(Image courtesy Bods)
(Image courtesy Bods)
Gardenvisit.com welcomes the Royal Babe. Hurrah boys, hurrah!
The boys are due a turn on Britain’s throne but would a royal girl have been better for the urban landscape? The two Elizabeths and Victoria did very well and I hope no one will claim superiority for one or other sex. But they have different talents – and were not much interested in landscape design.
At Sissinghurst, though both owners were gay, the man did more on the layout and the woman did more on the details. If these are general characteristics, what does London’s greenway system need most (though it obviously needs both)? I think what it needs is common sense and practicality. The design exists and is taking shape but it has been dogged by dumb ideas – like Abercrombie’s idea of treating the links between parks as ‘green corridors’ and Boris Johnson’s idea of getting a cycle system on the cheap by painting lines on roads. With regard to bicycle transport planning what London needs is profound good sense eg (1) create cycle routes through most parks (2) make very many of the paved sidewalks beside roads into shared pedestrian-cycle paths (3) invest money in cycle planning on a scale which is proportionate to the capital invested in other transport modes – and keep on increasing the expenditure as cycle transport expands. This policy would result in an enormous increase in expenditure on cycle facilities – which would result in homengous increase in commuter and leisure cycling. I hope nobody will want to put my neck on a block for saying it, but I think London would be more likely to adopt these policies under female patronage. But there is hope: I think cycle planning would have appealed to Diana more than to Charles and I think the spirit of Diana, in the person of William, is second in line to the throne. So if King Billy the Fifth does this job then we may well be in need of more strategic planning by the time his son takes over. I therefore recommend Henry for the babe’s first name – remembering that Henry VIII was London’s greatest open space planner, even if it was done for personal reasons, it is time for a Henry IX. All this, of course, is from the standpoint of London open space planning. Perhaps the ‘best of all’ option would be a Gay King Henry – though I can imagine this not being too popular in some parts of the Commonwealth.
Most of us puzzle about how the BBC spends its money but a former editor of The Times (Simon Jenkins) explains the process in easy terms: You are sitting with some friends round a table on which is stashed £60m. It comes from a poll tax on television sets, free of Treasury control, and you can do with it what you like. You can use it for better television programmes, give it to low-paid staff or even return it to the taxpayer. No one will know, except a bunch of toothless trustees. So you smile nervously at one another, reach forward and pocket as much loot as you can grab. With this guidance we can imagine how the BBC Plaza on Portland Place came to take its shape:
BBC Boss Will the planners buy MJP’s design for the building?
Majordomo Yeah. MJP say we shouldn’t have any problems. The design is a re-conceptualised post-transmogrification of the 1928 Val Myer and McGrath design. It plays on the neo-classicism of Nash’s All Soul’s Church and the Art Deco of Broadcasting House.
BBC Boss OK. How about the plaza then?
Majordomo We could have a great landscape design. But it would cost money.
BBC Boss Yeah. Let’s slab it. Then use lettering to advertise all the lucky countries we broadcast to.
Majordomo Yessir. It’ll cost some brass farthings but won’t dent our pension pot.
What are kings and queens for in the 21st century? I don’t know, but opening hospitals and attending state funerals does not seem ALL THAT useful. Gardenvisit.com is therefore putting in a pre-natal plea for the Royal Baby to become a patron of London’s Greenway Network. Princess Di used to run incognito in Kensington Gardens and I wished at the time that she had laid the foundation for a Scandinavian-style Cycling Monarchy. It would be wonderful if her first grandchild could lead London, as Henry VIII and Charles II did, in the creation of a London Greenway Network. It should provide for green transport and green recreation throughout London. Though welcome, Boris Johnson’s cycleways are not places of pleasure. London needs greenways fit for kings and queens and royal babes.
Garden design ideas point to an overlap between the histories of garden design and landscape architecture:
- Both disciplines relate ‘the works of man’ to ‘the works of nature’
- Their design ideas and histories are inter-twined
- They involve the composition of landform, water and planting with vertical and horizontal structures
- They are concerned with what Norman T Newton called Design on the land and Geoffrey Jellicoe called The landscape of man.
- They are influenced by art but differ from from ‘art’, because ‘designed’ objects have utilitarian functions. [If ‘art’ is regarded has having functions then they concern the mind more than the body – if one regards mind and body as separate entities.]
Gardens are better places for exploring design ideas than public landscape architecture, because they tend to be smaller, because they are less utilitarian and because they have private clients who often care more about ideas than impersonal public clients.
