Transport and Landscape Architects

Over a century of experience: Landscape Architects have well over a century of experience of dealing with transport infrastructure projects. In the States parkways were roads created to view the scenery. The first parkway is generally thought to be the Eastern Parkway through Brooklyn to Ridgewood Reservoir, and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and built in 1870-74. Such early parkways were about bringing the countryside to the city.

By the beginning of the twentieth century parkways were being designed for their scenic views of the countryside, and for recreational driving. These roads generally had limited access for ease of driving and bridges to take other roads under or over the parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway snakes around Grandfather Mountain near the Linn Cove Viaduct at Mile Marker 304 (credit Ken Thomas)

The Blue Ridge Parkway snakes around Grandfather Mountain near the Linn Cove Viaduct at Mile Marker 304 (credit Ken Thomas)

Then in the New Deal in the 1930s, the US federal government promoted National Parkways which are four lane highways with a central median strip and are the responsibility of the National Parks Service. A classic is the 755 km long Blue Ridge Parkway begun in 1935 through Virginia and North Carolina which connects the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


In Germany by the late 1930s Albert Speer, as Generalbauinspektor, had a team of twenty landscape architects (then known as Gartenarchitekten) working on Germany new Autobahn system.

Drackensteiner Hang Bridges German Reichsautobahn Motorway (credit Hermann Harz, veröffentlicht durchs Reichsministerium Speer)

Drackensteiner Hang Bridges German Reichsautobahn Motorway (credit Hermann Harz, veröffentlicht durchs Reichsministerium Speer)

British motorways: Post-war such work has continued, for example the British motorway system involved teams of landscape architects. Indeed in the 1960s there was in addition a team of landscape advisors to the Department of Transport, including Derek Lovejoy and Bodfan Gruffydd. One classic piece of advise was the M40 crossing of the Chilterns which is curved so as to avoid a disruptive notch in the ridge. The key piece of presentation was a painting of the proposals by John Piper, which Bodfan Gruffydd commissioned.

EIA Directive: The European Union Environmental Impact Assessment directive of 1985 has widened the scope for such advise, and now work extends to both assessing schemes at a initial strategic stage, advising on the line of new routes and design of the motorway itself. But this includes all strategic infrastructure including airports, canals, roads and railways.

High Speed lines: For example, in Britain, the first High Speed Railway involved advise from Arups and design work by landscape architects of Building Design Partnership while currently landscape architects from LDA and Natural England are working on the High Speed 2 railway proposed from London to Leeds and Manchester and points north.

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The Greenway from Newham to Tower Hamlets

Newham's 'Greenway' began life as the Sewerbank aka Northern Outfall Sewer Walk.

Newham’s ‘Greenway’ began life as the Sewerbank aka Northern Outfall Sewer Walk.

The Northern Outfall Sewer, which runs from Wick Lane to Beckton sewage treatment works was designed by Joseph Bazalgette after the 1853 cholera outbreak. Walkers were able to use much of the land above the sewer and it was known as Sewerbank.

When drawing up a network of London Walks, as part of the 1990-1 Green Strategy for London, I called it the London Outfall Sewer Walk, as a wry comment on official attitudes to strategic open space planning. The scheme was displayed at a House of Lords lunch and Lord Strathclyde, speaking for the government, said he thought it was a ‘darn good idea’ but that he had one suggestion to make: the name. ‘I’d find a new name for the Northern Outfall Sewer Walk’ he said. Everyone laughed and not long afterwards Newham Council commissioned Land Use Consultants (LUC) to make Newham’s Sewerbank to The Greenway.

LUC did a good job of the landscape architecture but were not asked to undertake the just-as-important landscape planning. A greenway should either be a destination in its own right or it should link an origin to another destination. Planning for the 2012 Olympic Games created another opportunity. The Greenway was one of the few places from which construction of the Olympic Park could be observed. Adams & Sutherland were commissioned to redesign the section west of what became the Queen Elizabeth Park. It looked good during the games and was well used as a route to the ViewTube cafe. A section of The Greenway east of the park was spoiled by being hard-surfaced as an access route to the Olympic Games. Further east, and also forming part of the London Capital Ring circular walk, The Greenway has a pleasantly informal green character but few users. It has had two landscape designs – and it needs a third.

