Playing chess on the Stockwell Street University of Greenwich roof garden

Chess challenge on the Stockwell Street Roof Garden in Greenwich

Does London have a better place for a game of chess than the University of Greenwich’s Stockwell Street roof garden? If so, please tell me about it. While smelling the sweet scents of spring flowers, you can pick mint, gaze at a part of Le Notre’s design for Greenwich Park and catch up on your plant idents. And if you want more of London to be like this, find a good landscape architect!

Playing chess with a view of Le Notre’s design for Greenwich Park – there is a plan for the grass parterre with his own handwriting


Posted in green roofs, landscape architecture

Rewilding in Britain

Examples of Rewilding Britain

Re-wilding Ideas of re-wilding have been around for some decades, indeed the concept under other labels has been around for upto a century, for instance, the project to back breed the Auroch. Indeed Heck cattle are an attempt dating back to the 1920s. The term was first coined by the US conservationist activist David Foreman in the 1980s.

Current enthusiasm for re-wilding in Europe began with the Dutch project in the 1980s to create a savanna grassland and wetlands on the last large polder to be reclaimed, Zuidelijke Flevoland. This became the 56km2 Oostvaarderplassen, and in 1989 just three decades after being reclaimed it was given Ramsar status.

In Britain there are now a whole series of rewilding projects. They are of two types, either reintroducing a particular species, often an apex species but also including insect reintroductions such that in 1984 of the Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea arion). The larvae initially feed on the flower-heads of Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) but after three week they feed on Myrmica red ant grubs for the rest of their larval cycle.

But more typical are the reintroductions of predators, and large mammals, such the beaver following its reintroduction since 2009 in the Knapdale Forest in Agyle. There is also a small trial in Devon, on the River Otter, by the Devon Wildllife Trust. Then there is Scottish Wildcat Action efforts to counter hybridisation of this threatened species. Successful bird reintroductions include Red Kites often now seen on the M40 through the Chiltern, the Crane to the Lakenheath and Hickling, the Ospey to Rutland Water, to Wales, and the Lake District.

I am a huge fan of the Lake District and firmly believe that we should do everything in our power to preserve it. There are so many gorgeous hotels and other types of accommodation that would make the perfect spot for a Lake District honeymoon or vacation, and so reintroducing the wildlife and plants that make this such a beautiful part of the world is crucial.

Larger landscape re-wilding
However, larger landscape re-wilding projects in the UK involve whole stretches of countryside similar to the Dutch example. There are a number of wetland and marshland projects (e.g. The Great Fen, Cambridgeshore and Dingle Marshes in Sufflolk. So that they have become almost commonplace.

But more challenging are lowland agricultural landscapes such as the 1,400 ha Knepp Castle Estate West Sussex (which includes a Repton Park). The estate is heavy clay and formerly unprofitable dairy pasture and arable land, which since 2001 has been allowed to develop under the advice of ecologist Frans Vera (who was also involved in the Oostvaarderplassen). This has happened naturally under a grazing ecology with Tamworth pigs, English longhorn cattle, red and fallow deer, and Exmoor ponies. This has led to a whole series of species developments including plants, and invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

The Pumlumon Project, Ymddiriedolaeth Natur Maldwyn
A much larger project is that in mid-Wales, run by the Montgomery Wildlife Trust embracing 40,000 ha of the Cambrian Mountains around Plumlumon. Since 2007 the Trust has been pursuing the following aims:

Element 1 Carbon Storage
Peatlands are the UK’s biggest store of carbon. Like many upland areas, Pumlumon holds vast reserves of peat. In the 1950s and 60s, much of it was drained in a largely unsuccessful attempt to improve grazing, so releasing large amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere. Hnee, reduce these emissions by blocking the drainage ditches. As the bogs become wet again the mosses start to grow, absorbing carbon each summer and locking it away as new peat. At the same time, the existing stores of peat are protected from further erosion, and species marginalised by the original drainage can return.

