Category Archives: News

Re-naming Green Martyrs' Square in Tripoli



As a ‘green’ who loathes tyrants, few political events give me more pleasure than seeing one of them preparing to bite the dust, as today. But should Tripoli’s ‘Green Square’ be renamed ‘Martyrs’ Square’ as they propose? Some of the considerations are:

  • It received its present name because ‘green is the colour of Islam’
  • But ‘green’ is now closely associated with ‘green politics’
  • A ‘Martyr’ was originally a witness
  • But the word was taken over by Christianity to mean someone dies for their religion
  • These days one can be a martyr to pretty much anything

So my suggestion is to call it the Green Martyrs’ Square and associate it with (1) the coming together of two Abrahamic faiths: Islam and Christianity, which effected the revolution (2) the political aspect of the green movement (eg wide community involvement in decision making) (3) Libya’s future as a generator of green energy from solar power, when the oil runs out. The present Green Square has been used by both the parties which are struggling for power in Libya today; debate is esssential and it is better done by ‘jaw jaw’ than ‘war war’; there is a need for governmental cities, national and local, to have urban squares dedicated to public debate. See previous discussion of Parliament Square and Tiananmen Square. Debates are sometimes uncomfortable but a society without debate is on one, or more, of the roads to ruin.

Viewing the bigger picture

The big question for what happens next for the city of Brisbane and for many cities worldwide is the role of climate change in flood events.

The previous big flood event in the city was in 1974. Since then a dam has been built as flood mitigation and in 2011 it has protected the city from more severe flooding.

However, with climate change, the expected frequency and severity of flooding could be expected to increase. So yes, a competition too – looking at the bigger picture – to design floodable spaces and places for cities would be a great contribution to urban flood defences and urban design.


Mass protest against Greenwich Park equestrian event

Protesters shout SAVE GREENWICH PARK on 11 October 2009

Protesters shout SAVE GREENWICH PARK on 11 October 2009

We like to be first with the news. This photo was taken half an hour ago and we estimate there were over a thousand people in Greenwich Park on a wet afternoon, most of them horrified at the prospect of the damage the Olympic Equestrian Event would do to the Park. Those pounding hoofs and crowds of people would damage the Le Notre Parterre and endanger those wonderful old chestnut trees which do so much to feed Chinese chestnut pickers each autumn. See also: Restoration after 2012 Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Event and Olympic Village 2012.

History of Asian garden and landscape design book

Himalayas by Ilker Ender

Himalayas by Ilker Ender


My ‘Tomfool Project’ to write a history of Asian gardens and landscape architecture is done: I have just posted the CS (computer-script) to the publisher. The main subjects are Ancient Garden Design,  Islamic Garden Design, Indian Garden Design, Chinese Garden Design,  Japanese Garden Design and modern landscape architecture across Asia.  The text files, drawings and photographs fit on one DVD, so all I have done is re-arrange some binary code, unless you count taking over 100,000 photographs. The easier-to-write chapters drew on other work but the difficult chapters took a year each for research and travel. The sensible alternatives would have been not to have begun the project or to have started 40 years earlier by learning half a dozen Asian languages. But I enjoyed the work and will be a lucky man if the ‘royalties’ pay for the travel – so you could say the books will be sold at ‘cost price minus’. It reminds me of the advice I received from Arnold Weddle about 30 years ago. We were making use of adjoining urinals at the time and I think the conversation went like this:

‘Hi Tom, how are you and what are you doing’. Ignoring the obvious, I replied ‘Fine – I’m writing a book, actually it’s about Landscape planning‘. Arnold, who had recently founded the journal Urban and landscape planning, replied: ‘Hmmm. Don’t expect to make any money by writing books’

Weddle was a wise man and I often quote another of his remarks. In Techniques of landscape architecture he wrote that the landscape profession is distinguished from its related professions by looking beyond their ‘closely drawn technical limits’ and ‘narrowly drawn territorial boundaries’. Though not quite what he had in mind, I have taken his advice in Asian gardens by relating garden design to the religions, mountains,  forests, deserts, social customs, art and architecture of Asia. As you can imagine, this has involved a number of topics in which I might wish to have more expertise.  Ananda  Coomaraswamy would have been a good man for the job, helped by one of his photographer wives and his ability to think in English, Hindi, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Pali, Persian and Chinese.

[See also: next post on Asian gardens and landscapes]

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’.

Will Alsop Martha Schwartz debate landscape architecture

Having criticized Martha Schwartz and long considered Will Alsop the ‘Clown Prince of Architecture’ I was curious to hear them discuss Alsop’s philosophical notion that ‘No landscape architect should ever get hold of these [landscape] commissions because they have completely institutionalized the idea of public space’. As you can see, Alsop’s main complaints against the landscape profession are (1) there are too many about  (2) they do not know their trees (3) they are doing too much urban design and master planning (which Alsop would rather do himself?).

Schwartz does a passable job of defending her turf but eventually blurts out the truth ‘You and I are very much alike in how we work’. It would also be interesting to hear Hitler and Stalin debating the philosophical notion that ‘Dictators should never be allowed to run countries’. They might even have agreed to design a Satellite Town – in Poland.

I was sorry to hear Schwartz slagging off garden design. It is a fine art of the highest order and it has laid the basis for the world’s most admired urban designs: Isfahan, Rome, Paris, Georgian London, Beijing and Washington DC. I would also like to refer them both to my proposed definition of landscape architecture.

Can anyone dispute that buildings must be designed in relation to landform, water, planting, and paving? Or that outdoor space should be beautiful, ecological and and socially useful? Are architects or landscape architects able to achieve this? Some are; some are not. Martha Schwartz seems better at aesthetic composition than at dealing with social and ecological issues. Alsop is a bozo: all sop with a dash of pop.