The stones at Stonehenge may have been placed in a woodland glade, as in the above photomontage
If Stonehenge was built in a woodland clearing, this photomontage gives an impression of how it might have looked, more like Japan’s sacred rocks (iwakura) in a sacred place ( niwa) in a forest than like the ‘English Acropolis’ Stonehenge was once conceived to have been.
Stonehenge was made at the height of the Neolithic forest clearance which converted England from a forest land to a partly-agricultural land. Clearings symbolized the presence and the work of man. There are no records of Neolithic vegetation cover on Salisbury Plain but it ‘must’ (as bad historians say) have been part-open and part-woodland. The photomontage shows that the Stones in the Henge would have looked beautiful in a woodland clearing, as would the Cursus and the Avenues. The Stonehenge Riverside Landscape Project, led by Mike Parker Pearson, has emphasised the fact that the henge was not an isolated ‘monument’ in the sense that war memorials are isolated monuments. Stonehenge was a complex feature in one of the earliest man-made landscapes in North Europe. It was, one might say, a context-sensitive design!
Left: my drawing of a sustainable city. Right: Rogers' drawing for Chelsea Barracks
The above image shows my drawing of a sustainable city, left, and Richard Rogers design for the Chelsea Barracks, right. The upper part of Rogers’ drawing shows Ranelagh Gardens and the site of the Chelsea Flower Show. I am of course mildly flattered that Richard Rogers has copied my idea but would like to point out that (1) the decent thing in cases like this is to acknowledge one’s sources, or offer a copyright fee (2) my drawing was a caricature, intended to show what should not be done in the name of sustainability (3) Rogers omitted the two redeeming features of my scheme: the green roofs were devoted to urban food production and the cyclist-friendly nature of the design proposal.
I was therefore very relieved to hear that, after some caustic remarks by Prince Charles, the Qatari Royal family have decided not to go ahead with Rogers’ context-insensitive design. It makes ‘Plan Voisin’ mistakes without Corbusier’s flowing, if ill-conceived, parkland. Rogers’ blocks are far too close together and would have created some horribly narrow passageways.
Roger’s response to Prince Charles’ intervention has been to accuse him of constitutional impropriety. On this occasion, it is Rogers and his buddies from the architectural mafia, who have gone bonkers. It would be a sad day for democracy if the future King of England were banned from speaking his mind on the urban landscape of his capital city. What’s more, Prince Charles is very probably ‘speaking for England’ in the sense that more people hate than love Rogers’ paltry plagiarism of my idea. See Hugh Pearman’s blog for more details of this sorry affair. I am wondering if I should ask the University of Greenwich to withdraw the honorary doctorate it awarded to Richard Rogers, though he gave a good speech and was a very pleasant lunch guest.
There is something particularly appealing about waves – and their potential to as a renewable energy source.
See: Worldwide Investments Increasing in Tidal, Wave and Hydrokinetic Energy
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.
Summerhouse at Millmead, designed by Lutyens
Once upon a glorious sunny day (actually last Tuesday), I braved a rather gruesome M25 to join Joy and Jane in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for one day of their garden tour visiting rarely accessible gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll.
We were shown round each garden by the gardener, starting with Jekyll’s own garden at Munstead Wood. She began creating the garden in 1883 and commissioned her friend Edwin Lutyens to design the house. There is something very casual and comfortable about the garden and it is easy to feel very at home there. The triangular Summer Garden, also called the Three Corner Garden, was densely populated with blooming foxgloves, iris, lupins and dhalias. Both Munstead Wood itself and adjoining The Quadrangle (Jekyll’s experimental garden) are adorned with elegant Munstead White foxgloves, with beautiful green mottling and slightly shiny leaves.
At the restored Quadrangle you can see an experiment that Jekyll never got round to herself. She suggested that a lovely border could be created backed with redcurrant and Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) – and now it has been. David Austin Roses introduced a rather lovely crimson rose in 2007 called Munstead Wood and I had the opportunity to admire some fine specimens.
Later, we visted another Jekyll and Lutyens collaboration – Millmead. It is a dignified terraced town garden with a charming summer house, that has been recreated in the Jekyll style garden at Godalming Museum.
Guests stay in either Heath House (Joy’s B&B) or Nurscombe (Jane’s B&B) which I can only imagine is a very great pleasure. I popped into Nurscombe for a quick look round and had lunch at Heath House. Joy is a fine cook and even made an ice bowl embedded with flower petals to serve dessert. I have every intention of having a go at making one myself.
I would strongly recommend booking yourself a place on the next tour (dates are 7th-10th September 2009) – see Surrey Garden Tours for more information.
A pilot's landing view of the Thames Estuary Airport. The sun is coming out and he can see the lido where he will relax before his next flight.
Boris Johnson has proposed a new Airport in the Thames Estuary. It is a great idea but it needs to be much more than an airport plonked in the Thames estuary if it is to get built. It should be a sublime feature in the landscape which also forms a new Thames crossing, a downstream flood barrier to protect Europe’s largest and richest city in the coming era of rising sea levels, a great lido facility and a wildlife habitat creation project. This is the proposal from Eleanor Atkinson, a MA Landscape Architecture graduate from the University of Greenwich – see her Thames Estuary Airport website for further details.
A friend’s father criticised the first proposal for an airport Maplin in the Thames Estuary: BROMHEAD, PETER The Great White Elephant of Maplin Sands – -the neglect of comprehensive transport planning in government decision-making Paul Elek, London, 1973. His case was well argued but, I believe, Eleanor’s proposal would overcome his objections. She has designed a Great White Swan instead of a tawdry white elephant. Her airport plan is comprehensive and fits very well with the Channel Tunnel Railway and the Thames Gateway Development, both launched since Bromhead’s 1973 book. Above all, her ‘ Swan Plan’ for an Estuary Airport is landscape architecture led. This gives it the best possible chance of overcoming the muddy waves of objections which greet any large development proposal in England.
The lower Thames Estuary can have a glittering splendour when the sun shines but it is NOT the most beautiful part of Britain. And when the new airport is built it will cure West London of the terrible curse of airport noise – and release a fabulously valuable development site. An intelligent approach to context-sensitive landscape design is the royal road to voter-support in England. I am pleased to report that the design has been sent to the Mayor of London’s office and they have passed the design concept to their consultants. A decision is expected.
NOTE: if you would like to see more of this proposal, and other excellent landscape architecture projects for London, they will be on Exhibition at the Menier Street Gallery near London Bridge 53 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU 10am-5pm from 22-26 June 2009.
Plan of the Thames Estuary 'Boris Johnson' Airport, showing the river crossing, flood barrier and habitat creation areas