Element 2 Reconnecting Habitat
Climate change means plants and animals trapped in a fragmented landscape which need green corridors to migrate. Climate change may shift the natural range of some species northwards by more than 250km and/or nearly 300m higher in altitude. After ice ages, plants and animals migrated along natural corridors. But in today’s fragmented landscapes many species will be trapped in habitats which can no longer support them. Hence the needs to provide corridors linking lowland and upland habitat.

Element 3: Storing flood water
At least three million people depend on water which falls as rain in the Pumlumon Project area: the Severn and Wye headwaters are here.
Given the direct link between upland land management and the severity of lowland flooding; strategic tree planting, restoring hedgerows, fencing out watercourses and reducing stocking levels all help to increase the permeability of upland soils, reducing rapid run-off during heavy rain.
The Pumlumon Project area consists of more than 3,700ha of hydrologically active habitats, including wet heath, raised bog, blanket mire, valley mire, and wet woodland.

Element 4: Bringing back wildlife
Just some of the species benefitting from the Pumlumon Project include Ospeys, Red Grouse, Hen Harrier, Black Darter dragonflies and Round Leaved Sundew

Element 5: Changing grazing patterns
Ecologically sensitive grazing doesn’t just enhance the landscape and restore wildlife; it can be more profitable for farmers. Reduction of stocking densities and using cattle instead of sheep, at moderate intensities, and at the appropriate time of year can increase the range of plant species in the turf and the cattle hooves can help break up soil pans.

Element 6: Recreating habitats
Even where large areas of strategically important habitat have been lost, we can put them back. It just takes time The plan is to create a network of wetlands, woodland and species-rich grassland, connected by a latticework of rivers, streams, hedgerows and grass verges.

Element 7: Developing Green Tourism
Underpinning the Pumlumon Project is a simple expectation: a healthy, diverse, wildlife-rich landscape attracts visitors
Including walking, kayaking, mountain biking and wildlife watching. This widens the economy for the local community.

Element 8: Involving communities
The ultimate measure of success is whether local people share these aims and support this project. George Monbiot’s re-wilding writings have made him unpopular in mid-Wales because he directly attacked sheep farming which is a bastion of Welsh-speaking culture, you need to work with the community and support the community.

The IUCN World Database on Protected Areas reports 15% of the earth’s land area is protected. However, the E.O.Wilson, the father of sociobiology, argues 50% of our land area should be wilderness. Meanwhile we are losing wilderness areas.

Posted in landscape planning

Hal Moggridge lecture: Slow Growth: On the Art of Landscape Architecture

On Wednesday 21st February, Hal Moggridge lectured to the London Branch of the Landscape Institute on the theme of his 2017 book Slow Growth: On the Art of Landscape Architecture. A Wikipedia article explains that Slow Food is ‘an organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking. It was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 and has since spread worldwide. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader slow movement. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products’.  Its obverse, fast food, has a well-deserved reputation for being applied to standardised, cheap products made with little nutritional value and a plethora of harmful side effects on the consumer and on the lands from which it is harvested. ‘Slow food’ is better.

‘Slow growth’ is an excellent characterisation of an approach to the design, planning and construction of landscape architecture projects. It rests on thoughtfulness, sustainability and localism. Colvin and Moggridge, launched by Brenda Colvin in 1922, is the oldest extant landscape practice in the UK. Hal’s lecture, like his book, was illustrated with  a wealth of projects. They are classified as People outdoors, Industrial projects, Settings, Views & Skylines, Cities as landscape.

The lecture was on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 at Arup’s London office (8-13 Fitzroy Street). The book was published by Unicorn in September 2017 (352 pages, 1000 illustrations ISBN-10: 1910787426, ISBN-13: 978-1910787427)

Slow Growth: On the Art of Landscape Architecture

Posted in landscape architecture

Desire Lines are a key principle in landscape architecture

Some desire paths are truly desirable. Others are merely functional.

‘Desire line’ is one of landscape architecture’s most useful concepts. Less romantically, Wikipedia calls it a ‘desire path’ and explains the idea as ‘ the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination’. OK, but as everyone knows, desire involves attractiveness as well as opportunity .  A Flickr group collects photographs of desire paths. Some are truly desirable. Others are merely functional.