Design history is a rich source of ideas. But historical designs are best treated as timeless patterns of the kind advocated by Christopher Alexander in his book on The Pattern Language, unless one is doing on historic restoration or re-creation project. I find art-historical categories provide the best approach to the classification of periods in the history of designed gardens. But nationalistic and dynastic categories also have their uses.
Among the great days in the life of a building project are the client’s commitment to the design, breaking the turf, topping out and handing over the completed project to the client. Between these high-days there can be longueurs – and vacant land. We have been waiting 30+ years for Battersea Power Station to be re-developed and it was an enlightened move by the developers to make a temporary park on the waterfront as a Chelsea Fringe Project. It benefits the public and attracts attention to the development: win-win. Self-appointedly, on behalf of the people of London, I also thank the Pop Up Foundation for publicising a set of good causes. As you can see from the video, the cause with most appeal for me was Find-a-Fountain. The aim is to rid the world of those evil plastic bottles in which water is sinfully sold for a higher price/litre than diesel fuel! It’s amazing that we let it continue. Just think how much good would result from banning the sale of bottled water:
- less litter on beaches
- less landfill
- fewer litter collection vehicles
- less oil used in making disposable bottles
- less fuel in transporting bottles smaller shops, because they need no shelves for water
The Pop Up Event is very English: we love what their misguided detractors call Lost Causes.
The Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival is in its second year. Congratulations to all who have helped make it happen – and especially to Tim Richardson, the Festival Director. What the Chelsea Fringe needs next is sponsors. I would like to suggest Richard Branson to sponsor the main event. He has given us the Virgin London Marathon, so why not the Virgin London Chelsea Fringe? It would also be good to have sponsors for Chelsea Fringe Show Gardens (see my suggested Chelsea Fringe Sponsorship Opportunities]. The right garden in the right place could give the sponsor more bangs/buck than an ordinary garden in the Chelsea Flower Show. London developers etc (eg of hotel gardens, office gardens, roof gardens and small public open spaces) could give them a special treatment and open them for the 3 weeks of the Chelsea Fringe. The developers of Battersea Power Station have an even better idea: they are LAUNCHING the development of a luxurious housing project with the creation of a 2.5 acre Pop-Up Park as part of the 2013 Chelsea Fringe Festival. The design is by LDA landscape architects, who also managed the delivery of the 2012 Olympic Park.
Buddhism is a belief system. Though sometimes described as a ‘religion’ the Buddha’s teaching had no creation story and no gods. Nor did the Buddha want to be ‘worshiped’. Some Buddhist sects became more like the other religions but CHANGE (anicca) is an essential characteristic of Buddhism – and one which favours the development of green, environmental, eco-Buddhism. Buddhism can be compared to open-source software in this respect. Everyone can draw upon the core code and everyone can make contributions. Buddhists have never fought each other in the way that Protestants have fought Catholics and Shias have fought Sunnis. Without giving them a specifically Buddhist interpretation, it is evident that the core principles could be of use to the environmental professions come from the Ayran Path:
1. Right view
2. Right intention
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration
Buddhism has the very attractive characteristic of being kind to animals. Wiki puts it like this ‘Animals have always been regarded in Buddhist thought as sentient beings, different in their intellectual ability than humans but no less capable of feeling suffering. Furthermore, animals possess Buddha nature (according to the Mahāyāna school) and therefore an equal potential to become enlightened.’
Buddhism dates from what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age – as do the origins of the world’s other major philosophical and belief systems. That period seems to have had a talent for beliefs equaling our own priod’s talent in science, which may be a reason for looking so far back to find sound ethical principles. It is of interest that the medical profession dates from the Axial Age and has a good base in the Hippocratic Oath. I once had a go at adapting the Hippocratic Oath for landscape architecture.
Wiki gives the following figures for the numbers of adherents of the major world faiths:
Hinduism 828–1,000 I
Nobody knows how many Chinese people are, to a greater or lesser extent, followers of Buddhist ideas. If the number is large, Buddhism could move up the rankings. My impression is that ‘communist China’ is now building more Buddhist temples than any country has ever built at any point in history.
I lived round the corner from one of the founders of the Scottish National Party for 20 years and supported the idea of an independent Scotland. Wendy Wood was the daughter of a landscape painter, and an artist herself. Like me, I think she would have withdrawn her support from the SNP if she had known it would lead to the destruction of Scotland’s landscape. There are good landscape architects in Scotland but a friend told me that the major part of their workload is now supporting, and opposing, the construction of windfarms. The turbines are pork barrels – ways of giving subsidies to local people to buy their votes.
