Charles Platt: Pools of inspiration and transformation

The swimming pool and bathhouse at Manhassat Long Island by architect and landscape architect Charles Platt demonstrates the transformation in design thinking from European ideas that slowly began to characterise the design approach in the United States. The Manor House garden is remarkable for illustrating the genesis of this transformation in thinking with the ‘before’ garden centred on a fountain and the ‘after’ garden centred on the pool.

Gwinn, for which Platt contributed the architecture and collaborated with Ellen Biddle Shipman Warren Manning on the landscape contributes to the transformation of the Italian villa as inspiration to an American sensibility. There are particular elements of the garden design on the shores of lake Erie which introduce a genius for place into the American oeuvre, and are more suggestive of the quintessentially casual out-of-doors leisure lifestyle.

32 thoughts on “Charles Platt: Pools of inspiration and transformation

  1. Tom Turner

    People were questioning the wonders of modernism even in the 1920s and I believe the first book to use the word postmodern in its title was by Canon Bernard Iddings Bell Postmodernism and Other Essays (1926). So there would be nothing anachronistic about putting Charles Platt in this category. There is even something postmodern about his entasis-free tubular columns. In fact I would generalise the point and say that garden design since the 1920s has much more often been postmodernist than it has been modernist – and this is because it had to relate the genius of the place. Jencks put it like this postmodern design was ‘one-half modern and one-half something else – usually a traditional or regional language of building’.

  2. Christine

    I wouldn’t characterise his design as Post-modern because the leading proponents of Post-modernism made historicist references using irony. Whereas there is similarity to the development of modernism from classicism in architecture in particular in the work of Louis Sullivan in Chicago.

    See: the Stock Exhange Building [ ]

    In a sense Post-modernism only got serious where the irony was missed but not the style.

  3. Tom Turner

    It certainly would not be the normal use of the term ‘postmodern’ but everyone seems to feel free to pull the term into new shapes and garden design is a special case of postmodernism because (1) garden design could hardly ever be abstract because it is an inherently site-related art (2) critics of garden design have made hardly any use of the term postmodern (3) garden design, by serious garden designers, has almost always been historicist (in the best sense of the word!)

  4. Christine

    Charles Jenck’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a true Post-Modern garden.

    The use of symbolism, but in particular ways (ironic), is relevant. The use literal and allegorical use of symbolism has been prevalent throughout history and in different cultures.
    [ ] The ironic use of symbolism carried into Deconstruction (which is also a Postmodern movement). Parc de la Villette by Bernard Tsumi is an example.
    [ ]

  5. Tom Turner

    Roman Krznaric’s knowledge of garden history is far from ignorant but is very patchy. If you look at the work of theory-conscious garden designers I think it is rather difficult to find examples which are not symbolic, allegoric, metaphorical or something similar. But I definitely agree that Charles Jencks has a postmodern and symbolic approach. Tschumi is also best classified as postmodern but his approach is not equivalent to that of Jencks. The Oxford Companion to Gardens scarcely uses the word postmodern and nor is it used in the entry on Portrack House by its editor (Patrick Taylor). Amazing!

  6. Thomas Mickey

    So when do we begin to talk about garden design as ‘postmodern’? The Cornish, New Hampshire garden that Platt designed reflects America’s renewed interest in Reginald Bloomfield ‘s return to the formal garden. Would you call that modern?

  7. Christine

    In architecture Modernism died on 15th July 1972 with the demolition of Pruitt Igoe, so Postmodernism in architecture dates approximately from this time, with the appearance of Venturi and Scott Brown’s ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ released the same year.

    I don’t think there was a similar moment of disillusionment with modernist landscape design, unless it was found in the various incidents that represent ‘the death of the mall’ [ ] including various large windswept and hot pieces of urban paving cum plazas and malls. In Australia (the old) City Square in Melbourne was an example of a modern urban landscape that never quite hit the right note.
    [ ] The Square was officially opened in 1981. Redevelopment of the Square began in 1994.