The origin of the phrase ‘desire line’ is romantic. It was popularised by  New Orleans Tramway which Tennessee Williams made famous with the name of his play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). The tram led to a district called Desire. But a year before this the term ‘desire line’ was in use by American transport planners  planners to mean  ‘a straight line from an origin to a destination’ (eg in the 1946 Portland Metropolitan Area Traffic Survey: Origin-destination Study). I first heard the term from a landscape architect c1970.

The phrase ‘desire line’ is sometimes, and incorrectly, attributed to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. In a book on The Poetics of Space (1958) he recommended topoanalysis as a counterpart to psychoanalysis and wrote: Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived These drawings need not be exact. They need only to be tonalized on the mode of our inner space. But what a book would have to be written to decide all these problems! Space calls for action, and before action, the imagination is at work. It mows and ploughs.

The Baroque design of Greenwich Park, in the 1660s, did not extinguish the old desire line. It leads to Greenwich Town Centre and is still in use. Geoffrey Jellicoe recommended its removal because it disfigures the grass parterre designed by Andre le Notre. The path is is now an ugly parallel-side strip of blacktop.

The Baroque design of Greenwich Park, in the 1660s, did not extinguish the old desire line. It leads to Greenwich Town Centre and is still in use. Geoffrey Jellicoe recommended its removal because it disfigures the grass parterre designed by Andre le Notre. The path is is now an ugly parallel-side strip of blacktop

Posted in urban design

A new agricultural landscape for the UK, post-Brexit – 2018 FOLAR Symposium Day

FOLAR organised a really excellent symposium on 14 April 2018, at MERL in Reading. Videos of the seven speakers are below. I plan to comment in more detail but, for the moment, only emphasise a point made the President of the LI: the government’s consultation on The future for food, farming and the environment ends on 8th May – and we should all comment.

The speakers were Merrick Denton-Thompson, LI President, Professor Adrian Phillips
Dr Simon Mortimer,University of Reading, Paul Tiplady CMLI, Craggatak Consulting,
Kate Ahern CMLI, Duncan MacKay, Natural England, Dr Andrew Clark, CMLI, NFU Director of Policy

Merrick Denton-Thompson, chair 

Professor Adrian Phillips

Dr Simon Mortimer,University of Reading

Paul Tiplady CMLI, Craggatak Consulting

Duncan MacKay,Natural England

Kate Ahern, CMLI Director of Landscape Planning at LUC

Dr Andrew Clark, CMLI, NFU Director of Policy

Posted in landscape planning

Ian McHarg’s boyhood in Glasgow, Clydebank and Craigallian Loch

Ian McHarg was born on Clydeside and became the most famous landscape architect of the 20th century. The importance of Clydebank in the development of his Design with Nature philosophy is explained in McHarg’s last book: A Quest for Life: An Autobiography by Ian L. McHarg

Two Billy Conolly jokes characterise Clydeside: ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares? He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes’. ‘The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack it’ll look exactly the same afterwards’. But McHarg soon saw the contrast between the inhumanity of Clydebank and the humanity of Craigallian Loch, leading to his interest in religion and to his passionate advocacy of Design with Nature. Like Bob Grieve, McHarg was one of the Craigallian Fire Men: ‘These men and boys have walked or cycled here from the city or Clydebank in search of fresh air, freedom and radical talk, and this fire is to become famous. It was the alma mater of people who changed Scotland’s attitude to the outdoors – writers and talkers, planners, outdoor educators, mountaineers and the founders of renowned climbing clubs.’ They also helped change America’s attitude to nature and the outdoors.

In Glasgow, McHarg is perhaps best remembered for his contribution to ‘making the outdoors great’.  As discussed in the video, they should also remember and apply his Design with nature approach to landscape architecture. If they had listened to him in the 1940s, McHarg might not have left Scotland and Glasgow might be miles and miles better than it is today. Regarding the Fire Men, the Sunday Herald reported in 2012 that:

The year is 1932 and a camp fire is heaped high in the woods beside a loch 10 miles north of Glasgow.

