Category Archives: Public parks

The sky's the limit

vauxhall-sky-garden-3

Vauxhall Sky gardens: http://www.amintaha.co.uk/

As garden-in-architecture skygardens are new to the urban design agenda. I suppose what we are talking about here when considering the introduction of skygardens into the garden and architecture typology is a form of greenhouse or biodome in the sky. Vauxhaull it would appear is a semi-private garden akin to the penthouse suite or the executive boardroom. While Fenchurch Street seems to promote public thoroughfare and viewing…even though it is not a podium space but rather akin to  garden- as- observation- deck.

Other projects are shown on http://www.greenroofs.com/blog/.  and http://marquetteturner.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/the-urban-jungle-how-architects-are-helping-city-dwellers-get-back-to-nature/ but it will be even more interesting as the type gains popularity and skygardens become a more developed typology….

20 Fenchurch street: http://www.capitalcommitment.co.uk/site/portf.ec3.20fenchurchstreet.off.aspx

pic__portf_20_fenchurch_st


Can we trust The National Trust?

When planning a visit to gardens managed by the National Trust, one checks opening times, days/months, and in my case whether dogs are allowed. Lately, though, I have realised there are more things to confirm before a sometimes vast journey is met by disappointment.

 

A large part of the experience of a garden/landscape is visual, so are we missing out if we cannot take good photographic images or view ‘scenes’ we expected to due to the mismanagement of landscapes?

 

My displeasure with The NT was prompted by recent visits to two iconic landscapes, and their less than satisfactory responses after I contacted them with my concerns. It would seem the NT has lost its focus and is swamped by policy documents etc and cant concentrate on little maintenance operations. I think this might be because it has become a huge organisation and is too preoccupied with creating strategies for the future and not concentrating on keeping present ‘customers’ happy. It is managing visitors’ experiences now and encouraging repeat visits which will keep these landscapes alive, without visitors there is little point in future management strategies. Customer satisfaction must be the priority and customer satisfaction is, admittedly, a complicated issue but it must rest on the unique experiential qualities of each individual landscape.

 

The two landscapes I will comment on are Studley Royal and Claremont. At both of these I encountered the same problem of obscured viewpoints. Both of these landscapes contain topographical high points that were utilised as positions from which to overlook the landscape below/beyond. Currently many of these viewpoints are obscured by undergrowth, and in some cases large trees. Most disappointingly is at Claremont where there is a viewpoint indicated on the map shown on the leaflet (more on this leaflet later!) and when one climbs up to where there should be the best view over these iconic grass terraces (the view shown in all images of this landscape) we see only large shrubs and trees in our way. NT do plan to clear it in the future, but apparently it is not a priority because ’not many people use this path’.

 

As for the leaflet; I was not impressed by the leaflet given to me upon entrance because of the amateur looking drawings of insects and creatures on it. Upon further investigation I became quite disheartened by its contents. The bias towards environmental concerns in this landscape was beyond logic. I thought I had come to a landscape famous for having a number of England’s most famous historical Landscape Architects/Garden Designers work on it, not to a landscape legendary for being where dragonflies flourish. I have nothing against environmental issues and in fact believe quite obviously that the designed landscape and the natural landscape should exist in unison. But let’s get our priorities right here, what is most important about this landscape, what is it special characteristic? If these dragonflies can only be found in this landscape, then fair enough they do deserve a mention, but this leaflet contained one small section on the designers (each of whom have had volumes and volumes of words published about them) and the rest of the leaflet was about bugs and insects etc.

 

At Studley Royal (which incidentally is a World Heritage Site) I looked forward to seeing the famous Moon Ponds. The photo below shows what I found. When I asked what the NT are doing about green algae I got a very informative response explaining the difficulties in maintaining these pools as they were not designed that well. I sympathised with this and was interested to read further that there is a future £1m redevelopment proposed that ought to alleviate ‘some’ of the green algae problem. I really cannot help thinking that for much less expense than that, why cant they simply scoop out the algae on a regular basis, starting immediately.

 

Green clouds?

Green clouds or turf?