    “Unfortuneately unforeseen problems meant that by the mid-1980s it had become apparent that the city square had failed to meet many of the expectations held for it. Some of the square’s feature’s proved expensive to run, ie the video screen (probably in retrospect before its time). The central sculpture ‘Vault’ by Ron Robertson Swann, was the object of much community disdain resulting in its removal and retailers complained that the area did not provide the potential trade they had been promised.”
    [The History of the City of Melbourne 1997 p26.]

    Reginald Bloomfield was an anti-modernist at the time of Modernism’s slow introduction into Britain, rather than a post-modernist. And yes it does seem that Platt is considered one of the Classicists whose work fell into obscurity with the rising popularity of Modernism in the postwar era.

    I wonder what halted the evolution of his design thinking? It is interesting that his work is belated receiving recognition and inspiring a renewed appreciation of formalism. Perhaps it is just a little early to see how this will all unfold…within Post post-modernism.

    Great observation!

  8. Tom Turner

    I agree about Blomfield: he was a pompous, blustering Dad’s Army type – but also rather a good designer and notable for having chosen the (Modernist?) electricity pylon.
    Re Platt, I suppose that classifying him as Postmodern is like seeing JMW Turner as an Impressionist or El Greco as an Expressionist – or the primitive art of the Cyclades as Cubist.
    Despite several books on the subject, my view of the Modernist garden is that it never really existed. But would this make postmodern gardens a logical impossibility?

  9. Christine

    The pylons are interesting. So I wonder if Eiffel was a Modernist?

    I suppose it all depends on how you identify the Modernist garden (by temporarity ie the Modern period or by aesthetic attributes ie the Modernist style.) Perhaps the Modernist style of garden never really reached the shores of Britain? Or perhaps it has struggled to gain popularity or widespread acceptance with such strong gardening traditions to compete with?

    It would be good to hear more on your views to be clearer on this.

  10. Tom Turner

    I was reading about Expressionism yesterday and it is interesting that the term is used in two senses (1) as in ‘German Expressionism’, for a shortish period in early-twentieth century art (2) as a broad tendency which can be traced from the earliest cave paintings to the present day.
    It would be a linguistic absurdity to do the same thing for Modernism but if we could find another word (eg Abstractionism) to do a similar job then it would be easy to find a long pedigree for the tendency. But it would not include the ‘form follows function’ idea which, when linked to an interest in abstract design, produced the Eifel Tower and the Pylon. Design history is a complicated subject with many strands.

  11. Grant

    Hi Christine and Tom.

    Tom directed me to this comments page. (as a student and an interest in all things’ modern’).

    As usual, fascinating reading. So my thoughts on whether or not modern gardens existed in the UK, even if they where not referred to in books.

    My Family tended to move regularly so owned and created new gardens on a regular basis, so i have been thinking were there any modernist influences in their decisions on what to add too the space. Then Bingo, our old friend (well not mine i hasten to add) the concrete screening block.

    One of my grandparents used it to excess. The layout of the gardens was always very formal, square lawn, deep regular beds. With Arts and Crafts style of planting.

    Influences of styles in Suburban Gardens during the 1960 and 70’s. (an observational opinion)

    Concrete screening instead of fences or Brickwork
    Coloured concrete pressed slabs laid in checkerboard fashion
    Concrete pitched walling
    Formal layout of hard design( grid, symmetry etc)
    Often no contextual relationship to the house, area or history. Unless the house was a new build then the context was modern. No storey.
    Use of any and every chemical available (god only knows what i ingested as a kid)

    Arts and Crafts
    Broken paving slabs often old York stone from the stock piles after the war and ex-council (cheap of free) known as ‘Crazy Paving’
    Jekyll style of planting.
    Deep beds with a path in front for viewing.
    A passion for colour over foliage. Definitely no block planting.

    Victorian Eclecticism
    Irish limestone for water falls ,everywhere! (now has restricted use for conservation reasons)
    Large decorated (concrete not stone) Grecian pots,
    Various additions and styles from Europe
    This mix was due i think to the new era of the Package tour and thus the return of eclecticism.

    So the 70’s as ‘the time that style forgot’ was alive and well in the garden
    So even though there is no real definitive Modernist Garden style in the UK its influence was there albeit in the background and therefore not implemented in its purest form.

    Then Habitat arrived and the post modern era (in our household at least) begun.