The west section of Newham's Greenway was upgraded by Adams & Sutherland for visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games

The west section of Newham’s Greenway was upgraded by Adams & Sutherland for visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games

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Potters Fields landscape architecture London

Eelco Hooftman of GROSS.MAX was the landscape architect for Potters Fields Park in London. The site was once a pottery in which English Delftware was made. It is on the south bank of the River Thames. Piet Oudolf the perennial planting (not shown on the video).

It is a popular success. But why?

  • the good management?
  • he landscape architecture?
  • the planting design?
  • the location?
  • the scenery?
  • the famous nearby buildings?
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High Speed 2 Vision for Design

High Speed 2 and connections, (credit: By Cnbrb (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

High Speed 2 and connections, (credit: Cnbrb [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s an interesting article by Charles Crawford of LDA Design in the current 19 August 2015 issue of Rail. This summarizes elements of the HS2 Design Vision. HS2 being the high speed railway from London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds and then points north. Speeds are to be upto 400 km/h (250 mph). Construction is forecast to start in 2017 with Birmingham being reached by 2026 and the two northern branches by 2033. The necessity for such a rail network will be continued to increase as various companies and railway transport businesses look at improving their railway marketing in the UK, in hopes of becoming one of many providers that will run the HS2 lines.

Crawford argues that a mitigation-led design, e.g. tunnels, cuttings and lots of noise bunds and obviation of visual and landscape impact is not the way forwards. Rather that there are five elements to the Design Vision for HS2 which should be seen as a positive not defensive design:

  1. A Whole Project Masterplan,

This is an argument for a national design narrative, and overall identity. This is more than a common house style for stations, bridges, but rather a masterplan for the entire route and how it relates to its context, including the varying landscapes, ecology, cultural heritage, hydrology and communities, so that the while is greater than its parts. Precedents might be the Great Western, London to Bristol Railway, or the Shinkansen of Japan.

  1. Passenger Experience

Of the 230km route of phase 1 to Birmingham, some 53km will be in tunnel and 74km in cutting, which is over 55% of the journey. So it is vital that the remainder enhances the passengers’ journey (think of those splendid first views over Rainham Marshes as the Eurostar leaves the tunnel after Stratford). This is an argument for lineside restoration, mitigation and enhancement as part of a “celebration of English landscape”.

  1. Integrated Design

This argues for surface water balancing being used to create a range of new habitats with earth modeling to mitigate noise and planting to screen sensate views. This may extend to creation of country parks and and nature reserves.

  1. Economic Regeneration

This is design which aims to maximize regeneration as at Old Oak Common in London or Curzon Street the Birmingham terminus. So that stations become hubs of wider regeneration. But this extends to other areas where the HS2 line can lead to environmental improvements linked to economic regeneration.

  1. Environmental Regeneration

This extends the above by addressing environmental degradation along the route, in rural as well as urban areas. For example, small, derelict brownfield sites and by using embankments to provide flood protection.

Crawford ends by quoting the example of the London 2012 Olympic Parks as an example on a smaller scale of what HS2 can achieve. A corrective to the positive tenor of Crawford’s views is to read the position statement by the Wildlife Trusts on HS2 (see below).

Charles Crawford, is a solicitor turned landscape architect, and director of LDA Design, curiously he is also a director of the Kingsland toll bridge, near Shrewsbury. He studied law at Cambridge University (1980-83) and landscape architecture at the University of Central England (1994-98).


Charles Crawford, LDA Design, “Preserving England’s Green and Pleasant Land” Rail, issue 781, 19 August-1 September 2015, pp.32-33 (accessed 24.8.2015)

High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. HS2 Design Vision March 2015 (accessed 24.8.2015)

Wildlife Trusts Position Statement on Phase 1 of HS2 (accessed 24.8.2015)



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St Andrews Square landscape architects

St Andrews Square Edinburgh, designed by Gillespies landscape architects

St Andrews Square Edinburgh, designed by Gillespies landscape architects

St Andrew’s Square was built after 1772, as the first part of Edinburgh’s New Town, designed by James Craig. It was a private pleasure garden for use by local residents but was opened for public use in 2008. The old layout had a single path on an east-west axis running through grass and trees. The redesigned square has a cafe, a very popular water feature and gay planting.

