The landscape architecture of healthy cities

Great to hear a landscape architect speaking about health, urban design, ecology and new towns. Graham Marshall sees essential connections between

  • people & places are bonded
  • mental health & physical health are inter-dependent

He rightly criticises James Stirling’s now-demolished Southgate Estate in Runcorn New Town and is pleased to be involved with its NHS supported rebuild as the Halton Lea Health & Wellbeing Campus. Stirling did not share Marshall’s concerns. Commemorated in the RIBA Stirling Prize, Stirling was a starchitect but much more an ‘architects’ architect’ than a ‘people’s architect’.  Jonathan Meades put it like this: ‘his buildings, like their bombastic maker, looked tough but were perpetual invalids, basket cases.’ They were bad for mental health and bad for physical health. Graham, as explained in the video, admires Lawrence Halprin’s conception of modernism. I see this as having taken the social use of outdoor space as a function that should be used in a ‘form follows function’ design process.

As argued in an eBook on LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: What, Why, When, How, Where, Who and What Next?  landscape architecture, having its roots in urban design and garden design, owes as much to Vitruvius’ formulation of professional aims as do the other design professions. I  support Ian Thompson’s landscape architectural formulation of these aims as Ecology, Community and Delight (Routledge, 2000). And I am delighted that Graham is taking them forward. Landscape architects have a distinguished record in the planning and design of new towns. It too should be carried forward.

Graham uses the name Prosocial for a practice that takes an evidence-based approach to urban design and landscape architecture. He also works, pro-bono, with Placed Urban Education, an organisation that involves young people with the built environment.


Tom Turner

Posted in landscape architecture, urban design

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