  12. Tom Turner

    I agree about modernism having an influence, including the influence on concrete blocks, but I do not think an influence amounts to a Modernist Garden. I also agree about the influences in British suburban gardens in the second half of the 20th century. But it’s not too late: you can design a Modernist Garden!

  13. Grant

    Ha Ha, could my final project for Calverley Park in Tonbridge Wells have a Modernist slant? Lets see what drops out of my chaotic skull!
    And can i Justify it?
    Joking aside really excited about the final project. Your classes (which all of us agree) have really helped give an insight into the thinking and influences of each era. Which way is the Pendulum of thought going to swing next?


  14. Christine

    Thankyou Grant. Another important distinction perhaps I forgot to make, which I do make in my own work when discussing the influence of style, is the difference between style instigators (who create the theory in a professional or quasi-professional context) and the diffusion of that style throughout society.

    I would guess that Modernism in the 1970s is in the first category.

    While Arts and Crafts and Victorian Eclecticism is in the second category.

    Here is a great modernist challenge…[ ]

    How to renovate the building and gardens of Robin Hood respecting the original modernist intention but ensuring the problems arising from nascent design thinking, construction and maintenance as well as inappropriate residency choices (resulting in overcrowding and lack of place for pets etc) do not occur or are solved.

  15. Grant

    I was trying to make the point in my clumsy way, about the difference between theory and those at the coal face. Both relevant, but the marriage does not always work when communication breaks down, or assumptions are made with out consultation and post analysis.

    Great mind think alike, had a good look the other night at the Robin Hood Gardens video, and spent an evening pondering the viewpoints and conclusions.

    I think post modernism has at least tried to not make the same mistakes with consultation, but in my humble experience of the planning regime in the UK, it has been taken over by local interest groups, often with no education in the area of design. So modern design is very hard to get through planning, and construction companies go for the route of least resistance, which in my part of the world, is Mock Tudor ( I can’t even begin to explain how much i hate the localist small minded style).

    So as academics,which you and Tom are so obviously are, and educated (well getting there) contractors designers such as myself there is a chance that some kind of sanity may return. But the mistakes of the modernists still rests heavy still with local planners and the fear of being accused by certain royals of creating a carbuncle. Also the heritage movement seem to have forgotten that yesterdays model was once cutting edge.

    So were does it leave somewhere like Robin Hood? and the grounds around it?
    Its as much about what you do in the area as the actual building. if there is no investment in jobs, education (social mobility) and green space. It will fail. And as you say the mix of residents. A mix of private and local authority? Young families to senior residents. This is the mix were i live and it works. And as you point out lifestyles have changed. I think more space per unit would help. There are some fantastic flats i believe built in the 1930’s in Amsterdam ( i am sure you may know them) that are huge, and we all need space.

    So Christine question for you and Tom, where do you think or what is the next big design movement, care to speculate?
    And what were the Modernists intentions for Robin hood, metropolis? or Shangri-La?
    There seems to be a bit of a stirring in the art world, that they have had enough of Damien Hurst and his like, and are looking back to a place of Realism. (Stalin did that in 1932, just a thought, and also i can hear Sarah Palin whining on in her small town way as write this).

    Interested to read your thoughts.

  16. Christine

    Well before we get back to the future I would like to make a few suggestions about Robin Hood Gardens.

    Built works of architecture and landscape are for designers essential learning tools about space, composition, materials, light, human interaction etc. Think the ‘Grand Tour’. What would a Grand Tour of the icons of modernism include?

    What would enable designers to best appreciate the theory and intentions behind these works? (Surely not a giant Fractal overlay…)

    Modernist buildings imagined a modernist lifestyle with modernist interiors and furnishings. Look again at the early images of Robin Hood Gardens. In the second decade of the 2000s is there any possibility of realising these imaginings?

    It is very strange indeed that on the one hand we are being told to get used to living with less space and that occupanies of inner city dwellings are now predominantly singles – and yet the design of Robin Hood Gardens is seen as spacially redundant!

    The apartments are an interior designers dream. The building is an architectural challenge: strengthen what works and think creatively about what doesn’t. [ ]And the landscape is the ultimate urban park prefiguring the highly stylised work of Charles Jencks in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation.(ps there must be great views from those apartments).

