Monthly Archives: June 2012

Korea's Four Rivers Landscape Restoration Plan

Korea's Four Major Rivers Landscape 'Restoration' Project

Korea's Four Major Rivers Landscape 'Restoration' Project

Having completed a remarkable river landscape reclamation plan for the Cheonggyecheon, Korea now plans to ‘restore’ four more rivers. I put ‘restore’ in quotation marks because the intention is to more forwards instead of backwards. This may be the correct policy but it is surely the wrong verb. Korea has a commendably ambitious Green Growth Policy which sees greening the environment as productive of economic benefits.
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.

Greenwich Park uses demountable buildings for the 2012 Equestrian Olympics

Andre le Notre's parterre is being used as a building site

Andre le Notre's parterre is being used as a building site

Andre Le Notre was the greatest landscape architect of the seventeenth century and he only designed one project in England. It was the parterre in front of the Queen’s House in Greenwich and it was selected as the best place to build a stadium for the 2012 equestrian olympics. This shows no regard for conservation and, if it had to be done, there should have been a full archaeological investigation and a full restoration plan for the surviving earthworks. They are not being damaged but nor is there any restoration plan.
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.

Ten thoughts about garden design and landscape architecture

This chair is near the spot where it was washed ashore, perhaps from a shipwreck, leading to ten thoughts about garden and landscape design:

  • Gardens are enclosed. Landscapes are un-enclosed.
  • Designers use the materials of nature to express ideas about Nature.
  • Gardens make us think, as well as making us comfortable.
  • Poetry and painting normally begin on a white surface.
  • Garden and landscape design begin on a contextual surface.
  • Land existed before history and land will exist after history.
  • Landscape architects and garden designers think about what happened in the past, about the near future and about the far-distant future.
  • Garden and landscape design are four-dimensional arts.
  • Yet the best designs have a fifth, spiritual, dimension. They embody unprovable beliefs.
  •  One gardens in time, with time and for a long time.

Changing attitudes to religion, marriage and the environment

Sunrise on the solstice is celebrated at Stonehenge. Archaeologists now think sunset was the significant occasion.

In the 1950s, people felt shame-faced about being athiest and/or ‘living in sin’, while the Ministry of Agriculture gave special grants for removing hedges, draining wetlands and planting conifers. These attitudes have been reversed. Europeans want to conserve everything and speak confidently about religion being ‘a load of rubbish’. But their attitude to religions is peculiar. Adherents of older religions are seen as minions worshiping graven images in hopes of being given baubles. Christianity is associated with mumbo-jumbo (and child abuse). These attitudes put a 7th generation agnostic (me) in the unexpected position of explaining the good aspects of faiths: the value of spiritual matters, ethics, virtues, peace, hard work and simple living.

Image courtesy tarotastic

The Wish Trees of Chelsea, a 2012 Fringe project by landscape architect Kendra Inman

‘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.

River Thames Flower Festival Pageant for Chelsea Fringe 2013

River Thames Pageant 2012 was a useful dress rehearsal for the Chelsea Fringe 2013

River Thames Pageant 2012 was a useful dress rehearsal for the Chelsea Fringe 2013

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