Humphry Repton, public goods and the landscape architecture of golf

Images of Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles, Humphry Repton’s before and after of Brondesbury Park, in London, and of Brondesbury Park Station

Repton, who was by far the most important landscape architecture theorist of the nineteenth century, used images (left, above) to make the case for opening the view of Brondesbury Park to the public.

Malcolm Gladwell, in a Revisionist History podcast on A good walk spoiled, makes the same point about the luxurious Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles. He says the club gets gargantuan tax breaks but provides no public goods in return. Walkers and joggers suffer from the traffic and the chain link fencing. His podcast, once you get past the ads, is powerfully argued. My only point of disagreement is with his view that golf courses are beautiful. Very few are and they most are anti-ecological.

Repton’s support for public goods was followed by John Claudius Loudon’s advocacy of public parks (in which Los Angeles is also deficient) and of the term ‘landscape architecture’. Gilbert Laing Meason, who devised the term in 1828, argued for public goods and quoted a letter from a geologist (John MacCulloch) to a poet (Sir Walter Scott):

The public at large has a claim over the architecture of a country. It is common property, inasmuch as it involves the national taste and character: and no man has a right to pass himself and his own barbarous inventions as a national taste, and to hand down to posterity, his own ignorance and disgrace, to be a satire and a libel on the knowledge and taste of his age. Against this, we have all an interest in entering our protests; and thus, for the present, ends the explosion of my architectural anger. Do, my dear Scott, put yourself in a passion for once, like Archilochus, and write some Iambics against these people.

The podcast, I’m pleased to say, has a contribution from a landscape architect.

Posted in landscape architecture, public parks

Geoffrey Jellicoe’s landscape architectural design method

The video refers to important stages in the development of Jellicoe’s approach landscape architecture and design theory. You could see it as a progression from Renaissance to Modern to Postmodern. Or, like me, you take the view that his approach was always postmodern: using the term in Canon Bernard Iddings Bell’s sense. 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’).

Jellicoe’s design method deserves much more attention than it receives. Following Vitruvius, he had a deep concern for functional, technical and aesthetic issues and a brilliant way of fusing them under the auspices of a design concept. Here is my interpretation of Jellicoe’s design method:

  1. Consider the client’s needs and wants
  2. Make the acquaintance of the genius locii
  3. Investigate the technical opportunities
  4. Use conscious and subconscious inputs to formulate a design concept 
  5. Produce diagrams and/or models to explain the concept
  6. Use diligence to sort out all the details
  7. Write a design account of the project, explaining how the Vitruvian objectives have been satisfied [I do not think Jellicoe referred to Vitruvius but he certainly balanced Commodity, Firmness and Delight in his his design approach]
1900 born in Chelsea
1910-18 gained a love of Latin literature and classical civilisation
1918-24 studied at the Architectural Association
1924 visited and studied Italian gardens
1934 designed the Caveman Restaurant in the Cheddar Gorge, with Russell Page. The design style was Abstract Modern but the design approach Post Modern: it was context-sensitive and it told a story (about man’s evolution from the ‘miasmal mire’).
1952 included a serpent (formed with trees) as part of his design for the Cadbury factory in Moreton
1957-62 included another serpent (formed with water) in his design for the Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead New Town
1963-5 designed the President Kennedy Memorial in Runnymede and explained it as having both visible and invisible dimensions
1968 lecturing in Greenwich, Jellicoe proposed a serpent (formed with earth) as ‘an earth companion for the Serpentine’
1983 published the Guelph Lectures in Landscape Design explaining a design approach drawing on CG Jung’s theory of the collective subconscious

Posted in landscape architecture

Hal Moggridge lecture on Thursday 17 October 2019 in Cheltenham

Hal Moggridge, landscape architect

Hal Moggridge is giving a lecture on his life and work, preceded by a short interview (by Ying Li). Thursday 17 October 2019 18:00 – 20:00 BST, Lecture Hall (Room: TC001), Francis Close Hall Campus, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ. Tickets from Eventbrite.