    Oh, for Robin Hood Gardens, metropolis is the answer.

  17. Tom Turner

    Alison and Peter Smithson, who completed Robin Hood Gardens, in 1972 were idealists and they probably imagined a utopian paradise in which the world would be full of well-intentioned, idealistic, middle-class people like themselves. The first residents were probably ‘traditional working class’ and the present residents are probably recent-ish imigrants. If the place could be re-peopled with Yuppies it might work very well. For its present residents, who often have low incomes and large families, it is not well suited. These considerations are miles apart from anything to do with Modern or Postmodern design styles.

  18. Grant

    Thanks for the Article Christine, ended up reading all the other NY times articles around the subject of modernism. Liked the comment about there must be great views from the apartments.

    Tying in with your comment Tom, the now des-res Barbican is a good exsample of your argument.
    Its a bit like the Bernard Bernays and his revolutionary marketing phrase, ‘to get people purchase product not out of need, but desire’.
    Do you think the gentrification of an area, pushes out the poor leading to yet another ghetto. Building saved, but at what cost? Is there a good example of social groups living together, or is that too Utopian?

  19. Christine

    Yes the Barbican would be another example of a classic modernist space. Although its looking a little more 1970s – late modernism.
    [ ]

    I hope Robin Hood (1972) can be saved: good views also good trees and it definitely belongs on the Grand Tour.
    [ ]

    Somehow 1,700 new homes just seems like a huge loss for design and modernism.
    [ ]
    and [ ]

    Perhaps if they staged the production of Robin Hood in the gardens in spring it might inspire a new way of thinking about the potential of the estate? [ ]

    Of course they could include a mix of affordable housing and even family housing with access from the ground floor. [ ]

  20. Tom Turner

    I agree about saving Robin Hood Gardens – but if and only if the decision is accompanied by an official recognition that good architectural and landscape design, for this site as for every site, require an effective partnership between:
    The Client(s)
    The Builder(s)
    The Designer(s)
    If this cannot be achieved then I would prefer a Pruitt-Igoe style ceremonial explosion.
    In a small way I am at present representing the client side on the design of a new building for our school. The designers are very receptive – but I think a mistake is being made in not having representation from the builders. The problem must be that they want to go out to contract and get a keen price – and I suppose it could be argued that the structural engineers represent the builders’ interest. But I am also working on a small domestic building project and I find the discussions with the builder very helpful.

  21. Grant

    Christine, great links. Reading the sites it seem the age old problem is going to be repeated, flash new buildings with no real change to the area’s opportunities for the local people. 20 years time, what should we do about …..Gardens, and so the story goes on repeating its self at infinitum. Its like a new toy, yes for a short period the distraction will work, but soon enough reality will come crashing in.

    Tom, I agree.

    I think the stereo type of the teeth sucking, ‘it’s gonna cost you’ builder is alive and well. Having met some of theses negative builders, you soon realise that because they are not consulted/respected then like the cornered union man they will dig their heels in. Plus the price is everything really hurts when they know the Architects are work on a percentage of their (the builders) price, this only adds to the bitterness. I always recommend clients get a price off an architect and not a percentage, they (the architects) hate it, but i say welcome to my world. God i sound so bitter!Seen it so many times. When in reality if you actually talk to the builder on a level playing ground,rather than the Designer knows all scenario then you will get information that you will never find in a book or journal. I know a few contractors who should be given a honouree Doctorate, let alone a degree. Their knowledge is jaw dropping.

    I have noticed defensiveness when ever i have met architects on site (or could that be the sharp trowel in my hand). This is often due to their lack of construction knowledge, and rather than admitting it they just criticise and walk off. I could write a book about the pompous run ins i have had over the years. There is always an exception though, and those who have worked with us (team) have had a positive response from those on the tools and thus the quality of the work goes up, design issues are solved and everyone is happy. Its so obvious.

    The engineer tends to be working for the client and is considered on the Dark Side. The bonus with talking to the builder is they love it when somebody actually listens to them.

    Good luck with the builds, Tom.