Hanging above it on blackened ironwork is a large can labelled Rodine Rat Poison.

Around the flames perhaps 20 figures huddle, their faces reddened and shadowed. Their clothes are patched and layered – it is May and the nights are cold.

Some have schoolboy crops, some can’t afford a barber. All are lean, most are young. Those with blankets draw them closer. Others use the “travelling man’s duvet”, scrunched-up newspaper stuffed down their jackets. They dip tin mugs in the can to draw out tea, the poison long since rinsed away. One starts to sing – Home On The Range, the popular cowboy tune – and a harmonica joins in. Later they will sleep in the open, on the ground, near the fire.

These men and boys have walked or cycled here from the city or Clydebank in search of fresh air, freedom and radical talk, and this fire is to become famous. It was the alma mater of people who changed Scotland’s attitude to the outdoors – writers and talkers, planners, outdoor educators, mountaineers and the founders of renowned climbing clubs.

Those who knew it said it was always burning, day and night, the dubious tea can boiling. It became known simply as the fire that never went out. Now, more than 70 years after the last embers cooled at the fire by Craigallian Loch, on the West Highland Way at Carbeth, a permanent marker is to be placed there.

The names of a handful of “fire-sitters” are known, including Jock Nimlin, an influential climber, National Trust For Scotland stalwart and journalist who wrote about the fire and its Rodine kettle. It is thanks to his journalism, and the autobiography of climber and broadcaster Tom Weir, that we know men from the fire undertook long and difficult journeys across hills and glens, mostly on foot, to get to the mountains and crags they loved

Some stories come from men such as Iain and Willie Grieve, passed down by their fire-sitter father Bob, later Sir Robert. They say the sitters were central to the outdoors movement that defied landowners and opened up the countryside to ordinary people, like a Caledonian wild west, and were even involved in the occasional gunfight with gamekeepers. Scott Valentine, a climber from Bearsden, says his grandfather Tom was one of the Craigallian weekenders. “He spoke fondly of his experiences around the fire,” Valentine says. “He would pass by en route to the hills and take a brew while enjoying the craic or debating the pros of Socialism, Clydesider style.”

But we can only guess who most of the men were, when the fire began, and when and why it ended. If any of the original sitters are still alive, they will be in their 90s or older. So far none has contacted the Grieve brothers through their Craigallian Fire memorial website. We look as though through the smoke of the fire itself at a past just beyond our grasp.

It is thought the fire lasted from the late 1920s to perhaps the mid-to-late 1930s. Most of Bob Grieve’s companions were industrial workers or jobless, and the talk was of Socialism and Communism. Grieve and others said many of the Scots who fought on the Republican Government’s side in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 had been fire-sitters.

The rest may have included at any time Nimlin, Weir and other early members of the tough, notorious Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club – Johnnie Harvey, who in 1932 founded its Glasgow rival, the Lomond MC; Ian McHarg, later an influential professor of town planning in the United States; and Grieve’s friend, Malcolm Finlayson, who would become a police chief superintendent and shoot murderer James Griffiths in 1969, after the gunman went on a deadly rampage in Glasgow.

Bob Grieve, who died in 1995, went on to become a civil engineer, the first professor of planning at Glasgow University and chairman of the Highlands And Islands Development Board, but he always remembered the fire. “He had a humble upbringing in Maryhill, one of six children in a family that hovered on the edge of dire poverty,” says his son Willie, 62, when we meet at the site to briefly relight the fire. “But the fire was hugely significant for him because it was here and around here that he met the people who developed his ideas and made him who he was.”

The Grieves have raised £5000 for a stone memorial on the site, including a substantial donation from the John Muir Trust. The stone base is in place and a grand unveiling is planned next month.

The choice of site is obvious enough. It’s a hard evening or morning’s walk from Glasgow and Clydebank. It has a burn, was sheltered by woods and city people already used the area: the Carbeth huts holiday homes sprang up about the same time.

