Some years ago now I visited Japan – a country in which I had previously lived for a good many years – in order to write an article for Landscape Architecture Magazine. It was 2004, and ASLA had given its Design Award of Merit to Saitama Plaza, a collaboration between Peter Walker and Yoji Sasaki, who had kindly agreed to an interview.
Sitting in his office in Osaka he reminisced on their first encounter: a meeting between teacher and student, as Sasaki was then attending the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, where Walker was Head of Department. He was offered a challenge: Japan had a remarkable landscape tradition, but who was carrying that tradition forward, interpreting and reinventing it for the late twentieth century? With the benefit of hindsight perhaps that was one of the defining moments in Sasaki’s career. You can judge for yourselves here.
Our interview over, he returned to his earlier topic but this time turned the tables on me. Who in the United Kingdom was carrying on the grand landscape tradition of Capability Brown, et al? For him, and perhaps for many others, this represented the zenith of British landscape design.
I have pondered his question ever since then and it is one that I pose here.