  22. Christine

    My suggestion is that different projects call for different approaches and present different opportunities. Tom as the client for your school building perhaps a traditional fixed price contract arrangement might be the best: provide price certainty for both yourself and the builder which should support a happy relationship.

    I suspect you are in a client’s market and should be able to obtain a very good and competitive price at tender, so locking in a price too early is not to your advantage. Plus the less is known the higher the price will be from the builder to cover for uncertainty and risk. You can start the conversation with the builder at tender stage and still get great and meaningful input. [Unless there is something unusual you are trying to achieve or the context is particularly unique and then perhaps having a consultant builder on the team might assist with process etc decisions ]

    With a domestic scale project there is more freedom to engage the builder in the process from the get go (and perhaps no designer yourself excepted?) If so there is a simple client/builder relationship to mediate (no middle men and no extras?)

    In price and percentages – scope of work, risk assignment and time/budget performance parameters are relevant considerations for all involved. I would recommend to the client to consider what they are trying to achieve (time/cost/quality) bearing in mind the construction market over the life of the project and to choose the contractual arrangements accordingly.

  23. Grant

    Hi all.

    Hi Christine you are right about the two scenario’s.

    There is a different attitude between the two.

    When its money being spent by the company and not the person contracting out the work. Its the reputation of the person employing the contractor that is on the line, but its still not their own money. This can produce a detachment from the reality of what is going on, so consultants turn up which adds to the cost (or not if they produce a result). Peoples own money, now thats different!

    Success is judged by firstly cost , then time taken to construct and lastly quality. Generally the idea of a craftsman means expense and corporations prefer the Fordist view (Toms abbreviation for Fords invention of the production line turning coach builders into automatons and or to put it another way turning people into monkeys then you pay monkey rate ,but suffer the consequences of employing monkeys, detachment from the job, resentment, just there for the money).

    Getting back to Modernism for a moment, one of the big failures was this attitude of the ‘Price’ in the construction industry during that time, price work was encouraged tapping into the greed of the contractor and contractors (self employment became the norm , so no risk for the main contractor, no holiday pay, sickness, accident, redundancy, basically hire and fire as he pleases, i have worked on theses sites a real dog eat dog …animals again). So for a a short period of the housing boom in the sixties, was about speed, not quality, bodge it and scarper became the in joke, and like any joke more than a a hint of truth. System buildings were encouraged for their speed of construction on site and a production line mentality in the factories were they were produced off site. My Father was a site manager on a lot of these sites and the stories of ‘Ruff it up and get it up’ are numerous. In the 1970’s theses buildings started to fail with some catastrophic consequences (Ronan Point ). To get a good price became everything, (and if you didn’t, as a sub contractor well you can guess the rest).

    System building were about speed and cost, one of the shortcuts was to bend over the hoops in the concrete panels if the did not line up, so that the rods holding them together could inserted in at least some of the few hoops that lined up. The crane was costing money, the men were getting paid by the unit, they did not care and why should they ? Another common phrase of the time, ‘not my house.’ A whole housing estate was built with mortar ranging from 10;1 to 15;1 ratio, Washing up liquid instead of lime for a plasticiser, all increased speed and thus volume, and bottom line profit, but quality? I think not.

    But its fool gold. The time and motion crowd didn’t like the fact that the builders were earning more money than them. so rates were cut, so the short cuts increased, driving quality down even more , a race to the bottom.. This was capitalism in its purest form and when not tamed people suffer.

    So the backlash started in the 1970’s and builders have suffered with the poor image ever since. As considered not much more than simple labourers, due to the baggage of the failed price system, Thatcherite attitudes towards apprenticeships, a complete mis understanding of skills required for a efficient work force, and a education system that encourages a separation of designers and implementors. Fordism is alive and well in the industry today. The rush for cheap foreign labour, (note not skilled labour i have worked with these guys, great crowd but they have little or no experience. there motivation is the same as any human good wages by their home standards and surprise surprise they work hard) the hire them fire them self employment, short term work from a day to a ‘couple of weeks’ the list goes on and most of the country are either ignorant to it or choose to ignore it knowing ‘that price is king.’ Just look at the working conditions in China and india at the moment.