The fire was, of course, part of the movement of Glaswegians into the hills and woods around the city in the years after the First World War, a movement reflected in other cities in Scotland. In his biography of Nimlin, IDS Thomson says expanding public transport, more private cars and lorries to “tap” lifts from and mass-produced bicycles were key to the movement, inspired by walking columnists such as Tramp Royal in the Evening Times and Hobnailer in the Daily Record.

Historian and hillwalker Richard Oram of Stirling University traces the roots of the movement to the outdoors image of the Victorian royal family and upper classes. “There was an image of the superior physical state of the ruling class,” he says, “and a lot of this was based on their involvement in outdoor activities. People expected the Victorian gentlemen to be able to walk for miles, with high-status people going on huge tours.

“Poets like Wordsworth and Byron would walk more than 20 miles a day across rough country, and this was seen as a demonstration of their physical advancement.”

Oram believes such ideals filtered down, and churches helped pass them to the “lower orders” in part to prevent working men with time and money on their hands spending both in pubs.

He also says the First World War had a profound effect on men who would have been the older fire-sitters. In the army, large groups were cooped up with time to talk and a sense of ill-treatment: ideas of social justice would find fertile ground.

Former seaman and engineering industry worker Lawrie Travers is 91 years old and until recently still stepped out in the Campsie Fells. He has also kept busy working as a volunteer on the tall ship Glenlee at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. Originally from Partick, he took to the hills in his teens when the Craigallian blaze still shot sparks to the heavens.

He agrees cheap public transport was an influence. “It was a 2d [2p] tram ride to Milngavie, or you could get the bus out to Blanefield, and then you had the freedom of the open country,” he recalls.

And although Oram says churches pushed people into the outdoors, Travers suggests that, by the 1920s, with greater social freedom, more people would cock a snook at religious convention and instead take to the open air on their day off.

So, as the athletic ideal of the upper classes filtered down, it met rebellion and ideas of social justice in the men around the fire. “They would have asked themselves why these healthy and exciting outdoor pursuits should be reserved for the elite,” says Oram.

With no money for long-distance trains, expensive boots, thick tweed or accommodation, and unable to negotiate access to private estates – as gentlemen climbers could – getting into the mountains would have been tough.

But a fire like Craigallian, warm enough to keep the night chill at bay, where people would talk of defying landowners and reclaiming the land, would have been a starting point.

From the fire, the Southern Highlands were within walking range. Glen Coe was a hitch-hiking target. Some isolated cottages welcomed visitors, letting them sleep in byres and stables – Travers recalls one winter night in a stable when the heat from horses below was a welcome bonus.

But there were conflicts, too, when estate workers would prohibit men heading for the mountains. On one occasion, when Nimlin planned to camp on a property, he was met by obstructive estate workers. He kept going all night until they were too exhausted to follow him, then lit his fire.

Willie and Ian Grieve believe returning Spanish Civil War veterans brought a new edge to things: their father said many kept their weapons, and an exchange of shots with gamekeepers was not unknown. Thomson records a rifle kept by Creagh Dhu members at a bothy near Glencoe, and Creagh Dhu old timers tell me it is probably still buried there.

Travers has his own recollection of guns in the hills in the 1950s, when he was the organiser of the Lomond club bus. Creagh Dhu members were allowed to fill empty seats. On one occasion they shot a hind and stashed the meat on the parcel rack.

“A woman came to me and said she had blood on her clothes, and it had come from above. I wondered what on earth was going on,” he recalls. “I didn’t know I was running a bus for the shooting club.”

They called it the fire that never went out but eventually it did – for ever. No-one is quite sure why. The owners of the site at the time have no descendants and it has changed hands twice since the 1930s and its end some time after 1935 has several possible explanations.

Tom Weir’s friend, fire-sitter, Lenzie butcher and ornithologist Matt Forrester wrote that the sheer popularity of hillwalking was to blame. “With the enthusiasm came the camp followers, the litter louts and despoilers,” he wrote.