  

 


 

By contrast, the adjacent river shows the reflections my photos should have captured had the Moon Ponds been clear of algae.

 

White Clouds

White Clouds


 The NT are custodians of our heritage. There is always a huge bias towards architectural heritage opposed to landscape heritage anyway, this can possibly be excused. But can the mismanagement of important landscapes ensure their survival into the future? Of course I understand that on the whole and as an organisation the NT do a magnificent job as protectors and advocates, in the big picture, but are they loosing focus on the micro scale? Are these small issues only noticeable to garden historians and not the regular punter, am I being fussy? Either way, I will not be recommending anyone visit a NT trust landscape to see some specific scene unless the NT can assure that that scene is actually available for viewing. 

 

Stonehenge theories revisited


 

Stonehenge Sunrise June 22nd 2009

Stonehenge Sunrise June 22nd 2009

The paperback version of Rosemary Hill’s Stonehenge has just come out. In this witty and erudite volume she unpicks the various theories of the purpose of the stones and shows how they “say more about the theorists and their time than the place itself”. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1861978804/ref=sib_rdr_dp

Like Pevsner and among many others I have shared Tom’s disappointment in visiting Stonehenge in the middle of the day with a thousand other tourists, and have done the same visit only once since we were no longer allowed to have picnics on the sacrificial stone.  And no one can tell me that it is not indeed a sacrificial stone, since my own time and place meant I was brought up with the romantic view of Stonehenge as described by Clive King’s immortal ‘Stig of the Dump’. In it the time-misplaced caveman Stig who lives in a chalk pit, leads our adventurous hero out of his long summer holidays and back in time to witness Stonehenge one Midsummer’s Eve. The sense of time and timelessness of the stones are ingrained via the experience of childhood.

It is in the moonlight or early morning that the stones look at their most magical, or in the drama of a storm as portrayed by Turner. One must go out of hours. The only way to visit Stonehenge in my view is then to keep your romantic beliefs, and in the current layout to keep your distance. One must see it without the crowds; the coaches and concessions; barbed wire and information panels – (the latter soon to be redone by English Heritage’s ‘intellectual access scheme’ which apparently involves rewriting all information so that it can be understood by someone with the reading age of ten.)

One of the best views of the Stones and the settings is from the footpaths behind Countess Farm, on the Amesbury roundabout. Walking up behind the Kings Barrows and looking out along the Avenue you get the sense of scale and grandeur which makes the whole plain feel like a cathedral nave with the stone circle as the trancept. One of the fairly recent proposals was to have the visitor centre at Countess Farm, with pedestrian access to the stones from there. This would be a brilliant way of regaining the atmosphere of the place, with the half mile walk allowing the time and space to feel the sense of place. The cars and coaches would be out of the view too. We would then just need to get rid of the barbed wire.

At the poet and philosopher John Michell’s memorial service last month was read this poem:

How Lord Montagu Gave Stonehenge to the Freemasons

By John Michell, Midsummer 1988

WHEN philanthropic Mr Chubb gave Stonehenge to the Nation

(He’d bought it just before he made this generous donation)

He laid down two conditions: public access as of right

And nothing to be built nearby to mar the sacred site.


The answer to these clauses form the government Trustees

Was ‘Bother Mr Chubb, we’ll do exactly as we please.

A few more buildings round Stonehenge aren’t really going to spoil it,

Beginning with a carpark and a gents’ and ladies’ toilet.


The Commissioners of Works who were the first administrators

Were succeeded by another bureaucratic apparatus

Entitled ‘English Heritage’, and what these people do

Is bugger up historic sites; their head’s Lord Montagu.


They made a fence of steel and wire which everyone bemoans

And dug a concrete tunnel from the carpark to the stones.

No one is permitted now to walk inside the ring

You’re kept behind some ropes so you can hardly see a thing.


There used to be a festival to greet the summer sun

And people would assemble there as they had always done.

In 1985 we saw the end of that tradition

Lord Montagu decided on its total abolition.


But ever since he ordered that the festival should cease

Stonehenge has been surrounded by an army of police,

And if you try to join them they get terribly excited

And tell you that it’s private and you haven’t been invited.


