Category Archives: Garden Design

The Manali to Leh Highway & Landscape Change in Ladakh


Taking the footage for this video, in September 2014, was a good opportunity to reflect on landscape change in a hitherto remote region of India: Ladakh. There are many considerations:

  • Ladakh was an important sector on the of the Silk Road Network, particularly for north-south trade and travel between India and China. The video uses quotations from European travelers who undertook the journey c1850-1950.
  • Travel between Ladakh and Pakistan ended with the partition of India in 1947.
  • Travel between Ladakh and China ended with the closure of the border, by China, in 1949.
  • India responded by closing Ladakh to all travel and tourism
  • From 1949 until 1974 Ladakh was cut off and isolated as rarely in its history
  • Since 1974 Ladakh’s economy has become dependent on the army, which invests in roads. The military population of Ladakh is now greater than the civilian population but the army keeps its personnel largely separate from the local people.
  • Ladakh’s other post-1974 economic prop is tourism. In summer there are more tourists than locals in the regional capital, Leh.
  • Westerners, in the main, want Ladakh to remain an undeveloped and traditional region.
  • Ladakhis, in the main, want to experience the ‘luxuries’ of western civilization.

So what should be done? I think Ladakh would have done better, if it could, to have followed the development path of Bhutan. This involves a very cautious approach to development and a concentration on the luxury end of the tourism market.
As things stand, the best approach is probably the adoption a forward-looking development policy as firmly rooted as possible in the principles of context-sensitivity and sustainability. This policy is exemplified by the Druk White Lotus School and its Dragon Garden.
Romesh Bhattacharji, an Indian who knows Ladakh very well, wrote in 2012 of the new roads which will open up Zanskar that ‘Many people, all outsiders typically, I have met, however, also moan about the loss of the traditional way of life of the people of Zanska. The latter want a better way of life than just being museum relics for tourists’ It is a well-aimed criticism. But ‘traditional’ and ‘development’ need not be in opposition: a Middle Way is also possible, by design. The Druk School and Dragon Garden make a cameo appearance on the above video and are explained in more detail by the videos on the DWLS Dragon Garden Playlist.

Cycle infrastructure expenditure in the UK and Holland

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London's Battersea (right)

Cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam (left) and London’s Battersea (right)

  • The UK spends £2/person/year on cycling
  • Holland spends £24/person/year.
  • So Holland has better cycling infrastructure.
  • The Dutch spend ten times as much on cycling as the British and they have ten times as many urban journeys/person (30%+ vs 3%+)
  • It figures

To make up for years of neglect, the UK should spend £50/person/year on cycling. When UK cycling infrastructure is as good as Holland’s, this can drop back to £25/year.
Just think, about this quotation from a Sky report on The British Cycling Economy.
The proportion of GDP spent on public infrastructure by the UK Government has been lower than government spending in many other countries, averaging around 1.5 per cent between 2000–2004 – around half of the investment occurring by governments in Italy and France. Despite rail accounting for only six per cent of total passengers in the UK, the sector received a subsidy of around £6.5b, almost equalling road investment, which carries the majority of journeys undertaken in the country. In addition, tax revenues from transport eclipse expenditure on transport by £14b, reflecting a net flow out of the sector from receipts. Cycling’s proportion of the UK transport budget is less than one per cent, whilst in the City of London, one of the UK’s larger cycling ‘hot spots’, cycling has been apportioned 0.45 per cent of the £135m transport budget, amounting to around £600,000.54 Currently, 10,000–15,000 cyclists commute into the Capital each day, which has increased by 52 per cent since 2007, and is forecast to quadruple by 2025.55 These macro and micro conditions continue to create the ideal milieu for cycling participation to increase across social strata, with significant benefits.

