Peter Wilder urges landscape design students to lead on sustainability

Olympic landscape architect Peter Wilder has encouraged landscape design graduates to think big and to look at the bigger picture by taking the lead on sustainability, which will potentially give them a larger role in construction projects by putting them at their centre.

In a speech at University of Greenwich's landscape and garden design MA graduate show last week, Wilder - who is a partner in MacFarlane Wilder, and is working on BRE Innovation Park Ravenscraig, Wales International Business Park, Wembley City and London 2012 Athletes Village - said he wanted to set up a practice that "pushes boundaries", adding that the founders of landscape architecture, Humphrey Repton and Capability Brown, were responsible for "decorative" work only.

He added that it was a "tragedy" that waterways had degenerated and said zero-carbon buildings were not achieved simply because of the structures but because of the landscapes around them.

He recommended working with a construction company and imagining "how you would build it like a contractor and then your design will always be right".

Not everyone at the meeting welcomed his reference to "decorative" work of key names in landscape architecture. Society of Garden Designers chairman (SGD) Annabel Downs said: "I enjoyed Peter Wilder's talk but am concerned that he dismisses landscape architects work to date as 'decorative'.

"He was referring to Brown and Repton and when challenged was happy to include in that category the 20th-century landscape architects. Not only does he misunderstand their real influence in the construction of new towns, motorways, reservoirs, civic centres but also the knowledge and expertise they developed and shared and on which our present and future landscape architects are building."

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