“The fire was banned. The land proprietor forbade it under penalty of law. For a while the notice board was disregarded. A few hard cases persisted with the fire, but its day was done -“

Others ascribe the end to the loss of men to Spain in 1936, but at least one younger sitter, Ian McHarg, recalled veterans at the fire talking about the civil war, dating its end to perhaps 1938. Nimlin wrote of an attempt, probably in the 1940s, to revive the fire. The police were called, two men were taken to court, and although one – in true rebel style – called the magistrate a “tinpot Mussolini”, there were no more revivals.

But in a metaphorical sense – and it always was a metaphor for something greater – the fire lit in the 1920s is still burning. Grieve, Nimlin and Weir influenced everything from climbing ethics to national park policy.

The Lomond Mountaineering Club, started by fire-sitter Johnnie Harvey in 1932, is still home to the spirit of good companionship, individualism and readiness for a good argument, as is the Creagh Dhu. There is also a link between the fire-sitters and modern Munro-bagging. It took off when Hamish Brown published his magical account of the game, Hamish’s Mountain Walk, in which he made the first non-stop trip around the 279 hills – as the list stood at the time – higher than 3000ft in Scotland.

Munro’s table of mountains over 3000ft was published in 1891, and in the 77 years before Brown’s book, 200 people climbed them all. Seven years after the book, that number had doubled. Now there are 4000-plus people who have climbed all the Munros.

Brown, now in his 70s and living in Fife, knew many fire-sitters, and as a young man lived the same rugged life of dossing and tramping the hills, inspired by them. “It was the ethos of people like Tom Weir,” he says. “We didn’t have the gear in those days. The spirit of going out and roughing it was very strong. After talking to them you didn’t have any doubts about sleeping in haystacks and under bridges.

“I believe the tougher the introduction people have to the outdoor world, the more likely they are to stay interested.”

Those fire-sitters, with their newspaper bedding and rat poison kettle, their tussles with gamekeepers and marathon walks, had the toughest of introductions. And perhaps that’s why their passion for the hills lives on.

See Friends of the Craigallian Fire.

Posted in landscape architecture

Jeremy Vine tells the truth about London cycle infrastructure, to the GLA London Assembly Transport Committee

London transport policy favours motor-power transport and discriminates against human-powered travel. This may be compared with official discrimination against women, gays and ethnic minorities at the start of the twentieth century. Jeremy Vine was interviewed by the London Assembly Transport Committee on 19 February 2018 and told many truths about the need for cycle infrastructure in London. . He spoke calmly and effectively, which is good. But there is also a need for impassioned oratory, in the manner of the Stop Killing Cyclists campaign, so the video ends with a clip from Donnachadh McCarthy’s speech outside the Treasury on 11th February 2017.

I support the design policies Boris Johnson described, with customary buffoonary, as Superhighways, Quietways and Mini-Hollands, but conceive them as an urban landscape approach to the planning of cycle infrastructure.

  • London should be permeable both to motorised and non-motorised traffic
  • Transport planning for commercial objectives is not enough
  • Cycling and walking routes should be planned with regard to commuting, leisure and environmental objectives

Some people will suffer from the re-design of London’s urban landscape to serve multiple objectives but there will be many more winners than losers:

  • Fewer people will die from ill-health caused by air pollution and obesity. Less money will be spent on treating these diseases.
  • The proportion of London’s wealth spent on transporting people and goods will decrease, as will the demand for expenditure on transport infrastructure.
  • London will be more peaceful and more beautiful and more vegetated

Cycle planning in SE England, France and Belgium

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network

Which is the older art: Landscape or Architecture?

Potbelly Hill (Göbekli Tepe) is the oldest site on the Wiki ‘oldest’ list but is classified as a ‘human-made structure’ rather than a ‘building’ because it was not intended for occupancy. Its significant location in the landscape of South Turkey, where wheat was first cultivated, must have been recognised before work on the ‘monument’ began.