Hal Moggridge OBE PPLI VMH FIHort RIBA was principal of Colvin & Moggridge, the oldest surviving British landscape practice, from 1969, when he joined the late Brenda Colvin who founded the practice in 1922, until 1997 when he became consultant, a position he still enjoys. He was President of the Landscape Institute 1979-81 and LI delegate to IFLA 1980-90 & 2002-06. He served on the Royal Fine Art Commission 1988-99 and the National Trust Architectural Panel 1991-2009. He has illustrated the wide scope of his landscape work, countryside, industrial, historic restoration, urban parkland, etc in his book ‘SLOW GROWTH on the art of landscape architecture’


Posted in landscape architecture

Landscape architects support the call for cycling infrastructure and a National Cycling Protest

Landscape architects care about cycling for 3 main reasons:

  • many of us are cyclists, because we know it’s the fastest, healthiest, most sustainable and most economical transport mode ever invented
  • we all care about a creating good urban/rural environments, saving the planet and combating climate change
  • we know, as professionals, that we can make a valuable contribution to the planning and design of cyclepaths, cycleway networks and related infrastructure

For these reasons, I’ve been helping with organising the UK National Cycling Protest that will be held on Saturday 7th September 2019 in London. Mostly, I’ve been making videos for Youtube and posting on Twitter and Facebook. We’re going to ride from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Parliament Square. It would be great to have more landscape architects come along. The headline call is for investment in UK cycling infrastructure to be raised from 72p/head/year to the UN-recommended 20% of the transport budget. For the UK, this would be £112/head/year. The reasons for this being such good value for money are set out in the in the above video. With the man who made the case for Central London’s excellent cycleways (Andrew Gilligan) now the government’s transport adviser, the timing of the Protest is fortuitous. The Protest is organised by Stop Killing Cyclists in partnership with XR Extinction Rebellion.

So what skills can landscape architects contribute to cycling infrastructure? Three things.

  • First, a focus on the cyclist’s user experience. This is intrinsic to landscape architecture – and not to transport planning or highway engineering. We know how to assess urban landscapes and plan routes that cyclists will want to use; an understanding of desire lines is part of the landscape profession’s DNA.
  • Second, we know that different types of user require different types of cycleway. There are separate requirements for commuter cyclists, leisure cyclists, sport cyclists, off-road cyclists and young cyclists. One size does not fit all. Cycleways are an aspect of street design, park design, greenway design and urban design.
  • Third, since our first introduction to landscape architecture we have known that use must be combined with beauty. As Stephen Switzer put it, in Christopher Hussey’s translation

He that the beautiful and useful blends,
Simplicity with greatness, gains all ends.

Utile quimiscens, ingentia Rura,
Simplex Munditis ornat, punctum hic tulit omne.

Motorised transport has always been a threat to non-motorised transport and the fear of being crushed is the main reason for the UK cycling mode share being one tenth of that in Holland and Denmark


Posted in cycleways, London cycle network

Andrew Gilligan to be new government cycling adviser

Really good news, I hope. Andrew Gilligan is to join the Prime Minister’s team as transport adviser.  Previously, Gilligan was Johnson’s cycling commissioner at the Greater London Authority GLA. His new duties must including cycling and I believe that, with timely pressure from Stop Killing cyclists (at the 2012 TfL cycling protest) Gilligan was the prime mover in the switch from Phase 1 Slippery Blue Paint Superhighways to Phase 2 Segregated Superhighways.

Let’s hope that, with more pressure from 2019 National Cycling Protest on 7th Sept, we can have a UK-wide Cycleway Network programme funded at the UN-recommended rate 20% of the transport budget. This would be 155 times higher than the present UK rate of investment in cycle infrastructure (72p/head)  But at £112/head/year, would only amount to the cost of three London cappuccinos per person per week for a year.

There is a real opportunity for change and we all need to support Gilligan in his coming battles with the Department for Transport. Gilligan opposes HS2. The new Minister of Transport (Grant Shapps) owns his own plane and may not have a deep committment to funding cycle infrastructure. We need Gilligan to focus on cycling. Compared to all other mechanised transport modes it is  faster, cheaper, healthier, quieter and much more sustainable. Cycling is the mass transit system of choice for the cities of the twenty-first century.

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network, London Cycleway Plan

40:1 Benefit:Cost ratio for cycling mass transport infrastructure

Summary of the benefits from investing £6.2bn/year in cycling infrastructure for bicycle mass transit
(1) Every town in the UK will have a safe and segregated Cycleway Network of the kind being built, far too slowly, in London
(2) The proportion of urban trips done by bike will rise from under 2% to over 40%, as it is in the cities of Denmark and Holland
(3) There will be a 20% reduction in UK emissions of greenhouse gases so that climate change will be slowed.
(4) Air quality in cities will be greatly improved, with less nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and particulates to damage your lungs
(5) People will be healthier with less obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and depression
(6) With less money being wasted on hydrocarbons, the UK balance of payments will be improved and household expenditure on transport will fall from its current £62/week
(7) Cities will be quieter, with the roar of traffic giving way to the sounds of birds, bees and breezes
Note: the UN Environment Programme advises countries to spend 20% of their transport budgets in Non Motorised Transport. For at least a decade, the best value opportunity in the UK is investment in cycle infrastructure, including cycleways, bicycle parking, home zones. For 2019-20, 20% of the UK transport budget is £6.2 billion #6Billion4Cycling .

