Sunday, 6 December 2009

Landscape Architecture

For this first post I will take the opportunity to explain the title of the Blog. Almost all UK Landscape Architects will have stories to tell of trying to get over the idea of what a Landscape Architect does. It occupies more time for us than it should at social events and also at professional events as well. In the old days we would joke that friends of the family would chuckle and say "Oh, you can do my garden then!" when told we were Landscape Architects, a comment that we should see as more of a challenge than we usually do. In my experience this has been happening less and less, and in fact I am usually faced by a blank and confused expression and the need to 'explain'. In my 'explanation' I almost always use the presence of bollards in almost all town centres as a first example of where the profession is actually focussed. I am not intending to be rude, and I do hope that none of this is taken as rude or aggressive. We do have to keep up a public profile that has, unfortunately, been lessening, in spite of some incredible design achievements in the past several years.

A couple of months ago I went to a small networking event run by the Federation of Small Businesses. This event was to promote the idea of 'speed networking', which actually turns out to be brilliant! A similar event the previous year had been a complete no-show for me as a 'Landscape Architect', so this year I had gone radical. I said when the subject came up that I was a 'Photographer and Landscape Architect'. The blank faces weren't there. Each and every one of the people that I met that day said, enthusiastically, "Oh what a wonderful thing to do, that sounds very interesting!" They could cope because they recognised the photographer bit.

A few days later I mentioned this to an Egyptian friend who said immediately, "but a Landscape Architect, that gives the idea that you must do so much, and yet no-one would do so much as that". Virtually all Landscape Architects do MORE than the name implies, we should really call ourselves Landscape Polymaths! The problem for the profile of this name for what we do lies in the fact that most of the work done is at its best when it is appreciated but not noticed! Changing the name wouldn't change this situation.

Landscape Architecture is an exciting and hugely valuable profession. The huge variety of projects covered is just a part of the role played in our public worlds. Yes some people do gardens as well as public spaces, and some garden designers design public places. We talk about the 'Sense of Place' in good design or landscape management. This is also important in landscape characterisation - that can help the planning system accommodate (or not) new development. Awareness of the value of psychological well-being and the interaction with other professionals such as environmental psychologists can help with designing out crime or at least trying to minimise the sense of isolation that can lead to crime hotspots.

In this blog I hope to make comment on designs I have seen and value, maybe occasionally also designs that don't quite seem to work, but not those often, because this is something I wish to celebrate rather than to knock. I have been privileged to see some fantastic sculptures around the world and those should crop up regularly. As a researcher I get to read widely and sometimes some real nuggets come up that I will attempt to share. For the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit over the next 2 weeks, I will add in a bit about cows and methane, because this has such a wide relevance for all landscape and ecological professionals.

I do also need to add that the British Landscape Institute has a website for the promotion of Landscape Architecture as a career at

1 comment:

  1. One of my landscape architecture tutors (Frank Clark) used to say that it was a great mistake to tell someone at a party that you are a landscape architect. He explained: "They think you must be the kind of person who wrecks landscapes by building tower blocks. It's so much better to call yourself a gardener. That makes them think of gardens, sunny afternoon and cottages strewn with roses. They love you." But I very much like the idea of "photographer" going down well!.