The knights of landscape architecture who planned the British New Towns
Thank you to FOLAR for holding a seminar on the landscape architecture of Britain’s New Towns. The above video, which was my contribution to the event, celebrates the contributions of the Four Landscape Knights (Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Sir Frederick Gibberd, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and Sir Peter Shepherd were members of the ILA, two of them as Presidents of the ILA) and ends with my observations:
- the new towns were very successful at the large scale of landscape planning and at the detailed design scale
- but the new towns were disappointing at the intermediate scale of site planning
- the landscape architecture of the new towns was much better than other town development projects of the same period.
Concepts from the history and theory of landscape architecture also had a profound influence on the planning of Britain’s Garden Cities and post-1946 New Towns:
- low density housing with private gardens – ‘a villa for everyman’
- the use of green belts to control urban sprawl, both outside London and beyond the boundaries of the designated new towns
- the use of open space networks to separate neighbourhoods within the boundaries of the new towns, while also providing land for parks, footpaths and cycleways
The video includes:
- a sketch of the 19th century origins of the landscape concepts used in planning the British new towns
- video clips of Patrick Abercrombie explaining these ideas, as part of the 1943-4 County of London and Greater London Plans
- video clips of Frederick Gibberd and Geoffrey Jellicoe explaining the landscape planning of Harlow New Town and Hemel Hempstead New Town
Peter Shepheard has the rare distinction of having, effectively, designed 32 British New Towns by the age of 30. Shepheard was born in 1913 and worked on the London plans in 1942-3. Ongar, a sample new town which Shepheard designed for the Greater London Plan, determined the landscape planning of all 32 new towns.
The Landscape Institute should join forces with the Town and Country Planning Association to argue for the re-activation the 1946 New Towns Act. It is a much better policy than encouraging the creeping expansion of our villages, towns and cities onto green belt land.