Now, I’m not the sort of person who’ll impetuously hasten

To spread the word that every single policeman’s a Freemason,

But many of them are you know, and here’s the subtle dodge;

Stonehenge has now been proved to be an old Masonic Lodge.


The person who revealed this – and he certainly should know-

Is Mr Russell Herner of the Grand Lodge, Ohio.

His book about Stonehenge says it was built for all eternity

To house the Master Mason and the rest of his fraternity.


So when upon the longest day, St John the Baptist’s Feast,

You see a group around Stonehenge who gaze towards the East,

They’re not just simple coppers spoiling other people’s fun,

They’re members of the brotherhood out worshipping the sun.

Perhaps there was a senior officer at the memorial, for we learn this week that all pagan police officers are to be given time off to celebrate the Summer Solstice. And all witches in the force are to be given Halloween for religious parity. Who will police the solstice then?


Cars, bicycles and beauty

cycling-w-childrenUrban living has many challenges! One of those is how to go from A to B if there is more just yourself to transport….

For example, how do you travel with young children and shopping or with bulky items like a surf board?

The website Inhabit features the Madsen Bucket bike as a solution.

I imagine this solution has its limitations in terms of how far you are likely to want to pedal, what to do in wet or cold weather, terrain and speed. On weekends recreation places different transport demands on the commuter than weekday commuting. Also needing to take two children to different schooling destinations could present quite a predicament for the modern parent – especially if  they also needs to be on their way to work in Monday morning peak hour!

Source: http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/06/23/transportation-tuesday-madsen-bucket-bike/

Hemel Hempstead Water Gardens are a National Disgrace

The Water Gardens, designed for Hemel Hempstead New Town, are decaying. They should be Listed as a Grade 1 landscape and garden design.

The Water Gardens, designed for Hemel Hempstead New Town, are decaying. They should be Listed as a Grade 1 landscape and garden design.

The very best of Britain’s First Generation New Town plans was Geoffrey Jellicoe’s design for Hemel Hempstead. He was invited back to design the Water Gardens. Susan Jellicoe did the planting plan and they both saw it as their most successful project. I went there last year and again this week. The Water Gardens are in terrible condition and it is very depressing. The beds are full of weeds. The pleached limes are unclipped. The benches are smashed up. The canal is so over-stocked with ducks that the edges have eroded. The concrete bridges are crumbling. Some idiot has painted the steel railings green, instead of ‘Festival of Britain’ white.
Though I can’t find it, I wrote an article about New Towns for the TCPA Journal (c1980) and described the Hemel Hempsted Water Gardens as the space which best captures the spirit of the British New Towns. They used  the photograph on the front cover of the journal. If writing another article on the New Towns I would re-take the photograph and used it lament the sad demise of an excellent idea. The Landscape Institute should gird its loins and call for the New Towns Act to be brought back into operation. It is a much better way of managing urban growth than constant expansion of villages into small towns, of small towns into large towns and of large towns into conurbations. The fact that Gordon Brown’s Eco-Towns policy came to nothing demonstrates the need to do things properly, by bringing the New Towns Act back into use.

GF Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

George Frederick Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

George Frederick Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

I like the way GF Watts’ rampant Physical Energy seems to wave at the gilded statue of Prince Albert. Wikipedia reports that ” the 1902 large bronze statue Physical Energy, depicts a naked man on horseback shielding his eyes from the sun as he looks ahead of him. It was originally intended to be dedicated to Muhammad, Attila, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, thought by Watts to epitomise the raw energetic will to power.” Prince Albert was an active spirit but, luckily, not on this scale.