The Arbroath Delcaration, addressed to the Pope in 1320 stated (here in a brilliant translation from the Latin) the wish to be independent ‘Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself. ‘. Wood, like Roger Casement, was of English stock. The declarators of 1320 were proud of their descent: ‘Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner.’ Today, they do not want to be ruled by the Pope or the English. Far better, they think, to be ruled by Mamon and the Brussels Bureaucracy.
Trump International Golf Links hopes to become “the world’s best golf course”. Bill Forsyth made a wonderful film in 1983. Local Hero is about a small community in Scotland chose preservation of their landscape to riches from oil. Congratulations to the Guardian for its photograph (above) and to BBC2 for showing Anthony Baxter’s film You’ve been Trumped.
I’d like to see Salmond return to the land of his forebears: Greater Scythia. He will find lots of oil and even-more-ghastly development. With luck, he will be able to wrestle naked with other Scythians and enjoy Borat’s Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Good luck to him – and good riddance for Scotland.
I would like to be able to boast that the UK landscape profession, led by the Landscape Institute Scotland Branch, has fought a bitter campaign against Trump golf course. But it hasn’t.
Conclusion: watch Local Hero with a tumbler of malt whisky. It will make you feel better.
Heatherwick, like most artists, holds back from classifying the style in which he works. But he has a well-tested design method and explains that ‘If a potential commissioner asks for “just a sketch”, we have to try to explain that this is not the way to work’. This is because ‘The studio’s design process has always depended on its workshop, which allows it to test and realize ideas through the making of experimental pieces, protypes, models and full-size models of buildings’. I commend this method to the landscape profession. Jonathan Ive (of Apple) also goes through a protyping sequence – which results in the classic High Modernism of Apple products. Corbusier would love Apple products. Heatherwick and Ive both trained in the UK, Heatherwick studying 3D design and Ive studying industrial design. Heatherwick then went to the Royal College of Art, which presumably helped him to become as much an artist as a craftsman as a designer. Also, I believe, it led him into postmodernism. Heatherwick accepts the core insights of Modernism but adds ‘something more’. The more is often a fascination with the controlled repitition of shapes and patterns. Sometimes, this reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy’s work.
The word ‘postmodern’ was first used by John Watkins Chapman in the 1870s as a term for what we would classify as post-impressionist art. In 1926 the term received an unrelated but serious treatment in Canon Bernard Iddings Bell’s Postmodernism and Other Essays. Bell’s argument was that religious fundamentalism is unacceptable, because of the advance of science, and that a full Modernism is also unacceptable. Equating Modernism with the Liberal theology of George Tyrrell and Alfred Loisey, Bell put forward a Postmodernism which welcomed the the insights of science but held firm to the core principles of Christianity. Quotations from Bell:
The Bible can no longer be regarded as an inerrant touchstone, the wholly infallible gift of the Eternal to struggling man.(p.4)
Modernism is, properly, a way of looking at religion which originated with Loisey and Tyrrell, two eminent and deposed Roman Catholic priests. (p.7) [Both were excommunicated]
There is no art for art’s sake. All art exists for the sake of Truth. (p.13)
The scientific intelligentsia now realizes, and for the most part freely admits that, merely by scientific methods, nothing of basic importance, of primary importance, of ontological importance, can be discovered. (p.21)
Fundamentalism is hopelessly outdated. Modernism has ceased to be modern. We are ready for some sort of postmodernism. (p.54)
Insofar as he exists at this moment, the Post-modernist is apt to be a man without a Church. Protestantism, Modernism, and Romanticism alike seem to him to miss the point. (p.65)
This takes us to the distinguished theorist and landscape designer who brought the term Postmodernism to the visual arts. Charles Jencks argues that postmodernism is an approach which is ‘one-half modern and one-half something else’. This is not as different from Bell’s view as one might have expected. Bell and Jencks appear to agree that (1) a scientific understanding of nature is essential (2) artists should be concerned with truths about the nature of the world – as the best landscape art always has been.
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!
Located in East Berlin, the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park is the last resting place for 7,000 Russian soldiers. Planned in 1945, finished in 1949, the design was chosen in a competition to which 33 submissions were recorded. The winning design came from an artist’s collective that included the architect Yakov Belopolski, the sculpter Yevgeni Vuchetic, the painter Alexander Gorpenko and the engineer Sarra Valerius.The memorial was completely restored between 2003 and 2009, including the shipping of the 70 ton, 12 metre tall main statue – a Red Army soldier holding a child and standing over a shattered swastika – to the island of Rügen and back for repair. The memorial is ca. 570 metres long, 150 metres wide, and the main statue with its base mound stands 30 metres tall.
