Capability Brown Natural England/Landscape Institute prize winners announced

Next year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of landscape designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, and as part of these celebrations, a competition offered students and professional landscape architects the opportunity to design a site.

Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath, Somerset, England with gardens designed by Capability Brown - image; FlickR/Spencer Means
Prior Park Landscape Garden, Bath, Somerset, England with gardens designed by Capability Brown - image; FlickR/Spencer Means

The design brief asked: What kind of landscape would Brown have designed if he were living today? How would you create a contemporary landscape following his design principles and building on what he designed? How can you make Brown and his landscapes meaningful to audiences today?

Natural England hosted the competition, which was run by the Landscape Institute. It aimed to stimulate engagement with Capability Brown’s work and practice, while also inspiring current practitioners to incorporate some of the lessons Brown has to offer into their own work.

The winning design will help with work at Moccas, part of a  Grade II* registered park and garden near Hereford, a Brown-influenced historic designed landscape, that also incorporates Moccas National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. A 20th century conifer plantation across the site has recently been felled with the aim of restoring it to wood pasture and parkland habitat.

Ceryl Evans, director of the Capability Brown Festival 2016, said: "The aim was not to create a pastiche landscape, but for participants to produce a contemporary, multi-functional landscape, inspired by Brown and in harmony with the rich natural and cultural heritage of the existing site and its surroundings."  

The winners of the Capability Brown Festival Design Ideas Competition received their prizes at The Landscape Institute Awards Ceremony on 26 November at The Brewery, London.

Natural England senior advisor heritage estates Leslie Pearman said: "The winning design ideas give Natural England a clear picture of how to extend the ancient tree habitat of the medieval deer park, making the best of the fabulous views and historic and archaeological features in a way that will inspire people to enjoy the site for a further 300 years."

The winners:

 Professional category

Joint winners

  • ·         Matthew Wigan Associates, described by the judges as: ‘A very detailed analysis of the historic influences connecting with the concepts of the Beautiful and Picturesque, with practical scope for sensitive wood pasture and habitat creation.’
  • ·         Colvin and Moggridge Landscape Architects, described by the judges as: ‘Packed with detailed analysis, backed up by an array of design ideas to complement this site and inspire others.’


Student category

Joint winners

  • ·         Jo Phillips and Owen Byrom - Manchester Metropolitan University – Moccas Skyscape. Described by the judges as: ‘A striking concept that connects people with trees and the sky. A design with a strong spatial structure which optimises the emotional effect of openness and enclosure and takes advantage of the available views.’
  • ·         Leopold Taylor and Naomi Rubbra - Edinburgh College of Art – Moccas Hill Wood: the contemporary Brown? Described by the judges as: ‘Work of a very high quality, full of interest and invention and beautifully presented in a style redolent of the 18th century .…an enchanting masterplan which reflects the hand of the contemporary Brown.’

Honourable mentions:

  • ·         Harrie Carr, Emma Henderson, Emma Thompson, Kit Bowen - Edinburgh College of Art – Rewilding Capability Brown
  • ·         Anne-Charlotte Lee – ACL Paysages, France - Moccas Hill Wood – A Vernacular Hybrid
  • ·         Matt Machouki - Leeds Beckett University – Mocccas Hill Park

Tree and shrub planting will be carried out at Moccas Park and Garden in 2016 to coincide with the year of the Capability Brown Festival and tercentenary of Brown’s birth.

The Capability Brown Festival 2016 is managed by the Landscape Institute and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Chaired by Noel Farrer the judging panel consisted of the following:

  • ·         Noel Farrer – President, Landscape Institute
  • ·         Jill Butler – Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust
  • ·         Dr Ian Thompson – Director of Postgraduate Research, School of Landscape Architecture, Newcastle University
  • ·         Saul Herbert – Senior Reserve Manager, Natural England
  • ·         Suzanne Perry – Wood pasture and parkland specialist, Natural England
  • ·         Leslie Pearman – Senior Adviser Heritage Estates, Natural England
  • ·         Chris Bolton – Head of Profession, Landscape, Natural England
  • ·         Jenifer White - National Landscape Adviser, Historic England

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