Abu Dhabi and sustainable landscape architecture in the Gulf

abu_dhabi_corniche_eastSince Gulf and Asian landscape architecture are improving, it may be a good time to dwell on past mistakes. The above  photo is of the east corniche in Abu Dhabi. It was designed in conjunction with major traffic routes and exemplifies what goes wrong when landscape architecture work is supervised by firms of engineering consultants. The east corniche ‘park’ lies beside a 12 lane carriageway and flyover. It is a horrible place to be, especially during the rushhour. Pedestrian access just about impossible.  Abu Dhabi is not short of money but this is a terrible way to waste water, space and resources. The ‘park’, better described as a ‘GARK‘, is ‘decorated’ with petunias, lawns and a fountain. Abu Dhabi is developing a grey water mains water supply but many lawns of this type are watered with drinking water. Grassland irrigation is calculated at 12 litres per square meter per day, which is 4,380 litres of water per square metre per year. Since there are about 58,000 sq m of grass, it must require about 250 million litres of water per year. In desert conditions, petunias probably require more water. Desalination plants dump their excess salt back into the Gulf. This will turn the mangroves yellow in perhaps 50 years.  Beyond the gark, to the right, you can see the tops of the mangrove swamps which border the Abu Dhabi Gulf coast. The mangroves grow practically without maintenance in seawater. They are an ecological treasure chest and very beautiful. One wonders if the ‘designer’ of the Corniche east park ever woke up and felt really stupid about what he or she had done. It is not too late to commission a landscape architecture firm to claim the gark for the mangroves.

Sissinghurst Garden Design and Management


Photogaph Philippe Leroyer

Photogaph Philippe Leroyer

BBC4 is showing a series of programmes about Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Here is a link to the first episode on the iPlayer – the link will not be active for long and there is a link to a BBC Sissinghurst webpage.  Adam Nicholson and Sarah Raven live in the family house, because Adam is Vita’s grandson, but Adam’s father (Nigel Nicholson) gave the property to the National Trust. The programme presents Adam and Sarah as enlightened visionaries able to understand the past and present. But the National Trust staff are presented as obstinate blockheads able to say little more than ‘This is the way we do it because this is the way we have always done it and this it the way we will continue to do it’.  Since the series runs to 8 episodes one can’t help wondering it the editing has been done for dramatic effect. Unless the National Trust  Blockheads are going to be seduced by sweet reason, the series is going to end up portraying the Trust as a disorganised rabble which leaves decisions to junior staff.

Sissinghurst gives me the impression of being too commercial and of having too many visitors. It this is what the National Trust wants, they should avoid the cowpats Adam wants to bring back as an aspect of traditional farming. The BBC slipped in the titbit that Vita had over 50 lesbian lovers and the Independent (28.2.09) refers to ‘the site’s fascination for today’s educated lesbians’. Adam predicts that ‘By Easter, there will be rivers of lesbians coming through the gates’.  It would be useful to know whether the return of traditional farming practices (‘cowpats’) would attract or repel the lesbians, and where Adam stands on the lesbian issue.  I look forward to Sissinghurst holding its first Gay Pride day. As they say, ‘history repeats itself as farce’.

An excellent landscape design for the King Abdullah International Gardens

kaig_aerial_02_smallHaving slagged off the design of their capital city, I am only too pleased to congratulate the Saudis on the design of a new Botanic Garden. It reminds me of a photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope – perhaps of a swirling galaxy. This is highly appropriate for a garden which looks back to the origins of life on earth and forward to a more sustainable future. Siteworks began in 2008  and the expected construction period is 3 years.

The landscape architect and project team leader  for the  King Abdullah International Gardens was  Nick Sweet of Barton Willimore.  Some 150 hectares of the 160 ha site will be planted with indigenous species. They will be watered only by stormwater outlets and treated sewage effluent generated on site. All the power will be solar, all wastes will be recycled and 93% of the construction materials (by volume) will be obtained from the site (rock, stone, gravel, soil). Only electric vehicles charged from the solar array on site will be used for visitors.  What more could one ask? I have  every hope of it becoming that rarest of rare delights: an excellent work of landscape architecture.

PS to King Abdullah: next time Saudi Arabia needs a New Town – make sure the design team is led by a landscape architect. You can expect the most favourable benefit: cost ratio for any project in your Kingdom’s recent history.