    So when your builder turns up to price work it is from a background of failure not pride. The connection between design and trade was lost when architects no longer had to go through trade, and went straight to ‘Design School’. Suspicion and snobbery have arisen from both sides due to ignorance of each other skills.

    So whats the answer for someone employing a Builder? Either as an employed person on behalf of the company or an individual?

    1) Price is not king, buy cheap, buy twice. Speed often comes at a price, quality. In twenty years time the comment will be on the quality of what remains not the speed of build or price.

    2) Reputation is everything, first hand accounts of previous work. We do it in every other industry. Lack of research by the employer is the reason that often poor contractors are employed. Does a school not check the references before employing a teacher?

    3) Relationship, builders are people with emotions; communication, praise and appreciation go a long way and they are free!

    4) Respect, a two way street. Listen to what they have to say, experience of doing is so much more valuable than theory.

    5) Finally Price, My philosophy as a designer and contractor is that i want to be known for thoughtful, beautiful design and high quality construction, with no ‘come backs’. So people want ‘me’ more than the price. Ie BMW, mercedes, Marks and Spencers etc. It works i have not advertised for 18 years of my 21 in business. If people want to play the price game, i don’t get their work, then more often that not they come back two years later for my advice/skills, sounds a bit arrogant i know but its happened so many times.

    A Swedish friend who is an incredibly successful man in industry, said “I judge people on their experience and attitude before price”.

    There is a lot to be said for that quiet wisdom, in the noisy world of business.

    Please excuse the rant, but the failure to see beyond price is fundamental, period.

    Now Breakfast.

  24. Tom Turner

    Christine: I am only a small part of the client body and only concerned with the green roof.
    Grant: I think that, like Ruskin and Morris, you would need to look back to the Middle Ages to find a time when design and construction were fully integrated. But that does not mean you are wrong: my humble opinion is that the Perpendicular Gothic Cathedrals, which resulted from integrated design and construction, were the best buildings ever made in Europe.
    The lunatic failure to recognise and teach technical skills in high schools persists for a different reason: socialists thought that everyone should have an equal opportunity to go to university and get a safe government job (excuse the sarcasm). Education planners still believe that ‘academic’ ability is more important than ‘technical’ ability. So they want to but the ‘cleverest’ people into ‘pure’ subjects like maths, science and languages. This is also the root cause of the separation of design from technology. In the years I have been working in a school of Architecture and Construction there has been always-less emphasis on architectural technology and always-more emphasis on conceptual design. But ‘don’t blame me, Gov’. The staff who teach construction, to construction managers, have almost no involvement with the staff who teach design to architects (and landscape architects).

  25. Grant

    Hi Tom,

    Yep, watched some brilliant programmes on the Normans and their Cathedral building.

    True, never thought of the ‘self interest’ of the ‘lefty’ could run so deep.

    Nail on the head!! technical skills should have equal weight in education, thus the status will go up, like in Germany.

    It won’t happen all the time this Victorian attitude of profession =good, trade =failed profession remains.

    Thats one of the reason i am jumping ship as no matter how good i am i can only go so far in the industry, unless i have that bit of paper.
    Though i am loving the course, and have really learnt and continue to learn a lot. This will undoubtedly make me a better more rounded designer.

    But the lack of trade taught in Universities still concerns me. Students leave having little or no idea how things are put together ,or why and when.

    Why don’t the construction managers teach the students something about the industry?


    I had the privilege of taking the one class on bricklaying (with the kind permission of Matt Woodruff) and seeing the penny drop in peoples eyes when they realised its not as easy as it looks. Also they all admitted that they couldn’t believe what hard work it was. I think a certain respect was achieved that day. So it was not about teaching bricklaying, but showing them that skills are not to be taken for granted.

    Not so much me, me, me more TEAM attitude to design and build.

    One day ,one day.

    Off to Tunbridge Wells to meet an old student friend talk shop, drink tea, eat cake. Fantastic.

  26. Christine

    It is a little sad that there are so many divisions in the world of work that are next to impossible to overcome. I once tried to organise a Conference tour of the work of best residential designers with the intent of having them talk about the conceptual design and structural/construction strategies behind their exemplary homes.