Lamayuru, Ladakh, social, agricultural and urban change 1926 – 2010

Lamayuru, in Buddhist Ladakh, (1926 and 2010)

Lamayuru, in Buddhist Ladakh, (1926 and 2010)

The left photograph is from Himalayan Tibet and Ladakh: A Description of Its Cheery Folk, Their Ways & Religion, of the Rigours of the Climate & Beauties of the Country, Its Fauna and Flora (by Adolph Reeve Heber, Mrs. Kathleen Mary Heber, Ess Ess Publications, 1926). The right-hand photograph was taken by Nevil Zaveri in 2010. What can we learn from them?
– the town’s population is growing
– traditional architecture is still favoured, but new roads and telephone poles have an ‘anywhere’ quality (they are built and funded by the Indian army)
– Lamayuru is popular with tourists, despite its remoteness
– the expansion, so far, has been on stony ground
– there is a danger of Lamayuru expanding onto its very scarce resource of agricultural land (but there is also a danger of the land being neglected, because it is cheaper to import food from other parts of India)
– either there are more poplar trees or they are being allowed to grow taller for amenity reasons
– the ‘agriculture’ in old Ladakh is closer to what we would call horticulture than to what we call agriculture but if you call the cultivated areas ‘gardens’ it must be noted that their use is to grow food plants rather than ornamental plants.
Dr Adolph Reeve Herber, who took the black and white photo was an English doctor and missionary. He and his wife were based at the Moravian School in Leh from 1912-25. The mission ran a school, which survives, but did not have much success in converting the Ladakhis to Moravian protestantism. Nor did Dr Herber find much demand for his medical skill – because the local people were so healthy. He therefore had time to study other aspects of Ladakh’s culture and environment, including its flowers: ‘At the foot of the high Kardong Pass behind Leh… to mention a few only, are found yellow Iceland poppies, Michaelmas daisies, small deep-blue gentians, forget-me-nots, forming a carpet of blue on the Zogi [Zoji-La] stretches, but replaced by the deep blue of the borage below the Kardong, deep purple orchids, primulas in all shades of magenta and purple, cow parsley, a kind of stinging nettle, asters, saxifrage, vetches, Canterbury bells, and on the Zogi the single anemone and the tall bunched Japanese variety, even the green foxglove and the coarse edelweiss.’
Iris on the Zoji-La (Hooker's?)

Hooker’s Iris on the Zoji-La)

The landscape of housing: Smithsons design and site planning for Robin Hood Gardens


Zaha Hadid: ‘Personally, Robin Hood Gardens is one of my favourite projects.’
Richard Rogers: ‘It has heroic scale with beautiful human proportions and has a magical quality. It practically hugs the ground, yet it has also a majestic sense of scale, reminiscent of a Nash terrace.’
Simon Smithson: ‘I believe Robin Hood Gardens to be the most significant building completed by my parents. ‘
Tom Turner: ‘Sao Paolo could learn a lot from the Smithsons’ approach to planning urban landscape’
Here are 3 videos, by Alison and Peter Smithson, by Jonathan Glancey and by me. I am impressed by the Smithsons and in full agreement with Glancey that (1) I would not choose to live there (2) the scheme should not be demolished – as has been decided (3) it should become student housing, because it is so well suited to communal use. The Smithsons account of the scheme justifies slapping a preservation order on Robin Hood Gardens. The English Heritage commissioners were right about the building architecture being mediocre: the elevations are elegant but the roofs are leaking, the concrete is spalling so that the rebars are exposed, the stairways are pokey, the balconies are usable only for drying clothes (so the residents protect them with bird netting) and a ‘street in the air’ (often with hoodies) is not a nice thing to have outside your living room window. BUT the site planning is excellent. London’s ‘tower blocks’ are usually planned like tombstones in plots of grass. The Smithsons protected against noise and used their buildings, as in London’s Georgian Squares, to define and create outdoor space. I have never seen their hill well used but attribute this to its not being a safe protected space. I also agree with their comment, on the video, that using Robin Hood Gardens as a ‘sink estate’ was not wise. Both these mistakes can be attributed to the housing managers: Tower Hamlets Borough Council. So what should be done now? (1) keep the Smithsons excellent site planning (2) implement Glancey’s idea if it feasible – and convert the buildings for use by a student community (3) otherwise, replace their shoddy architecture with better buildings on the same footprint (4) manage the central space as a garden, instead of as a public park.