Landscape architects Gillespies LLP
Client City of Edinburgh Council / Essential Edinburgh
Architects of the Café Pavilion: Gillespies
Structural Engineers: Land Engineering
Service Engineers: Parsons Brinkerhoff
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Mayow Park, Sydenham

Mayow Park, the cricket ground. with old Kent hedgerow trees beyond

Mayow Park, the cricket ground. with old Kent hedgerow trees beyond


Just north of Sydenham and in Perry Vale off Mayow Road and south of Forest Hill, this seven hectare park was opened in 1875 when the area was being first developed. It still has a fair number of field hedgerow oak. The land was purchased by a group of local philanthropists, including F.J.Horniman (of Horniman Museum fame) and the first Mayor of Lewisham. The park was opened as Sydenham and Lewisham Recreation Ground and consisted of a circuit path, around a cricket pitch (which is still in use), a tea house, and drinking fountain.

A Renaissance

Over the past ten years the park has undergone a renaissance, the tea house has been rescued from dereliction (and now houses a Green and Brown coffee café, a local chain), that means there are decent toilets (with Dyson dryers). An area has been given over to meadow grass (though the cuttings are left in situ, which is not the best way to increase biodiversity) and a trim trail and fitness exercise equipment has been added. There is also a volunteer run vegetable garden which is a real asset. The tennis court continues though sadly the bowling green, though intact, is out-of-use. This is despite the £50,000 given by the London Marathon Trust, for new facilities in 2009-10, designed by Groundwork.

Maintenance is by Glendale, (sadly the resident park keeper who was appointed on 1 March 2010 was got rid of in March 2015, Lewisham cut their 12 strong team in half) and that means management is only contactable during working hours on weekdays, not much use at the weekend or on bank holidays. But the grass is short and the park looks fine, litter is collected and the park is well used by locals.

Funding Sources

The park has benefitted from the Mayor of London’s Capital Growth food growing scheme and from Pocket Park funding. A Masterplan was produced in 2010 by Groundwork London and Sue Morgan of Around the Block Ltd. Envirowork Lewisham which is a social enterprise providing horticultural employment and training for unemployed local people has done a lot of work on the community garden near the pavilion,. The improvements in this park have been confirmed by the Green Flag Award, 2014-15.

This is a park which benefitted by the community funding during the 2005-2010 government and this has continued during the subsequent coalition government and also thanks to the Mayor of London. Not everything has worked perfectly, the bowling green lies out of use, the hay meadow is being enriched by grass cuttings left insitu, and the footpaths are in variable condition. It remains to be seen what effect the loss of the resident park keeper will be. But overall the past ten years have seen much improvement, this a good example of park management in difficult times financially for local authorities.

Mayow Park plan

Mayow Park plan, from Lewisham’s rather good and informative signboard, (credit R. Holden)












Refs. (all accessed 23.8.2015)



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Poundbury, Bridport Road, looking to Butter Cross Square Bakery

Poundbury, Bridport Road, looking to Butter Cross Square Bakery (credit R.Holden)

Poundbury is an urban extension to the Dorset town of Dorchester, a sort of garden suburb. It is sited to the west of Dorchester. The planned population is 5,000 and it forms a significant extension to the town. Dorchester had a total population of 19,000 in 2011, when Poundbury’s population was about 2500, so when completed it will house over a fifth of the population. It is sited to the west of Dorchester, straddling the Roman Road (sometimes called the Icknield Way now the A35) which runs west straight to Bridport and Exeter. The site, on a hilltop which rises to 110m. In consequence it is exposed and windy: the Romans built their town (Durovaria) in the relatively sheltered valley of the River Frome below and remains of the Roman aqueduct, a channel or leat, mark the northern edge of Poundbury which overlooks the valley of the Frome. Geologically this is chalk country.

The form of development
The developer is the Duchy of Cornwall, a crown body which holds the estates of the Prince of Wales as heir to the throne, and the site was formerly Poundbury Farm, part of the Duchy’s holdings in Dorset. Construction began in 1993. The housing development is said to be dense and is mainly two or three storeys high, and follows traditional pattern of terraced houses in brick or render backing onto service courts. There are town squares and the centre is being constructed around the rather grand Queen Mother Square, which apartments rising to five stores, built as neo-classical terraces. Shops include a Waitrose convenience store, a butchers and cheesemonger, an interior design shops and a couple of cafes. There is a pub, the Poet Laureate, a five cafés. There is also a Farmers’ Market, one Saturday per month. East-west through Poundbury, the line of the Roman road, the Bridport Road has been retained. The A35 by-pass road forms the southern boundary and south east of that is phase 1, the first area to be completed.