The Benefit:Cost Ratio (BCR, aka Cost:Benefit Ratio CBR) is much more favourable for bicycle infrastructure than for road or rail infrastructure projects. A £2 return for £1 invested (2:1) is considered OK for road and rail. For cycle mass transit BCR ratios range between 5:1 and 50:1 (more research is required to collect information). My calculations (as a time-expired economist) are that for cycling infrastructure in London the direct transport benefits are about 20:1 and the health and environmental benefits are also 20:1. If correct, this offers a total Benefit:Cost Ratio of 40:1. See also:
Invest 20% of the transport budget to raise the cycling mode share by 2.5%/year   

Public investments in road and rail typically have a BCR of 2:1. For cycle mass transit the ratio can be 40:1.

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network, London Cycleway Plan Tagged with:

National Cycling Protest UK 7th September 2019 in Parliament Square London

The National Cycling Protest will take place on 7th September 2019:

  • 12 Noon Assemble in Lincolns Inn Fields, London
  • 1 pm Procession
  • 2-3.30 Rally in Parliament Square

The rally will call for:

  • £6.2 billio/year to be invested in cycling infrastructure
  • Reversal of the fuel-duty cuts
  • Car-free villages, towns and city centres with safe neighbourhoods for kids

The aim is to ‘Copenhagenize‘ UK towns by raising the percentage of trips done by bike from its present level, of under 2%, to the Copenhagen level of over 41%. In 2019 Copenhagen, with a population of 602,000 has 250 miles of segregated cycleway. This compares with the 7.5 miles of superhighway-standard segregated cycleway in Central London. Taking London as an example, because that’s where I live, the above video presents the evidence to show that if London were to invest as much in cycle infrastructure as it invested in Crossrail 1 (£170/head/year) it would raise the cycling mode share from 2% to 41% in 8 years. This would add capacity for  3.8 billion trips/year compared with the 200 million trips/year that Crossrail is expected to carry. That’s 20 times as many trips for 2/3rds of the money with completion in  2/3rds of the time. And that’s an outstanding return on investment.

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network, London Cycleway Plan

Landscape architecture CPD: nature in urban public open spaces

Brasilia is famous for its aesthetics – NOT for the social or ecological quality of its public open spaces

Beyond Green: Rethinking Nature in Urban Public Spaces

  • Is the idea of nature relevant to public open space in urban areas? Yes.
  • Should landscape architects be involved? Yes.

But what, why, how and where can and should nature influence the planning and design of public open space in urban areas. A good way to learn more is to attend the forthcoming CDP event in Cheltenham, organised by the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Gloucester on  12 June 2019 11:30am – 14:00pm. Book with Eventbrite.


Posted in landscape architecture, public parks, urban design, urban squares

Landscape Institute: election of the next LI President

2019 LI Elections: candidates for President of the Landscape Institute: voting ends on 31st May. See LI Website for details and use links below to see the videos

Congratulations to the Landscape Institute on its publication of candidate videos for the 2019 LI presidential election. Great that there are four of them – and thank you to the candidates for putting their names forward. But it’s not a beauty contest and three minutes is not enough. Jane Findlay‘s video ends with the four words ‘I really understand that…..’ and she is then cut off. Before this happens she says she wishes to promote the relevance of the profession, talks about the need for gender balance in senior roles and emphasises the importance of digital skills.

What I’d most like to hear from each candidate is about themselves, about where they’d like to lead the LI and about how they would get us from where we are to where we should be. Sarah Jones-Morris‘ video talks about biodiversity, climate change and species extinction but does not seem to have been made as an election manifesto. Helen Tranter‘s video was made as an election address and opens by stating that ‘we are a small organisation with big ambitions – we would like to increase our influence and relevance’.  She then observes that the LI has only 5,000 paying members while there are 17,000 landscape professionals in our industry.  I guess every member would like the LI to deal with these issues and wish the video could be extended, by at least two minutes to tell us how. Brodie McAllistair‘s video has the best balance between telling us about his career (which includes education, practice and LI roles) and about his vision for the landscape profession. He supports Geoffrey Jellicoe’s statement that  ‘landscape design may well be recognized as the most comprehensive of the arts’. He states that  the LI ‘must deliver on long-standing objectives’ and he regrets that we ‘may lose ground to other professions’.  He therefore believes, as I do, that the LI must therefore engage with the schools, with the media, with the arts, with the sciences and with the other professions.