Short history of the word ‘landscape’

  • The word ‘landscape’ was formed by adding ‘-scape’ (or ‘-skip’ or ‘-ship’) to the noun ‘land’. This made it an abstract noun.
  • When it came into English, from Anglo-Saxon, the word ‘landscape’ had a similar meaning to our word ‘region’.
  • ‘Landscape’ fell out of use and was re-introduced, from Dutch, in the sixteenth century, as a painter’s term meaning ‘a view of scenery’. Since it was used within the ideal theory of art it was used for beautiful scenes, not ugly scenes.
  • In the nineteenth century, the word ‘landscape’ was adopted by geographers to mean ‘the end product of topographic evolution’. In this sense, it lost its evaluative connotation so that it became common to speak of an ‘ugly landscape’ or of ‘the hideous landscape of war’.

Short history of the word ‘architect’

  • The word ‘architect’ comes from Greek and was formed from arkhi-, meaning chief + tekton, meaning artisan/craftsman. The Wiki article states that a tekton was frequently a wood-worker,  an iron-worker was called a smith (χαλκεύς) and a stone-worker or mason was called a (λιθολόγος, λαξευτής). So the men who built temples were not architects.
  • In Rome, the most famous use of the word ‘architect’ was in a book by Vitruvius published in the first century BC. He used it for a general technican who could design fortifications, harbours, town plans, gardens, buildings, clocks etc.
  • ‘Architect’ was not used for the designers of English medieval houses, castles or cathedrals. The first use of the term recorded in the OED is in the title of John Shute: First Groundes Architecture (1563). He was a painter and used the term a person who applied the skills of an artist to buildings.
  • In the twentieth century, under the influence of modernist design theory, architects sought to recover the comprehensive role implied by the Greek root ‘arkhi-‘, meaning ‘chief’.They wanted to extend the profession’s role beyond wood-work and beyond ‘the skills of an artist’, so that the forms of buildings could be derived from functional and technical concepts.

Short history of the term’landscape architect’

The term ‘landscape architecture’ may derive either from French or from English: from Morel or from Meason. I am keeping as open a mind as I can, and awaiting further research, but I continue to think the Scots origin, from Meason, is the more probable. If the term came from Morel, the components are ‘architecte’ and ‘paysagiste’. If it came from English the components are cognate English words. So the term ‘landscape architecture’ was formed by combining the two words discussed above.

But the art of designing buildings and the art of designing landscapes are very much older than their contemporary names. The earliest record of a Greek language, in Linear B, dates from about 1450 BCE and earliest use of ‘architect’ from about 500 BCE. The world’s oldest structures, like Göbekli Tepe (12,000-8,000 BCE) were ‘monuments’ built in landscapes that are likely to have had ceremonial significance before they were built. If this is correct, what we call ‘landscape architecture’ is an older art than what we call ‘architecture’. Supporting evidence is presented by Vincent Scully in his wonderful book The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods: Greek Sacred Architecture.  Scully was an art historian who taught at Yale. Philip Johnson described him as ‘the most influential architectural teacher ever’. But the architecture profession did not appreciate the landscape theories put forward in his book.


Posted in landscape architecture

Cycling in the 2018 New London Plan

The Key Diagram for the New London Plan shows proposed new rail lines but does NOT show a proposal for a London Cycle Network

Consultation on the New London Plan Friday ends 5pm on 2 March 2018. All comments will  then go to a government inspector. He will tell the GLA what it must do. So it is a great opportunity for cyclists to give their views. My guess is that the inspector will be most interested in clarifications and in logical inconsistencies. Here are my views on cycling in the London Plan:

