Landscape Institute debates the future

Are landscape architects vandals or visionaries? the Landscape Institute has asked.

The Building Centre and the Landscape Institute is hosting an event today (5 December) to discuss whether our perception of landscape design changes over time.

The event ‘Vandals or Visionaries? From Capability Brown to the Garden Bridge: how our perception of landscape design changes with time’ considers the contested landscapes of Capability Brown to the controversial Garden Bridge, as examples of large-scale projects that initially cause public outrage.

The event has been timed to coincide with the Landscape Institute’s exhibition celebrating the best work of the landscape profession. 

In the first of two events, speakers include Michael Forster-Smith, the general manager of the National Trust's Croome Court, who will discuss the impact of Capability Brown’s work.

LDA Design chairman Andrew Harland will discuss how time affects the public’s perception of large-scale projects and the challenges that designers face when working with little space to create something "truly enduring and extraordinary". Among the projects referenced are the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which has set a benchmark for future host cities, but "in spite of its legacy, it attracted criticism during the early stages of its development".

Community activists Roo Angell and Bob Bagley from Sayes Court Garden Community Interest Company (CIC) discuss their campaign to influence the scope of the forthcoming Convoys Wharf development, which "threatened to erase a 350-year-old horticultural legacy". Through negotiation with Lewisham Council, the Greater London Authority and the Wharf’s developers, international investors Hutchison Whampoa Limited, they convinced the developers to preserve a large portion of the site as open space. The CIC will now manage much of the open space, focusing on job creation and horticultural training, "keeping the natural legacy of Convoys Wharf alive".

Finally, Noel Farrer FLI, past president of the Landscape Institute and director of Farrer Huxley Associates, discusses the controversy surrounding London’s Garden Bridge project.

Kate Bailey, chair of the event and the Policy and Communications Committee of the Landscape Institute said: "Landscape architecture is fundamental to the creation of spaces that stir the spirit, enrich community interaction and sustain biodiversity in the environments that we are passing on to future generations.  But not all projects are appreciated or well received at the outset.

"The landscape profession operates at the interface between humanity and the natural world, so it’s no surprise that major projects can generate controversy. Capability Brown changed the face of 18th century England by moving hills, forming extensive lakes and creating serpentine rivers.  More recently, the construction of the Olympic parks required businesses to be moved away, rivers to be reshaped and lost habitats to be recreated.  

"Landscape projects such as these are bound to offend some people. Even at a local scale, proposed changes to landscapes that people value are often seen as wholly negative. Public debate around anticipated benefits and predicted losses helps to resolve such arguments."

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