Greenways and Green Infrastructure

Noticing that the Landscape Institute (LI) has produced a draft policy statement on Green Infrastructure which does not contain the word Greenway, I did Google searches on the two terms. The results were:

This inclines me to the view that, at present, the Greenway Concept has more public visibility. There are three problems with the Green Infrastructure Concept: (1) the literature is thin (2) it is unclear whether “green” means “vegetated” or whether it is used as in “green politics” (3) the term “infrastructure” is much better understood by the built environment professions than by the general public. London has many greenways.  Some are excellent and others in urgent need of better landscape planning and design.

A landscape of ambiguity

wine_bar_landscape2

Here is an approach to creating a space. This is just the first post…so watch the design develop in this blog space… I am not able to visit the site, so I may be using considerable creative license! (Anyone who knows the site is welcome to assist me.)

FIRST MOVEMENT

The initial idea was to acknowledge the bleak surroundings [See Tom’s post ‘Barking Town Square’s Elder Brother‘] and compliment them with fine elements: crystallized glass and an enclosing wall of screens. The colour accent is an iridescent blue. This is to illuminate the night sky and to connect with colours in the deepest ocean. Warmer tones of apricot and honey-wood are used to balance the cool colours. At present they will be used to theme the day time appearance of the space with naturals and neutrals. Planting is used to soften the space and to define different sections, giving privacy and a sense of ambiguity as to whether the space is inside or out. The furniture is comfortable and modern. The sound mood is set by the music of the string quartet – a leisurely evening pace for sipping wine and conversation.

SECOND MOVEMENT

The space is a moonlight garden or Moon Garden. All planting is white. At present the screens may be 1) actual visual screens in which case they can display any scenery or create any mood OR they may be 2) a projective surface OR 3) merely a textured surface. Conceptual elements further define the space.

1. A water curtain on the side of the building suggests a water fall over a cliff face – and can be used for visual screenings.

2. Vertical signage on a building identifies the space.

3. Vertical planting also provides perimeter lighting. [This element is inspired by the Great Beech Hedge at Miekleour – height – and Stefan’s blog.] The aesthetic is not literal… I am aiming for ‘ultra contemporary’…so we have a way to go! [I was thinking Stefan might help here.]

4. A central water feature, with a black base [see Ethel Anderson’s article on Moon Gardens], has an active inner pool and and a passive outer pool with planting. The outer pool is a flat rim; and the inner pool has with a wide but shallow V-sloped basin in solid stone.

5. There is perimeter bench seating – possibly white.

THIRD MOVEMENT

Outdoor spaces have a long existence – which is a preferred as a sustainability strategy. The design is conceived as a semi-public semi-park. It functions at night as a wine bar and during the lunch hour as a formal cafe space. The park elements need to be considered as permanent. While the cafe elements are temporary.

There can for example be:

1. Exterior paving AND a removable wooden platform with rubber inlay for wine bars etc.

2. Permanent public lighting and seating for a Moon Garden.

3. Removable task specific lighting for the wine bar and seating islands.

4. Removable commercial seating islands for wine bar patrons.

5. Permanent planting for the Moon Garden.

6. Removable planting for lunch venues/wine bars.

The space should be ambiguous: is it landscape or architecture; is it interior or exterior? Is it for day or night? Is it a park to be in or a space to eat in?


Graffiti in Berlin park design

Berlin has more of a graffiti ‘problem’ than London. So much of the city is so dull that local artists are taking the problem into their own hands. But look at this: Sudgelande Natur Park, along with many other intelligent uses of public art, has let local artists adorn the ugly hunks of concrete left by engineers and architects. [Images courtesy Olivier Six and Jens Uwe Liepelt]

We are grateful to Grün Berlin for the recently uploaded photographs of Sudgelande are also pleased to have a Head Gardener’s Comment. We look forward to having Visitor Comments and  Head Gardener’s comments throughout our Garden Finder Section. It had details of 2,440 gardens on 10th December and has 2,442 places on 11th December. New entries are always welcome and we worry that some countries (eg Israel) are seriously under-represented.