Alison Smithson has a strange manner and makes some strange remarks (eg ‘Any African state would have as good a chance of joining the Common Market as London’). But the two of them speak wisely about what should happen to London Docklands.

Jonathan Glancey presents a well-reasoned and well-balanced account of the design.

Garden designs at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show

Here is a video of the gardens which caught my eye at Chelsea. The aim was to balance the designers’ accounts with critical comments but I have given too much time to their puffs and not enough to myself (!). Shooting the video gives me a keen appreciation of the BBC videographers’ skills – and an envy for the 25 person crews they use for the ‘filming’.

My first impression of the gardens on the Main Avenue was of a nineteenth century style revivalism. ‘Is 1850 the future of British garden design?’ I asked myself? The M&G revival of ‘Persian’ ideas was a prime example in this category – and is not included on my video. My vote for the best Show Garden goes to the Cloudy Bay garden and, nearby, my vote for the worst garden on the Main Avenue goes to Alan Titschmarsh (also not on the video). The ‘hilly bit’ at the back of his design was quite nice but the ‘summer house’ and ‘pond’ were awful. The BBC was right to replace him with Monty Don as their lead presenter but Monty looked frail and I worry that he is taking on too much work. If Monty finds it too much it will be a real pity if they go for Joe Swift as his replacement. Joe’s horticultural knowledge may be OK but his design judgement is jejune. OK, I know it is the Chelsea Flower Show, but I find the gardens more interesting than the flowers and a goodly proportion of the TV coverage is about the show gardens.
See also: Review of garden designs at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show

London's Olympic Village gardens: an appreciation

QE Park Olympic Village: the charming lane with its rustic cottages

QE Park Olympic Village: the charming lane with its rustic cottages


Making an Olympic Village in the Lea Valley’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was a delightful idea. I love to stroll along a village high street. At dawn one hears the cocks crow and sees the milkmaids setting off for work. The crooked old streets have banks of wild flowers. On a summer’s eve the children play and God, one thinks, must have been in a very good mood when he made this place. Poetry fills one’s heart as one rushes to put down a deposit.
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

[Rupert Brooke]
***
Nestling amid the trees we see the manor-house, the
abode of the squire, an ancient dwelling-place of Tudor or
Jacobean design, surrounded by a moat, with a good terrace-
walk in front, and a formal garden with fountain and sun-
dial and beds in arabesque. It seems to look down upon
the village with a sort of protecting air. Near at hand are
some old farm-houses, nobly built, with no vain pretension
about them. Carefully thatched ricks and barns and stables
and cow-sheds stand around them
.
[Peter Hampson Ditchfield]
***
Sweet Olympic! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer’d the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer’s lingering blooms delay’d:
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loiter’d o’er thy green,
Where humble happiness endear’d each scene!
How often have I paus’d on every charm,
The shelter’d cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whisp’ring lovers made!

[Oliver Goldsmith]
***
The Village Life, and every care that reigns
O’er youthful peasants and declining swains;
What labour yields, and what, that labour past,
Age, in its hour of languor, finds at last;
What form the real Picture of the Poor,
Demand a song–the Muse can give no more.

[George Crabbe]
Wonderful too that our present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honourable George Osborne MP, wants to give us our first Garden City for a hundred years at Ebbsfleet in Kent – so long famed as The Garden of England. I expect it will be just as wonderful as the Olympic Village – and maybe even as wonderful as the Ajman Garden City itself.
The British government loves villages so much that it wants to expand them all into towns and then into cities. The reason for this is that ‘expanding existing settlements’ is seen as better than ‘building new towns’.

Landscape architect volunteers help make a Dragon Garden for the Druk White Lotus School

What is the difference between a trade and a profession? A Wiki article lists the characteristics of a profession as being present when: (1) an occupation becomes a full-time occupation (2) the establishment of a training school (3) the establishment of a university school (4) the establishment of a local association (5) the establishment of a national association (6) the introduction of codes of professional ethics (7) the establishment of state licensing laws.
I agree but would add that the code of professional ethics should include an element of idealism and altruism. As part of this, it should be the norm for professional people to follow the lawyers’ good example in doing unpaid work for good causes (pro bono). Lawyers have to spend much of their time defending the guilty and protecting the interests of land-and-money-grabbers. I therefore feel good when they do pro bono work and it also makes me happy to see young landscape architects doing volunteer work – as with helping to make a Dragon Garden for the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh.

Roof SkyPark garden-landscape on Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

Roof garden swimming pool in Marina Bay Sands Skypark

Having proposed a Sky Park for the City of London, I was delighted to see a real Skypark on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. ‘London talks and Singapore acts’. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel has 2,561 rooms and 55 floors. The SkyPark, 200m above ground level, is larger than three football pitches and has an observation deck, 250 trees and a 150m infinity swimming pool. It is a brilliant project by Las Vegas Sands and, I hope, a signpost to the future of urban form. See the Marina Bay Sands website for more details. I’d like to spend a few nights there, congratulating the hotel management for commissioning the project and then the city of Singpore for its policy of moving from ‘Garden City to Model Green City‘. But a design critic must also provide criticism:

  • the garden/landscape design looks ‘OK but dull’. The designers have not risen to the challenge of such a fabulous opportunity, perhaps to re-create some of the rain forest of pre-colonial Singapore with stylised beaches running to the perimeter pool. I wouldn’t even object to a glowing Tarzan by Jeff Koons in the heart of the jungle – and nor would the kids of the guests.
  • As built, SkyPark floats somewhere between the deck of a luxury cruise ship and the garden of a luxury hotel – and both are design categories which landscape designers neglect. What the SkyPark needed was a serious dreamland design to lift the imagination of guests, as well as the contents of their wallets. Moshe Safdie was the architect. He worked with five artists but, having written a book For everyone a garden probably sees himself as an expert on garden design. I do not doubt that, like Frank Lloyd Wright, Safdie has the ability to design gardens but as with all the arts, it takes time to develop expertise and one needs to love garden life and garden visiting to succeed. My belief is that Edwin Lutyens’ best gardens were designed in co-operation with Gertrude Jekyll and that Lutyens tended towards vacant formalism when working, like Safdie, on his own. Eero Saarinen had the great good sense to work with Dan Kiley.
  • the Tropical Island shape of the SkyPark sits unhappily on its three towers. There is a dash of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds about it. Or an out-or-water oil rig. Looking up, one wonders if a Tsunami left a cruiseliner or a surfboard perched on the roofs of its three towers. The resort hotel may appear more sensitive to its context when more of Singapore’s buildings have SkyParks
  • Safdie’s urban design, which I commend but which is not apparent from the photographs, was as follows: ‘A series of layered gardens provide ample green space throughout Marina Bay Sands, extending the tropical garden landscape from Marina City Park towards the Bayfront. The landscape network reinforces urban connections with the resort’s surroundings and every level of the district has green space that is accessible to the public. Generous pedestrian streets open to tropical plantings and water views. Half of the roofs of the hotel, convention center, shopping mall, and casino complex are planted with trees and gardens.

Top photographs courtesy Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Bottom photo courtesy Peter Morgan.

 

 

Roof garden structure for Marina Sands Hotel Skypark

 

 

 

Japanese Zen Gardens by Yoko Kawaguchi and Alex Ramsay Frances Lincoln 2014 – review

Tenryu-ji, photographed by Alex Ramsay

Tenryu-ji, photographed by Alex Ramsay

This book has excellent photographs, by Alex Ramsay, and the inclusion of garden plans is most welcome. Kawaguchi writes with admirable clarity about Zen gardens – compared to those I have seen of the 1,926 books on Amazon returns for a search on Zen Gardens. Allen Weiss, for example, begins Zen Landscapes (2013) by stating that ‘The essential elements of the dry Japanese garden are few: rocks, gravel, moss’. Kawaguchi explains that this is not how ‘Zen garden’ is used in Japan: it simply means ‘the garden of a Zen temple’ and such gardens are not stylistically distinct from other Japanese temple gardens. So Weiss should have used kare-sansui or dry landscape in his book title. I would also complain if ‘Protestant’ was the adjective used, overseas, for the gardens of eighteenth century England. I therefore recommend Kawaguchi as the first book to read on Zen gardens. Yet there are some critical points to make. First, I would like the introduction to have said more about the principles of Buddhism, the distinct characteristics of Zen Buddhism and the relationship between Buddhism and gardens. Second, the plans lack contours and, to my eye, look too English. Third, I would like the points made to have had bibliographic references. I do not think this would have spoiled the book design and I do not think it would have mattered if the references were to Japanese publications which English readers cannot follow.
Part One of the book gives a historical overview of the gardens made for Japanese Zen temples. The first such temples are dated to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (while the first Buddhist gardens in Japan date from the sixth century). The influence of Chan Buddhism, from China, which became Zen Buddhism in Japan, is associated with the Emperor Kameyama. He abdicated at the age of 24, in 1274, and became a Buddhist monk in 1289 and the abbot of Nanzen-ji. Ryoan-ji, which fascinates visitors and provides foreigners with their image of a ‘Zen garden’, is a mystery. Little is known of its date or its symbolism: ‘it is almost as though visitors to the temple have needed to be reassured that the garden is indeed a work of genius rather than a case of humbug’ (p.61). Kawaguchi also discusses the influence of Zen on twentieth century gardens, notably in the work of Shigemori Mirei.

Part Two of the book reviews the symbols and motifs used in Zen gardens. Many have Buddhist roots and many do not. The view from Shinju-an (illustrated below) uses symbols drawn from the beliefs of pre-Buddhist Japan: Shinto. Other symbols come from Daoism and China, including the turtle, the crane and the islands of the immortals.

My view is that it is pity to make either ‘Japanese gardens’ or ‘Zen gardens’ without the understandings of ideas and symbols which Kawaguchi provides. To state a tautology: the gardens of Zen temples are temple gardens.

japanese_zen_gardens_kawaguchi2

Urkraine President's palace garden

President Viktor Yanukovych's garden

President Viktor Yanukovych’s garden

As always, we welcome the fall of a dictator (Yanukovych, today) and puzzle over their bad taste. It looks like narcotecture, (aka poppytecture). Does the world have a design school with a specialism in this type of work? What are its origins? Hitler’s architectural taste was better. Though the (Berghof) was grandified vernacular it did not dissolve into baroque terracing or a bastard-baroque garden. It might be an idea for every presidential aspirant to design a garden and let voters inspect their work before the election is held. Jefferson, Washington, Churchill and many Japanese princes were respectable garden designer. Yanukovych also had a Japanese garden, very badly. Presidential candidates with gardening experience would reveal their character and learn that without loving care their subjects will perish.
(Photo BBC)

A Landscape Manifesto, by Diana Balmori


Still working on a landscape architecture manifesto, I was pleased to find Diana Balmori’s book A Landscape Manifesto (Yale University Press, 2010). She comes across in the above video as a thoughtful and likeable person. I also support the principles of her manifesto (see below) while thinking they could be shorter and clearer – her drawings and design work are strong in these respects (see, for example, Balmori’s Garden Climbs the Steps in Bilbao). The word ‘manifesto’ derives from the Latin manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous. It came into English during the seventeenth century and the practice of issuing art and design manifestos became widespread in the 20th century. Let’s hope landscape architecture manifestos become widespread in the 21st century. Heidi Hohmann and Joern Langhorst got us off to a good start in 2004, with Landscape architecture: an apocalyptic manifesto, though its strength is in making the case for manifestos.

25 points: Diana Balmori’s Landscape Architecture Manifesto

1. Nostalgia for the past and utopian dreams for the future prevent us from looking at our present.
2. Nature is the flow of change within which humans exist.  Evolution is its history. Ecology is our understanding of its present phase.
3.  All things in nature are constantly changing.  Landscape artists need to  design to allow for change, while seeking a new course that enhances the coexistence of humans with the rest of nature.
4.  Landscape forms encapsulate unseen assumptions. To expose them is to enter the economic and aesthetic struggles of our times.
5.  Historical precedents do not support the common prejudice that human intervention is always harmful to the rest of nature.
6.  Shifts are taking place before our eyes. Landscape artists and architects need to give them a name and make them visible.  Aesthetic expertise is needed to enable the transforming relations between humans and the rest of nature to break through into public spaces.
7.  High visibility, multiple alliances, and public support are critical to new landscape genres that portray our present.
8.  Landscape—through new landscapes—enters the city and modifies our way of being in it.
9.  New landscapes can become niches for species forced out of their original environment.
10. The new view of plants as groups of interrelated species modifying each other, rather than as separate and fixed, exemplifies fluidity—a main motif of landscape form.
11. Nostalgic images of nature are readily accepted, but they are like stage scenery for the wrong play.
12. In his History of the Modern Taste in Gardening (l780), Horace Walpole says William Kent “was the first to leap the fence and show that the whole of nature was a garden.” Today landscape “has leapt the fence” in the opposite direction, to the city, making it part of nature.
13. Existing urban spaces can be rescued from their current damaging interaction with nature.
14. Landscape artists can reveal the forces of nature underlying cities, creating a new urban identity from them.
15. Landscape can create meeting places where people can delight in unexpected forms  and spaces, inventing why and how they are to be appreciated.
16. A landscape, like a moment, never happens twice. This lack of fixity is landscape’s asset.
17.  We can heighten the desire for new interactions between humans and nature where it is least expected: in derelict spaces.
18. Emerging landscapes are becoming brand new actors on the political stage.
19. Landscape renders the city as constantly evolving in response to climate, geography, and history.
20. Landscape can show artistic intention without imposing a predetermined meaning.
21. Landscape can bridge the line between ourselves and other parts of nature—between ourselves and a river.
22. Landscape is becoming the main actor of the urban stage, not just a destination.
23. The edge between architecture and landscape can be porous.
24. Landscape can be like poetry, highly suggestive and open to multiple interpretations.
25. We must put the twenty-first century city in nature rather than put nature in the city. To put a city in nature will mean using engineered systems that function as those in nature and deriving form from them.

MODERN art, design and landscape architecture

If this is NOT modern and NOT contemporary THEN what is it?

If this is NOT modern and NOT contemporary THEN what is it?


Having long argued that ‘Modern’ is obsolete as an adjective for the art and design of the twentieth century, I was interested to read today that ‘Modern’ (modernus) was used for the first time in the late fifth century in order to distinguish the present, which had become officially Christian, from the Roman past… the term ‘modern again and again expresses the consciousness of an epoch that relates itself to the past of antiquity, in order to view itself as the result of a transition from the old to the new’. By ‘again and again’ the writer is thinking of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Walpole’s famous 1771 essay, for example, was ‘On modern gardening’. Thankfully, we have new names for the art and culture of times further past. But what other name to we have for the art, design and landscape architecture of the twentieth century? Since I was told recently that ‘Andy Warhol and many contemporary artists are dead’, I do not see Contemporary as a useful candidate.
Image courtesy icstefanescu

Sayes Court Historic Garden Restoration Proposal

Sayes CourtFrom the standpoint of design history and theory, Sayes Court was the most important English garden of the seventeenth century. I am therefore delighted to read in Building Design that something of its character may be recreated. But why appoint a firm of architects (David Kohn) to co-ordinate the project? OK, they have good garden designers and plantspeople on board – but if I wanted a design for a bridge I would not appoint a firm of architects as the lead consultants (at least not unless they were very particular fiends of mine). Here is an account of the team for Sayes Court: ‘DKA has been appointed by Lewisham Council to assist a Community Interest Company in Deptford develop ideas for a Centre for Urban Horticulture at historic Sayes Court, a World Monument Fund site. The project is in collaboration with Dan Pearson Studio, the National Trust and Eden Project. The commission follows DKA’s previous work in Deptford for Lewisham Council and the Mayor of London’. Who is the garden historian on the team? Who has made a study of how Baroque ideas came to influence English gardens? Who has read John Evelyn‘s Sylva with the expert knowledge to understand its import? Who brings the essential knowledge, which Evelyn had, of seventeenth century gardens in Italy and France? In the unlikely event that anything is more certain than death and taxation, it is that Lewisham Council lacks this expertise. Mark Laird should be invited to join the team.
See previous post on Sayes Court.

London's proposed new Garden Bridge

London's proposed Garden Bridge (image courtesy Arup)

London’s proposed Garden Bridge (image courtesy Arup)


Let us join the chorus of support for London’s Garden Bridge. The government and the Greater London Authority have promised to pay half the cost – so finding the rest should be a formality. The idea was conceived by the star actress Joanna Lumley in 1998 (she is also a patron of the Druk White Lotus School). But her idea slept for 14 years, until TfL asked for ideas about new ways of crossing the Thames. Thomas Heatherwick, working with Arup (coincidentally the architects for the Druk School), published the above design last summer – and half the funding was promised this month. The Garden Bridge will be 367 metres long and 30 metres wide at its widest point. It will connect a point near Temple station to a point near Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank Centre.
As an idea, it is wonderfully superior to Hungerford Bridge and, of course, to the London Eye. But what all three projects teach us is THE DESIGN PROFESSIONS SHOULD NOT WAIT TO BE ASKED. If designers, especially landscape architects (because of their concern with the public realm), have a good idea then they should draw it and publish it.
Useful links re the Garden Bridge:
TfL consultation on the Garden Bridge
Garden Bridge Trust website (with video)

Another Stop Killing Cyclists event in London – to give a petition to the Mayor's advisor


Holding a box containing the signatures of 36,795 Londoners, including mine, Mayor Boris Johnson’s Cycling Advisor, Andrew Gilligan, states on this video that ‘I think we more or less agree about policy. The only disagreement is about timing’. WELL: if he was speaking to me then he agrees that cycling should receive 35% of London’s transport for at least the next decade, or until the percentage of journeys done by bike increases from 2% to 35%. At present cycling receives 2% of the TfL budget. So my comments are:
Whoopee!
Thank you very much Mr Gilligan!

Free copy of Tom turner's book: British gardens: history, philosophy and design (Routledge 2013)

I like the Goodreads website, though I am a little sorry that Amazon (which I also like) has bought it. If you register an interest in my book on British garden history between 29th November and 14th January they will put your name on a list from which they will choose the recepient of a free copy. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

British Gardens by Tom  Turner

British Gardens

by Tom Turner

Giveaway ends January 14, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I have also started Goodreads Groups in which to discuss books on Garden design history and Landscape architecture and planning – with the aims of encouraging the preparation of good reading lists and of stimulating discussion about books.

An opportunity to see, and buy, Les Colombieres garden by Ferdinand Bac

Ferdinand Bac (1859-1952) was a nephew of Napoleon, a cartoonist, a writer, a garden designer and an important influence on the great Luis Barragan. Les Colombieres, Bac’s villa in Menton, is up for sale by sealed bid and, if you are lucky enough to own a few oil wells and copper mines, may be a snip. For a video of the house and garden see http://www.les-colombieres.com/. It was made between 1918 and 1927, as the Art Deco movement was evolving into high modernism,