There are many important topics here. For the next round of LI elections, I hope the time limit will be raised and that content guidelines will be issued. Candidates should be encouraged to tell us about themselves, about their vision for the landscape profession and about what practical steps they will take towards the realisation of their vision. Like bicycles, professions are apt to fall over if they fail to move forward.

Note: I’ve been a member of the LI for half a century and am sorry not have a vote because I am only a retired member. The Institute was founded in 1929 and has its 100th anniversary in 2029.





Posted in landscape architecture

Invest 20% of the transport budget to raise the cycling mode share by 2.5%/year

Building cycleway networks is astonishingly good value for money compared to other urban mass transport systems: bus, rail etc

The bicycle began as the ultimate dream machine, cheaper, healthier, more exciting and more glamorous, than horse-drawn vehicles or horses. In the 1940s, almost half the trips in London and Copenhagen were cycled. And the figure was over was over 80% in Amsterdam. Competition from motor vehicles then began to drive bikes off the road. Commuter cycling nearly died. So did far too many cyclists. And too many transport planners prioritised motor transport – as they still do.
Then, in 1961, a keen cyclist wrote a book on The Death and Life of the Great American Cities. Jane Jacobs described ‘the attrition of automobiles by cities’ as ‘probably the only means by which absolute numbers of vehicles can be cut down’. Accidents weren’t her focus. She argued that sedentary transport wastes urban space and is a serious health hazard – and she was dead right. Get a clip. Jacobs’ book had enormous influence, and in the half century since its publication the car has come to be seen as a dangerous, unhealthy, city-destroying transport mode. We should drive  only when we have to.
In 1973 Stop-de Kindermoord launched a political campaign that led to Amsterdam becoming the world’s cycling capital. ‘Stop Child Murder’ was a brilliant slogan. How could anybody be against it? And it includes deaths from traffic accidents, from physical inactivity, from obesity and from air pollution. Also in 1973 the first oil crisis highlighted another problem with road transport: it’s very expensive! See video How the Dutch got their cycle paths. So in the 21st century, cycling has been resurgent around the world, with Holland and Denmark still leading the way. A book called Copenhagenize explains how to encourage cycling – by building cycleways.
The crucial point is that from 2000 and 4 to 2000 and 18 Copenhagen invested £35/head/year in Cycleway Networks. That’s is about the cost of 12 cups of coffee/mouth/year and it raised the proportion of all trips in Copenhagen done by bicycle, the mode share, from 20% to 42%. For most of this period London’s expenditure on cycle infrastructure was only £2/head/year, making £30 in 15 years, and this raised the mode share of cycling by 1% to 2% . You get what you pay for. The 2018 London Cycling Action Plan promises to invest about £18/head/year in cycling and walking. This is expected to raise the cycling mode share by half a percent per year, 5% in 2025. Similar increases are not planned for the rest of the UK.
A United Nations report, in 2016, advised both rich and poor countries to spend a fifth of their transport budgets on NMT: Non-Motorised Transport. For the UK, this would be £91/head/year (equivalent to 30 cups of coffee per mouth per year). With £35/head buying a 1% per year increase in the cycling mode share, spending £91/head would take the London cycling mode share from 2.5% to 25% in one decade. This would transform the city.

Another consideration for London, is that overall transport demand has been rising at 1% a year for more than ten years. So the supply has to increase. But how can it be done?’
Creating more space for roads and car parks would be impossible. Cramming more people into trains would be cruel. Massive rail investment is possible. But Crossrail will only increase London’s transport capacity by 2% in 10 years – at a cost of £18bn. That’s spending £170/head/year for a decade, when spending half this sum on a cycle network London’s transport capacity would rise by twenty-five percent. And:

  • The cycleway network would require no electricity and little maintenance.
  • It would operate 24 hours a day, with no breakdowns and no industrial action.
  • It would free up road space for use by commercial vehicles.
  • It would make London a MUCH healthier place to live and work – saving more billions of pounds

Cost-benefit analysis favours cycling. And this is why the UN regards cycling as such a crucial investment. Like Jane Jacobs, they’re dead right.
The UK Facebook group for Stop Killing Cyclists has 7,000 members. Please join and please help and please ask anyone who stands for an election in your part of the country whether they support the UN target for investment in cycling: £91 per head per year for the UK. Let’s make the country that invented the Rover Safety Bicycle into a country where cycling saves lives.

More LAA videos about bicycle transport planning

If you have read to here you might also like to see some videos about planning for bicycle transport:

Posted in cycleways, urban design