I am always very impressed with designs that rest heavily on trees for their main spatial definition. The Soviet Memorial relies on plane trees – now around 30 metres high – to define its outer boundary, with pleached limes – now around 15 metres high – used to step this scale down as an internal edge. There is an amazing avenue of weeping birches, now with crown diameters of up to 15 metres, planted at 25 metre centres. The western end of the axis is closed with lombardy poplars. One would look far today for a client that would be prepared to countenance a design that would first be ‘realised’ 40 years and more after its actual completion. As the point of the memorial is to convey everlasting glory upon the fallen soldiers, this aspect of the design makes it for me particularly moving.
The detailing of the memorial is superb. Students of landscape design should be encouraged to visit it to learn the importance of step, edge and paving details, and the enormous power of simplicity when ‘writ large’. It is a living memorial, fresh red carnations are strewn throughout on the statuary, and the room below the main statue is filled with flowers and garlands. There is a complete absence of religious symbolism.
Many people will not like this memorial, or this kind of political landscape. I was surprised myself that I found it very moving. Though most visitors were simply out enjoying the sun, one overheard many conversations on political themes, so it does seem that this piece of landscape design is still engendering debate.
The final image, included for contrast and to encourage comment, is taken in Budapest’s Memento Park, a collection of statuary from the Russian occupation of Hungary. The statue is of Stalin’s boots, all that remains of a massive sculpture of him that once stood in the centre of the city, after the population sawed off the rest of it and pulled it down.
We were pleased to see the GSP list of the Top 20 International Landscape Architecture & Design Websites 2012: Giants of Landscape Architecture Online – and very pleased to appear on the list:
15. Urban Greenery
The muscular men on the left appear confident of their own virtue. The young man on the right has the diffident sensitivity of a poet, wondering if drugs should be legalised. Uruguay, it has been announced, has decided to make marijuana a state enterprise. The government will grow marijuana and sell marijuana. Their aim is to put the criminal drug barons out of business and ensure those who smoke marijuana can get a clean uncontaminated product. I support the policy of putting the barons out of business – and wonder where the stuff should be grown. Should marijuana be grown in secure government barbed wire compounds? Or in private gardens? Or in public parks? Could it be a forbidden fruit symbol, fostering our hatred of sin? What involvement might the church have in this enterprise?
The aspect of the Uruguay drugs policy I question is the government making money from it. This could lead officials to encourage consumption. Politicians do not always reek with virtue. Why not give the stuff away? – but plan the distrubition so that users have to walk past an exhibition showing the ill-effects of drug use. They could also revive the Order of Penitents and have lines of former drug users bewailing their fates and showing their scars.
The map (kindly supplied by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Korea) has the curious effect of representing the Korean Peninsula as an island. Is it saying ‘China, go hang’? I am delighted that each of the rivers is marked as a cycle route. We should all learn from Korea’s national landscape strategy.
Setting this issue aside, the scene illustrated above does make me wonder if Olympic structures should all be demountable, like the tent for the Chelsea Flower Show. The International Olympic Committee could spend less money on luxurious provision for its hated members and more money on a stock of re-usable buildings. The Montreal Olympics set a standard for profligacy and left the city in debt for 30 years. The Athens Olympics gave the whole country a taste for debt which took it well on the way to the country’s present financial predicament: ‘As of 2012 many conversion schemes have stalled owing to the financial crisis in Greece and most of the Olympic sites are either derelict or dilapidated.’ So why not have a stock of temporary structures which can be put up and taken down. Greenwich has shown that permission to build on EVEN THE MOST SENSITIVE HISTORICAL SITES can be obtained in a conservation-obsessed country. The principle to follow is that the after-use of any facilities should be planned and designed and funded before any temporary Olympic use is considered. This approach would be more sustainable.
Note: the ugly temporary fence in the foreground is the Royal Parks’ annual botched attempt to deal with the grass on what used to be the Giant Steps. The correct policy, which will surely be implemented at some point in the future, would be to use geotextiles to restore the historical feature. The underlying problem is that there are, so far as I know, no garden historians or landscape architects employed in the Royal Parks. It is like running a hospital with no doctors. Nursing is not enough.
