The journal of the Institute of Landscape Architect's began well, in the 1930s, and then began a long downhill journey, with a few upswings. Members tended to suffer in silence - until the advent of the Fried Egg Blog: 'Landscape (design) magazine should realise that disappointment is the only emotion they and their readers will experience'. Having read this comment, we asked a group of the UK's most experienced landscape architects for their opinion of the journal in the spring of 2007. The responses were: 'dreadful', 'dull', 'passable','unreadable', 'embarassing' and 'appalling'.
In the 1930s the journal was called Landscape and Garden. It was well produced, like a younger brother to Country Life, and had good content. The first blow came from a split between garden design and landscape architecture. So far as one can tell, the reason for this split concerned the supposed superiority of architects to gardeners. Garden designers were looked down upon as 'tradesmen' who took a profit on the materials they specified. Children of the 'mother of the arts' (ie architects) thought this was a grubby practice and that garden design was a matter of roses and rockeries.
In the 1940s, wartime economy led to the Journal being greatly reduced in size, and being renamed the Journal of the Institute of Landscape Architects (JILA). But the editorship was taken over by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and the editorial standard was high.Geoffrey was the son of a publisher and his wife, Susan, later took over the editorship. She worked with Geoffrey Collens and then passed the job to him. Togther, they ran a very good journal. It was not as lavish as its predecessor but the editoral and photographic standards were high. It was a publication to be proud of.
In the 1970s, Ken Fieldhouse became the editor. He held qualifications in landscape architecture and town planning. The name of the journal was changed to Landscape Design. Fieldhouse took trouble with the articles but the graphic standard declined and there was confusion over the editorial policy. The Landscape Institute had created divisions for Design, Science and Management - but the journal seemed to cater only for Design. There was also pressure from the LI for the journal to become less-reliant on funding from Institute members. Fieldhouse took the sensible decision to launch a Garden Design journal.
After Fieldhouse's untimely death, the journal was let to a commercial publisher and a journalist, not a qualified landscape architect was appointed editor. The name was changed to Landscape, making one think it had something to do with water-colours or archaeology. The change to a commercial publisher produced a mild improvement in the graphics, though the flavour is unpalatably 'pop' compared to Topos or the Architectural Review, and a steep decline in the literary quality of the content. Reading the articles is a real effort and it appears that few people make that effort. The letters section was removed. As said about politicians 'they don't care about us and we don't care about them'. Politicians just want to get elected; journalists just want to be admired by their peers, despising the other professions. Yet journalists undoubtedly have skills which are, to say the least, uncommon amongst landscape architects.
Perhaps the solution is to replace the current Editorial Advisory Panel with a supervisory Editorial Board, more like a public company. Then a new publisher should be chosen. Wardour Publishing and Design claims the following expertise 'In magazines, we are specialists in B2B, membership and financial services titles. We produce annual reviews for some of the biggest and most prestigious organisations, ranging from Ahold, the world’s fourth biggest retailer, to the World Economic Forum, the big business think tank.'. Landscape is the only title on their list with professional, rather than commercial, ambitions. The journal also needs a clear editorial policy like, for example, the policy set by Birkhauser for 'Scape in 2006: 'It offers a journalistic, critical and professional view of the design of landscapes and townscapes'.
The following editorial policies would each have a rationale - but one journal cannot meet all four targets: