The UK Landscape Institute announced today that it has decided to sack its archivist (and four others), close the LI library archive and seek ‘a new home for the collections’. What a terrible shame. The old idea was that when you have only one loaf of bread left in the world you should sell half of it and buy a book. Or, if one is not quite so hard hit by the credit crunch, one should follow the Chinese proverb: ‘When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other’.
One really wonders why a professional institute should employ 26 staff and yet can’t maintain a library or publish any useful policies to support its members. Whose interests are being served?
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.
The Garden History Museum and the Landscape Institute are holding a seminar (Monday 1st December 10.30am to 4.30pm) on sustainable garden and landscape design. It will be ‘chaired by television presenter and garden designer, Joe Swift’. What a strange event to have planned. Is it an opportunity for Joe The Gardener, or for the Landscape Institute, to learn about the social benefits of sustainable garden and landscape design? For more details see the Press Release.
Congratulations to Whitelaw Turkington for sponsoring a landscape contribution to the London Festival of Architecture. A group of landscape architects marched through South London on Saturday 12th July 2008, carrying trees and with periodic pauses to consider the relationship between trees and London. Congratulations also, to one of the firm’s principals for becoming a tree bearer.
It is always good to see landscape architects on the march. But I wonder if they don’t need more political courage. Way back in 1983, I proposed to the then-chair of the Landscape Institute’s South East Chapter, that we should protest against the failure of the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) to commission a Landscape Strategy. The proposal was that every landscape architect in London should keep their Christmas tree until it went brown. We would then carry the dead trees in procession from the Palace of Westminster to the HQ of the LDDC, cast them down and, should anyone be so brave, light a funeral pyre.
I wish we had done it. Although there are a few good things, the landscape planning of the Isle of Dogs is predominantly disastrous. Had they spent a few pence on a landscape plan, the cost of the re-development would have been significantly lower and the environmental quality would have been significantly higher.