Kongjian Yu – landscape architecture as an art of survival

I have praised Kongjian Yu’s work before and much enjoyed his lecture to the HGSD (above). I particularly like his advice to ‘make friends with the flood’ and to design for the ‘integration of contemporary art and ecology’. But I am having doubts about my call for him to be appointed Chief Technical Officer to the The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development 住房和城乡建设部. For sure, he would be very good at the job – but the landscape architecture profession has greater need of him.
It is bad mannered of me to criticise Kongjian after he quotes me in his lecture, but there are two historical points I would like to correct. First, the history of landscape architecture in east and west can be traced back for thousands of years – though its name is but 185 years old. Second, the planning of western gardens and parks ‘for ornament’ dates from c1700 and is now in decline. Older parks and gardens were always planted for food.
So here is an invitation: next time Kongjian Yu is in London I would be delighted to show him round my local park and the new building for the University of Greenwich Department of Landscape Architecture. Greenwich Park was designed in 1660 primarily for food production – and it still produces a large quantity of food, much of which is collected by ethnic Chinese. So it is very appropriate that the roof of the new school has the production of food as one of its main design aims: it will be used for research into the use of living roofs for food production and other sustainable purposes.

Useful info for the mayor and leader of Royal Greenwich Borough Council

Stupid landscape architecture and mediocre architecture in Woolwich, London

Dear Councillor Angela Cornforth and Councillor Chris Roberts
Respectfully, I draw the following points to your attention:

    • You were elected to represent the people of Greenwich
    • The people you represent do not want to pay for mowing useless grass

. They prefer gardens.

  • The people you represent wash their clothes. After that, they want to dry them – but not in a communal space (inset photo, bottom right)
  • The people you represent ride bicycles. They and do not want them to be stolen and they do not want to hang them from the Juliet balconies you have allowed to be built (inset photo, top right).
  • Your council’s riverside path is 36 feet wide (=10,973m). It has hardly any users. This is a waste of land. The heavily used riverside footpath in Maritime Greenwich is called the Five Foot Path and is 5′ = 1.524m wide.
  • The buildings your council allowed to be built c1995 look like relics of the 1930s with double glazing. I believe Councillor Roberts was in charge of Planning at that time. Past errors should be rectified
  • Your council still employs a lot of town planners. They have powers which could be used to secure good urban and landscape design. Since they continue to permit unustainably bad urban landscape design, you should sack them.

The reason your Council should have landscape architects on its staff is not to do design work. It is to ensure that planning applications have appropriate landscape conditions attached to them – so that public goods can be secured through the planning process. The town planners who do this work at present do not have the  necessary skills in design, construction, planting or the social use of small outdoor space in urban areas. Think about it: if either of you has a heart attack, do you want a gynecologist to look after you? If your car needs to be repaired, would you take it to a vet? If your house has subsidence, would you cal for a decorator?  I guess not, so why not employ landscape architects for landscape architectural work?

Yours truly

Tom

Stourhead Landscape Garden in autumn with Radio 4, Eddie Mair and Alan Power

Stourhead is more than a tree garden: it is an important work of art

Listening to Eddie Mair on Radio 4 I often think ‘Eddie is Britain’s Best Broadcaster, ever’. He towers above the entire Dimbleby family as the Shard towers over London. Well, for several years Eddie has been chatting with one of Britain’s nicest gardeners: Alan Power looks after Stourhead. Eddie went to Stourhead Garden today and spent two and a half hours walking round with Alan. It was a vintage disappointment. Alan mentioned several times that Stourhead is a work of art and that it has many temples. Eddie missed the point and was interested only in the trees and the autumnality – so we kept coming back to Tulip Trees and Maples. It was like walking round St Paul’s Cathedral and talking about the materials and the paint colours – interesting enough for specialists, but not the main point for a high profile discussion. Reyner Banham observed that ‘The purely visual aesthetic of Stourhead, free of sentimentality and allusion, is what puts it in the class of European masterpieces… in a manner that escaped Capability Brown for most of his life’. I do not know why Banham thought Stourhead ‘free of sentimentality and allusion’ but he is surely right about it being a masterpiece and a work of art – and there are only a handful of gardens in this category. Don’t get the wrong idea: I am very interested in why, for example, TS Eliot wrote ‘Let us go then, you and I’ instead of ‘Let us go then, you and me’ but if I were going to present Eliot to a mass audience on Radio 4 then I would not take this as the most important point about either him or J Alfred Prufrock.
Let’s hope Eddie Mair returns to Stourhead with a determination to understand its importance as a work of art.