the effect of a cloistered walk.’ Baldwin’s account is of double-coding, in Charles Jencks’ sense. So I classify the layout as mainstream postmodern garden design’.

Posted in garden design