Greenwich Park Restoration after 2012 Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon Events

Greenwich residents mostly oppose the plan to convert ‘their’ park into what the organizers call ‘A world-class venue on your doorstep‘. I support them but believe that, as at public inquiries, the objectors should also have a list of conditions to be imposed on the developers in the unwelcome event of permission being granted. For the horse riding events in Greenwich Park, this should include:

  • extensive protection and conservation of ALL historic landscape and architectural features
  • even more protection for the most ancient artefacts in the park: the remains of a roman temple and the Saxon burial mounds. The greatest possible care should go to the vestegial grass on the burial mounds: it may be the most ancient grassland in the whole of South London.
  • a full archaeological investigation and restoration of the Le Notre parterre. This is the only work in England by the greatest landscape designer of the seventeenth century and, some will argue, the greatest landscape architect who ever lived. The parterre is currently managed as though it were a football pitch. The lawn and its chiseled grass banks should be maintained with the precision they deserve.
  • the Giant Steps which ran up the axis from the parterre to the Greenwich Observatory should be restored using modern grass reinforcement techniques. They were the central visual component of the seventeenth century design for Greenwich Park. Restoration has been considered on several occasions. The proposed 2012 Olympic Equestrian Event creates an opportunity to act.

Unless the 2012 organizers can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt their willingness to leave Greenwich Park in  better condition than they find it, they should be thrown into the deepest dungeon in the Tower of London, thus creating what would undoubtedly be a popular tourist attraction. I will supply the salt beef and when dropping it in will ask “Why not use Charlton Park instead?”

Note: for more discussion see article on The Conservation of Greenwich Park.

See also Mass Protest against Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Event

A revised plan for the equestrian route was published in The October 2009 “Greenwich Park Venue Update”. It is shown below, on a Googlemap. Their plan shows it avoiding the Anglo-Saxon Tumuli but without a geophysical survey how can they be sure?

October 2009 Revised plan for the equestrian route

October 2009 Revised plan for the equestrian route

LI Landscape Institute Policies

Landscape architects would flourish in a web of enlighted policies for town and country

The Landscape Institute has some policies. There are two of them. One is about Brownfield Skills and the other about Climate Change. So far as I know, neither are major areas of professional employment for landscape architects. My recommendation is that unless and until the LI comes up with something better the Landscape Institute should pluck up its courage and publish the policies which Alan Tate and I helped put together in 1995. They are only 13 years old. As the Credit Crunch evolves into the Recession, the LI should do some good for the environment – and help its members expand their areas of operations. Nothing venture – nothing gain.

The 17.10.08 issue of Vista (‘News, views and analysis from the Landscape Institute’) has an interesting report on how the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) ‘has thrown down the gauntlet to developers and planners with its ambitious new eco-town worksheet on green infrastructure’. I hope this creates lots of work – but who will do it? There is also a report on Northala Fields ‘ a revolutionary new park development in Ealing’ designed by artist Peter Fink with architect Igor Marko of FoRM Associates. The item does not say who the landscape architects were.

The LI  ‘Position Statement’ on Climate Change suggests more Green Infrastructure might help a little and gives the following examples: street trees,  hedgerows, pocket parks, cemeteries, small woodland, city parks, green networks, forest parks, lakes, rights of way, regional parks, rivers and floodplains, long distance trails, reservoirs. The document would sound better if called a ‘Policy Statement’ but even then I doubt if the networks would be clamoring to interview the LI President. The examples of projects are a little better but surely none of them were initiated to combat global warming.

Roberto Burle Marx as a context-sensitive designer

Paving at Copacabana Beach, design by Burle Marx, photo by Christina

As a painter, Roberto Burle Marx was an international abstract expressionist. But as a garden designer and landscape architect he showed a high degree of sensitivity to context – I say ‘surprising’ only because I was so slow to appreciate the complexity of this point. His planting was voluptuously Brazilian, like his mother, and Marx could see no reason for using European plants. Nor did he see any reason for the hard detailing to draw inspiration from the land of his father: Germany. Instead, he drew upon the country whose language is spoken in Brazil. The accompanying photograph is of Copacabana Beach – but could just as well have been taken in Portugal. Until I went to Portugal, I thought this amazing design was an example of Burle Marx inventiveness as an abstract painter. I was very wrong.