  1. The word ‘cycling’ is used 94 times, with 43 of them in the phrase ‘walking and cycling’. The phrase ‘walking and cycling networks‘ 6  times and of which 3 are in the phrase  ‘public transport, walking and cycling network’. There is a need for clarification re whether the Mayor plans a new network for walking and cycling, which seems unlikely. But whatever network is planned, it should also be illustrated. Otherwise the apparent meaning is that the Mayor wishes to ‘encourage’ cycling by talking about it but has no plan for network.
  2. In January 2018 it was announced that the Mayor will spend only £111m on new cycle routes but that the annual average during his term would be £154 million/year.  This is a pathetically small sum for a policy that receives 94 mentions in the plan. The number of journeys carried by the tube network between September and January 2017. But the number of journeys made by bicycle rose by 5.8% in 2017. Yet the Plan proposes massive investment in new railways and minimal investment in new cycling infrastructure. Such is the power of the mechanised transport lobby.
  3. The terms “Cycle Superhighways” and “Quietway” are not used in the Plan, leaving readers as unclear about the character of the cycling network as about its geography.  Both omissions should be rectified. As Andrew Gilligan noted: “None [of the routes] are in central London, there is no commitment to build them and I fear it will merely add to the growing backlog of routes that Sadiq isn’t delivering.”
  4. Section 2.1.10 of the Plan states that cycling provision is ‘at the heart of planning for Opportunity Areas’ and Section 2.1.6 deals with the Lewisham Opportunity Area. So let’s see what has happened so far in this area. A roundabout between Lewisham Station and the Town Centre, which has often led me to say ‘Lewisham hates cyclists’ has been replaced by a new section of 5-lane highway. Crossing its junctions on a bike leads me to believe that Lewisham’s new policy is to kill as many cyclists as possible. The Plan should clarify whether this is what is meant by stating that cycle provision is ‘at the heart’ of planning for opportunity areas. Or, assuming this is not the case, it should explain what is meant by the statement.


Lewisham’s spanking new cycle lane is a full 20m long and is ‘at the heart’ of the carriageway. How could they spare so much land in a five-lane road?

The eastern approach to Lewisham station has two lanes for buses, one lane for taxis and no provision for cyclists.

I attended a January presentation of the New London Plan in Bexley. The room was packed. There was good provision for cycle parking outside the Civic Centre but there was only one bike there: mine. The staff car park had 30 bikes and 100 cars. Why isn’t cycling in Bexley more popular? Because the cycle network in the borough is so bad.

Cycle parking at Bexley Civic Centre

Bexley needs integration in a London-wide Cycle Network

Posted in London cycle network

Greenway definition

As with the term ‘landscape architecture’, you can define the meaning of the term ‘greenway’ either from its linguistic origins or from the history of the idea it represents.

‘Greenway’ was coined by an inspiring urban analyst. William H Whyte,  who wrote a famous book on The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Its first print appearance was in a 1959 report on Securing open space for urban Americ’. He wrote that in Philadelphia Edmund Bacon, another famous theorist, had planned neighborhood units with ‘greenways and parks in between’. The parks were blobs. The greenways were enjoyable links.


A greenway is a route that is good from an environmental point of view. It can follow either a natural route (eg a river) or a man-made route (eg a street or a path through a park)

Charles Little, in 1995, suggested that the ‘green-’ in ‘greenway’ came from ‘greenbelt’ and the ‘-way’ from ‘parkway’. This supports the use of ‘greenway’ to describe linear public open space in either rural or urban areas. Olmsted had used the term parkway for an attractive road through parkland.  Greenways don’t have to run between parks. But do need need to be routes, for leisure or commuter use, and they do need to have good environmental qualities – in the sense of having attractive surroundings largely free from traffic noise, air pollution abd ugliness. My preferred definition of a greenway is simply ‘a route that is good from an environmental point of view’. But I also agree with Jack Ahern’s 1995 statement that ‘‘Greenways are networks of land containing linear elements that are planned, designed and managed for multiple purposes including ecological, recreational, cultural, aesthetic or other purposes compatible with the concept of sustainable land use (Ahern 1995)’.

The Chandigarh greenways were planned by Albert Mayer, Mathew Novicki and Le Corbusier. Many were built as planned. Others have been used as building land.

Chandigarh greenways

The Chandigarh greenways are used by pedestrians and cyclists. The best of them are also river valleys. This should have been used as a precedent in the design of India’s post-1947 urbanisation.


Posted in greenways