    What happened. Well, the lecturer who taught construction and was also involved in organising the conference sabotaged my efforts. Why? In the university construction has the research dollars and design has the prestige.

    So i’m sorry to say the problem is not just about university education or not.

    Thankyou for the Ronan Point Apartment building article. It seems the flaws were in this order 1) engineering design 2) architectural design and 3) construction standards.

  27. Grant

    So after bringing this comments page to a state of depression about the world, what next?

    Sounds like some heads need to cracked together and look up and see the larger picture and the benefits of opportunity and communication, we need a Luther of design world to pin some statement to break this silly divide.

    Are the professions really that frightened of people like me entering their world? I am really completely harmless, though some of my site language is umm err fruity. They need not worry with the new fee regime the working class will go back and be grateful for the morsels that are thrown from the top table. I think they call it ‘trickle down’.

    Getting back on subject. I think there is a general like of modern, but suspicion when it comes to new builds, especially houses. Landscape Architecture tends to be associated with new gleaming projects from where i am sitting. When faith is restored in New being good rather than failed concrete structures we may see a change.

    What do you think?

  28. Christine

    It might be worth reading Norman Foster’s biography to feel assured that a working class background is not an impediment to achievement. Nor are professionals concerned with you entering their world. You can be certain that Foster eats more than ‘morsels from the top table.’ [ ]

    That said the division between construction and design is real. The perception of new = failed structures is a peculiarly UK phenomenon. You wont find it elsewhere.

  29. Grant

    Norman Foster it is! Had a look at the link, encouraging, just need to start wearing black.

    I have been looking at a lot of Landscape architecture picture books (reading can be so tiresome) just for inspiration for my final projet. You are so right so many clever and cool projects in NZ and Oz as well as China, USA, France , Germany etc. UK we have the Thames Barrier park, which i think is great but not a space on the garden visit radar , as in Dixter, Sissinghurst etc. Never seen it on a Garden TV programme, a real shame.

    There never seems to be people in the park, ie ‘a park without people is a field’.

    I think there is a slow move towards liking ‘the new’. As most people understand (to a point) modern art,and realise that twee 1980’s out of town shopping centres look awful , (Bluewater shopping centre, being a good example of how a modern approach can work, some excellent landscape architecture as well., really hard to find pictures to do it justice, its a destination place, a meeting place and its modern).

    Plus we are all getting sick and tired of Prince Charles waffling on about carbuncles, appealing to the blue rinse monarchists who are on every planning board ready to block anything that isn’t Mock Tudor.

    Thanks to the Norman Fosters of this world as well as the success of Tate Modern, i believe there is a chance of this generation moving on.

    Have a great Chritmas

  30. Christine

    Thankyou for the link to Bluewater shopping centre. It looks like an interesting project
    [ ], even if on the face of it a little 1980’s in inspiration. (The completion date for the project is given as 2003.)

    The site and scale of the project is impressive. It would be fascinating to understand more of the conceptual thinking behind the retail centre
    [ ]: it seems to be a stand alone centre with much in common with leisure destinations like Disneyland?
    [ ]

    The shopping public give it a mixed review. Although I imagine they might be very happy for the experience in the light of the recent blizzards and snowy weather.
    [ ]

    My recommendation for 2011? A little more time contemplating ‘Blue Water Lilies’ by Monet
    [ ]….workshoping the retail brief, then some inspirational architectural and landscape interventions.

    Merry Christmas!

  31. Tom Turner

    I think the fundamental planning of Bluewater was wrong. They should have put the car parking on the upper rim of the former quarry, with pedestrian access to the buildings at roof level and a fabulous garden landscape surrounding the buildings. This principle should also have been applied to the Eden Project. The car parking at ‘surface’ level would have been far more convenient in both cases and it would not have been difficult to arrange things so that it would be concealed from most points of view. Driving into the car parks at Bluewater and the Eden Project is like descending into the first three circles of hell. It takes a hellish long time, you wonder if you will ever find a parking space and then you start wondering if you will ever get out again. Maybe this is because I have been there on busy days, but there is something distressing about driving into a dead end in a big hole.


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