Design theory in architecture and landscape

The softness of lime mortar has allowed the doorway in an old garden wall to  be filled with respect to the bond pattern.

An email arrived today with the comment that ‘My primary interest is in design excellence (aesthetics) & I have been writing about how architecture is an art, and unlike other fine arts it is a practical art: a public art.’ But that ‘… because of the demands of sustainability there needs to be a way of re-thinking how we do architecture, privileging design. Central to this idea is that architecture is functional (modernist programme), sceniographic (post-modernist) and meaningful (post-postmodernist agenda)!?’

I agree that architecture and landscape architecture are applied arts. But in this, they do not differ from garment design, furniture design, etc. All should be functional and are best when they have high aesthetic quality. Sustainability considerations apply to each of these arts: if the world is running out of resources then we need to be more economical. This is, amongst other things, an argument for using lime mortar instead of cement mortar. Lime bonded brickwork and stonework can be disassembled, allowing design changes the the reuse of materials.

The public aspect of some applied arts raises other issues. The furniture in my home would seem to be entirely my own concern. But if I want to build a tall modern building in a medieval village then this becomes a matter of legitimate public concern. Ditto for the Martha Schwarz post-modern amhphitheatre in Castleford, especially because a bunch of idiots dipped their hands into the public purse to fund the park.

‘Meaning’ is another issue. A modernist approach to the Castleford Park would have been to discover what people wanted for the space and then make provision for their activities. The postmodern approach, as used by Schwarz, was to give the space a ‘meaning’. I do not know what words she used – could it have been to ‘echo a Roman approach to open space design, as exemplified by the Colisseum’ – but they must have been something inappropriate. A post-Postmodern approach to the Castleford park would have involved recognition of the multifarious interests of local people combined with intelligent design leadership. Beliefs shared between the public and the designer would have facilitated their combination. Flying in a US Design Queen might have worked in the context of shared beliefs.

The Olympic landscape architecture of firework displays

With the hatred of competitive sport one learns best in a boys school, the only parts of the 2008 Olympics I watched on TV were the opening fireworks and the closing ceremony. China’s ancient prowess in fineworks and landscape painting were much in evidence.

Edinburgh: fireworks with landscape and architecture

My home town, Edinburgh, ushers in each new year with brilliant use of its castle as a stage and Princess Street as the front stalls (photo Jenni Douglas). Beijing had fireworks running around the Bird’s Nest and dashing into the city (photo Kathy Zhuang). London had a great display on The Mall in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. In 2012, it should have a display which bursts out of the Olympic Park, tears up Thames and visits each of the Royal Parks. Such a show, would be a small thank-you to all those unfortunate Londoners, like me, who are forced to contribute hard-earned cash to an otherwise hateful sporting event. Obviously, landscape architects must be involved in planning the landscape fireworkitecture.

See notes on London’s 2012 Olympic Park Development Project.

Landscape architects, including Martha Schwartz, covered in mud

Kevin McCleod on Channel 4 looked at three landscape projects in Castleford on TV last night. Martha Schwartz did worst. Tempted into describing herself as one of the ‘Two Queens of Landscape Architecture’, she forced a celebrity design for a park amphitheater down the reluctant throats of a mining community in the North of England. There was a community ‘consultation’ exercise in which she was told they did not want it. So English Partnerships paid the £1m project cost. It was built. The community do not like it and do not use it. Sic transit gloria mundis.

Parklife, a London landscape firm, also did a community ‘consultation’, and then provided the adventure playground which was requested. Very sensible. It cost £200,000. But the landscape architects refused to provide a fence and so the vandals are pulling the park to pieces and ripping out the plants, night after night. Very stupid. Sic transit gloria hortus.

A local community leader said the first step in making a public open space was to build a high fence. She did this and then forced the designers to make what is now called the Cutsyke Play Forest. It is popular and remains in excellent condition. Very sensible. I congratulate her. See our essay on Parks and boundless space for a discussion of the role of boundaries in the planning and design of public open space.