It is appropriate for a Chief Executive of the Royal Parks to have a broad view of the role of parks in society, rather than a specialist view, but one does wonder if Linda Lennon’s background with the Parole Board and the Family Courts is ‘just the thing’. This may be what is needed for troubled parks in run down urban areas – but is it right for the Royal Parks in Central London? Maybe she just has the talent to run anything, as is assumed to be the case for the UK’s top civil servants.
‘Everyone has a wish’. Landscape architect Kendra Inman helped wishes grow on trees for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. The labels (produced by school children, students and locals) were decorated to look like flowers and fruits. They were hung from trees at Dovehouse Green on the King’s Road in Chelsea, London as a contribution to the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. Kendra is a graduate of the MA Landscape Architecture at the University of Greenwich.
Today’s Royal Jubilee Pageant on the Thames was a useful trial run for the 2013 Chelsea Fringe Flower Festival Pageant, proposed for 2013. The lessons to learn are
- Best not to have the whole event on one very wet day
- The boats definitely need more flowers than today’s event – Union Jacks are no substitute
- Music is a great addition
- Dressing up a commercial barge for the royal party is kinda undignified
So here are my suggestions for the 2013 Chelsea Fringe event
- The royal party should travel from Westminster to open the Chelsea Flower Show in the new royal barge Gloriana (seen leading the procession on the left photo, above (and also in the photo below)
- Flower barge events should take place each day.
- One or more blooming boats should travel with flood tide each day from the Pool of London to Chelsea. This would be as popular with tourists as the changing of the guard in the Mall and Buckingham Palace.
Image courtesy DC07703
The M&G Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon, would have received the Gardenvisit Award for ‘Best in Show‘, but for the designer’s crackpot explanation. Here is the Telegraph’s account of what he said: ‘The M&G Garden’ 2012, a ‘New English’ garden harking back to the Arts and Crafts movement, but with a modern-day twist. Featuring monolithic blocks of stone, a 98ft free-form ‘energy wave’ sculpture and a mix of formal, asymmetrical designs and informal cottage-garden planting, the garden truly reflects the values of M&G.’
Artists have been much better at naming styles and Wiki gives the following for the contemporary period:
Contemporary art – present
Toyism 1992 – present
Digital art 1990 – present
Postmodern art – present
Modernism – present
New realism 1960 –
Performance art – 1960s –
Fluxus – early 1960s – late-1970s
Conceptual art – 1960s –
Junk art (adde) 1960s –
Psychedelic art early 1960s –
Lyrical Abstraction mid-1960s –
Process art mid-1960s – 1970s
Arte Povera 1967 –
Photorealism – Late 1960s – early 1970s
Land art – late-1960s – early 1970s
Post-minimalism late-1960s – 1970s
Installation art – 1970s –
Mail art – 1970s –
Neo-expressionism late 1970s –
Metarealism – 1970 -1980, Russia
Figuration Libre early 1980s
Young British Artists 1988 –
Rectoversion 1991 –
Battle Elephants 1984
Massurrealism 1992 –
Stuckism 1999 –
Remodernism 1999 –
ArT is free 2010-
Would any of these fit Andy Sturgeon’s garden? Well ‘postmodern’ certainly would. Readers are invited to suggest classifications.
‘Classifying Andy’ is part of a wider problem: are garden designers and landscape architects totally lacking style?
‘Smithfield is renowned for the ghostly late-night movement of animal carcasses and more recently for the early-morning traffic of displaced revelers. Adding to the mix is this new internal garden space, the Garden of Disorientation’. I went to visit the garden on a really hot day in the course of a long cycle ride to visit other Chelsea Fringe projects. Suffering from heat disorientation, I found this intriguing space blessed me with orientation, as did a delicious drink. Deborah Nagan, of naganJohnson, designed the Garden of Disorientation for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe. The Garden of Disorientation is at 59 Charterhouse Street, Smithfield, London, EC1M from 19th May to 10 June 2012. Deborah is a graduate of the MA Landscape Architecture at the University of Greenwich. The Modern Garden Company was the main sponsor and supplied the excellent garden furniture: it is tough, stylish and street-worthy.
There are lots of reasons for wishing the Chelsea Fringe every success: it makes London an even more exciting city; it confirms London’s role as the world’s garden capital; it creates opportunities for landscape architects to show what wonderful things they can do for the city; it lets sponsors do really good things with their marketing budgets. We have many helpful suggestions!
So COME ON EVERYONE: the Chelsea Fringe has 100 projects in 2012: LETS MAKE IT 1000 PROJECTS IN 2013. Anyone unlucky enough not to be in London from 19th May to 10th June 2012 can do the London Gardens Walk. It is open on every day of every year.