Farrer: let's speak up for profession

Landscape Institute president Noel Farrer hopes that membership push will boost the profession.

Farrer: landscape awareness
Farrer: landscape awareness

Landscape architects need to "get out of their comfort zone" and start shouting about their profession so that people have a better understanding of its importance as well as the many careers offered by the landscape industry.

The profession also needs to help incorporate landscape into the political agenda by using more hard-hitting language and taking notes from success stories such as the Olympic Park and "the father of landscape architecture" Capability Brown.

These are the claims of Noel Farrer, the new president of the Landscape Institute who officially took over the two-year role from Sue Illman at the beginning of this month.

Farrer, who has run award-winning urban and landscape design company Farrer Huxley Associates for nearly 20 years, told Horticulture Week that he hopes to use his presidency to "effectively raise awareness of the role of landscape and the benefits it brings and the professions that deliver those benefits."

He added: "What's the shift that needs to take place so that people understand what we do? It's not very well understood here in the UK.

"Regardless of who I talk to, be they a politician or an accountant, I have to start at the top every time and explain what I do for a living.

"Not enough people are aware of the role of a landscape architect or related professions such as ecologists and soil scientists. That has not changed since I left college. So I'm going to ask: 'What is it that we need to do to change this?'"

Farrer cited this year's UCAS figures, which show that nearly 4,000 students have chosen architecture as their preferred subject while only 185 people have chosen landscape architecture.

He said: "One hundred and eighty five people is not enough to do the job." Farrer added that landscape architects and the rest of the landscape industry must help spread the word.

"Its not just me. We have to do it collectively," he said. "Landscape architects are focused on their work in hand and their clients but they need to spend more time looking at the collective issues. They need to get out of their comfort zone and do some selling."

Politicians must also be made aware of the social and economic benefits of well-designed urban landscapes, he explained.

"I do not think it crosses many politicians' minds that landscapes can help them reach any of their political aims," said Farrer. "So we have to use a language that is more hard-hitting, such as how landscape can reduce crime and make people healthier. We have to stop talking about landscape as just being a beautiful place."

He added: "In 2016 it will be the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown. He got landscape architecture absolutely on the map.

"How did he manage to convince people how important landscapes are? We need to do the same thing - and the Olympic Park, that's something I think you can regard as a fantastic legacy."

Membership drive

Noel Farrer said he also hopes to increase the Landscape Institute's membership. "I know that broadening the membership is one of the ways that's going to raise awareness of what we do. We need champions and we need leaders - patrons and honorary members, perhaps."

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