Sixty hectares of the total of 162 hectares is open space. If we omit the open space then the density of development of the 102 hectares which are built up divided by 5000 is 49 persons /ha. i.e. 4,900 per sq km: this compares with 5,900 / sq km for London, or 4,200 per sq. km for Edinburgh or 3,200 per sq. km for Amsterdam so it is a surprisingly dense modern development. Of course some of the properties are foreclosed upon sadly, much like how in Texas many end up as reo bank owned, but this gives ample chance for someone to bid on those homes in these cases.

The roads are quite wide and generous, perhaps too wide given the ambition to model traditional urban development. And there is generous carparking. Though the development is not dominated by cars the commitment to public or non-car modes transport appears more lip service, and car usage is reported to be higher than general in Dorset. There is an electric powered bus service, no.6, between Queen Mother Square and Dorchester town centre and Dorchester South Station. There is no cycle hire and cycle usage appeared low when your reporter visited.

In 2015, 140 businesses employed 1,660 people at Poundbury, and this excludes the more than 300 construction workers employed at any one time. Two of the largest employers are muesli maker, Dorset Cereals, with its 130 strong workforce, and the chocolate maker, House of Dorchester. Commercial activities are not zoned, but are scattered in amongst the housing. The adjacent Rainborrow Farm houses an anerobic digestion plant which produced biomethane to service most of the houses. However, the vast majority of employers are service industry, accountants, financial advisors and the like.

Damers First School is being built 2015-16 as a Dorset County, four form entry school for about 150 pupils. There are also care homes and the HQ of Dorset Fire Brigade. The impression is one of a population which is predominantly white, and predominantly retired during the day when your reporter visited in August 2015. But that may be unrepresentative given children and families may have been on holiday.

The master-planner is the Luxemburg architect, Leon Krier, who began work in the late 1980s, and the buildings are all designed in traditional, mainly neo-classical and vernacular styles, ranging from early nineteenth century artisans’ houses, to grander town houses, and versions of Regent’s Park terraces. They’re going to be highly sought after homes, and those interested are going to need to go through estate agents who focus more on higher end properties, like William Pitt, who are bound to be given the responsibility of selling them. The general impression of the area is of a spruce, suspiciously perfect Wessex market town. Views are marked by corner buildings and some of the squares have meeting halls modelled on West County market halls. When complete there will be four quadrants, for example phase 1 completed in 1996 has the Brownsword Hall, designed by John Simpson. Remarkably 35% of the total housing will be affordable rented accommodation, developed by the likes of the Guinness Trust.

There are now a stable of architects, many of them local. Leigh Brooks, David Oliver, Ben Pentreath, Andy Kunz and Philip Storey have all designed areas and Quinlan and Francis Terry and Woking Design Group have designed the larger buildings around Queen Mother Square, which will be completed in 2016.

The architects work within design guidelines and materials include brick, stone, slate and render. The footpath and streets are characterized by tar spray and chip footpaths, which tend to scatter gravel and Queen Mother Square is shared space, with cars and pedestrian areas informally demarcated with a square pattern of macadam within lines of sets and bands of light brown macadam. Controls on satellite dishes bans them from the front of buildings. The result of this architectural design is a far higher standard of building than usual in nearly all comparable modern English tow expansion schemes. And certainly the place is far more congenial in a slightly too well mannered way than say the medium rise tower blocks of Stratford East or the Greenwich Peninsula in London, which are empty of people during the working day. However, movement of people around constructions of this nature is not something that can be predicted. Therefore, choosing the right companies who have a range of products and systems for scaffolding services in Sheffield and surrounding areas becomes important in such scenarios. And firms like Burflex tend to have the skills and equipment (scaffolding systems) required to minimise disruption of movement of people around the construction site.

Landscape and Townscape
Remarkably there are no landscape architects named in the guidebooks available from the Duchy’s offices. However, Dorchester based landscape architect, Adrian Lisney, won the commission to work with Leon Krier in 1990. 60 hectares of the total of 162 hectares is open space. There are three parks and two sets of allotments. Of the parks, the Great Field has a multi-use playing field, the Children’s Playpark in Woodlands Crescent has play equipment, and the third, Molmead Walk is a place for views. There is also a Recreation Centre, with swimming pool, dance studio and fitness centre. There is a great attention to planting trees within the limitation of constructing roads and streets for adoption by the local authority. A fourth park will be created within the future North East Quadrant. Only some isolated building such as the estate office, the old farmhourse, will be retained in Duchy freehold. The courtyards at the rear of terraced houses are also not adopted. There is a complete SUDS scheme, assisted by drainage directly into the porous chalkland, and are attenuation tanks for one hundred year floods via swales.

There is a strong commitment to street tree planting, and an astonishing £4500 per tree is given by the Duchy as the costs of preparing and protecting tree pits. Silva Cell tree protection is used. Services are laid in corridors, and one major constraint on tree planting is said to be Dorset’s street tree lighting requirements, given the roads are adopted. When it comes to getting the lighting that you want, looking for an underground wire location and repair service should be in your best interest. This will allow for any faults to be repaired as soon as possible, and before any other lights can be installed. To learn more about this, you may want to visit Aardvark Electric, Inc.`s official website (or somewhere similar) for more information. After all, you want to make sure that your street tree lighting is the best it can be. Most of the trees appeared to be growing well and species included Plane and Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).
Roads are designed to balance cut and fill, and then are planned for trees, hence the use of service corridors.

Public transport access
There’s a half hourly service from Waterloo Station to Dorchester South which takes 23/4 hours, (and it took us less than that to drive from London) then no.6 bus which is a half hourly frequency and takes ten minutes. From Bristol and Bath there are services to Frome which is then 70 minutes to Dorchester West, which is walkable to Poundbury, along Damers Road.

Celebrating Poundbury Magazine 2015-16 Bright Daisy Publishing Ltd: 2015 ref. (accessed 23.8.2015)

Duchy of Cornwall Poundbury 20th Anniversary Dorset Echo, 2015 (accessed 23.8.2015)

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King’s Cross Square landscape architecture London

King's Cross landscape architecture

King’s Cross landscape architecture

The space in front of King’s Cross was redesigned by Stanton Williams in 2010. Previously, it was occupied by a scrappy ticket hall which partly obscured Cubitt’s handsome 1852 station facade. Clearing the space was a wise choice.

The open space was re-designed to create several distinct spatial zones: a transit zone used by pedestrians heading for the station, seating in the sun and seating in the shade of trees, for people awaiting a departure or an arrival. The outdoor concourse uses bands of dark and light granite to create a visually link with the design of the station facade.

Was re-design a success? Only to the extent that it is an improvement on what was there before and the view of the station has been improved. It’s perfectly OK for walking across but it lacks most of the qualities which make a good urban square and has some big negatives. The space is cruelly exposed to noise from the Euston Road. The seating is physically and socially uncomfortable. The square fails on ecological and sustainability criteria. Basically, it is an exterior facade which happens to be horizontal. Dull.

Stanton Williams boast an enthusiasm for context-sensitive design but to my eye the landscape architecture bristles with doctrinaire abstract modernism, which is the least context-sensitive approach of modern times.

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park landscape architecture London

The 2012 Olympic Park closed after the games and re-opened in 2014 as the Queen Elizabeth Park as London’s newest large park. EDAW (which became AECOM) were the landscape architects and master planners. Implementation was designed and supervised by LDA with George Hargreaves. Many other landscape architects were involved, including a team from the University of Sheffield. The park was delivered on budget and on time and undoubtedly did a good a job of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. The question of how successful the design is as a public park is debated, on this video, by Tom Turner and Robert Holden.

“Was the design a success?”
“Yes and no”.

Posted in public parks

Manor House Gardens

Manor House Gardens was a private garden until acquired by the London County Council and opened as a public park in 1901. By 1993, when a park user proup was formed, it was under-funded and under-used. John Hopkins, a landscape architect who subsequently played a leading role in the 2012 Olympic Park, lived nearby and offered his professional help with the design and in seeking funds from the Heritage National Lottery. The bid was successful and the Gardens have become a very much nicer place than formerly. The park users continue to work with Lewisham Council.

Posted in community gardens, public parks