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Prunings XXI
Michael Kenna


On the announcement that no landscape architect sits on the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority's design panel, Kathryn Moore, president of Landscape Institute, responds on Building Design.

On André Le Nôtre.

On PARKitecture. “The idea of designing with nature flourished in the National Park Service during the early decades of the twentieth century. Architects, landscape architects and engineers combined native wood and stone with convincingly 'native' styles to create visually appealing structures that seemed to fit naturally within the majestic landscapes.”

On Toronto's major urban projects and such: 1) the Central Waterfront Design Competition was won by West 8; 2) Bruce Mau's incoherence (and perhaps inexperience with large-scale landscape design) is turning Downsview Park into a fiasco; 3) just recently realized how great Spacing Wire is; 4) no progress yet on the zoo and sky tunnels unfortunately.

On gardening on NPR.

On Moon River, n.e.w. y.o.r.c.k., drosscapes, urban scar tissues, the Kiley Gardens, synthesized integrated peripheries and de-differentiated open-ended niches, typo-hedges, manufacturing waterfalls, arches and giant sequoias, avian surveillance, Graz, Austria's real time mobile landscape, and an IDM-rescored Fantastic Planet.
4 COMMENTS —
  • Alexander Trevi
  • June 17, 2006 at 4:53:00 PM CDT
  • London games need landscape architects
    Building Design
    09 June 2006

    By Kathryn Moore

    Hosting the 2012 Olympics is an opportunity for Britain to shine on a global stage, not just as a sporting nation but as a nation of place-makers. We could win gold for track or water based events. We could also create a place with meaning for our crowded 21st century islands, reiterating our great talent for creating dynamic habitats that can range from the grand to the intimate.

    In a closely fought selection process it was the legacy the Olympics would leave - the positive transformations of east London wrought for generations to come - that helped sway the International Olympic Committee. But less than a year later, with the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) design panel announced this week, that promise is in danger of being left behind.

    The Olympic site is a 200ha space in the Stratford area of east London. It incorporates some of the London boroughs most in need of investment and regeneration, some of the least developed land in the South-east - nature reserves and neglected corners, rivers, canals, pylons and roads.

    The masterplan for 2012, headed by Jason Prior, landscape architect and managing director of Edaw, clearly started with the proposition that this landscape is the context within which the huge variety of Olympic developments will take shape - the transport infrastructure, stadiums, housing. This was to be not just an inspirational Olympic park for the 17 days of sporting events. To those with vision, the Park, sited between the Thames Gateway and central London, represents an epoch-making chance to remake a complete sub-region of south-east England - and of western Europe, no less.

    As a world city, London has a population of around 7 million, which inflates to over 10 million during the working week, to say nothing of the tourist population. The city is densely populated and built up. Space in the region is at a premium. Yet London is famed for its parks, squares, heaths, commons and its increasingly world-class public spaces and urban design. It has managed to retain life-giving openness to the elements, access to water, and the closeness to nature on which people and societies thrive. It is crucial that this historic ability to work with the land is replicated in the place-making for the Olympics.

    “The Park represents an epoch-making chance to remake a complete sub-region of south east England”


    Last November, I called for a "design tsar" to be put at the heart of the ODA and I know many watching the project feel strongly that design is crucial to the promise of a lasting legacy. It will not be enough to just get the roads and services in and the stadiums open when the athletes and spectators arrive. Yet this week the ODA has announced a design panel for the project without any landscape architects. Without the full range of design disciplines and experience on board, I fear that the chances of doing the best possible place-making in this landscape may falter.

    The built environment professions are under huge pressure to evolve into multi-disciplinary animals. Landscape architecture is already there: it is the environment and design profession for the 21st century, approaching interventions into the landscape holistically to encompass technical expertise, design skill, ecology and human needs.

    British landscape architects are in demand around the world to help solve the environmental damage, ugliness and disposability of the past two centuries. East London and 2012 need them too. To exclude a key environmental design profession from the design oversight of a project involving so much precious land could damage the promise of a proud, life-enhancing legacy. With the landscape providing the context for the entire site, a strategy aiming for a sustainable legacy must be informed by landscape design experts every step of the way. The ODA should see its panel as work in progress and think "landscape, landscape, landscape" before it is too late.

    Kathryn Moore is president of the Landscape Insitute


  • e-tat
  • June 17, 2006 at 8:23:00 PM CDT
  • What to say first? That Kathryn is a bright spark with a very articulate grasp of the issues around landscape? Or that landscape architects are no better at addressing those issues than architects or fashion designers, and are occasionally responsible for some real clangers of gentrification (see Treanor), 'security by design', revanchist 'zero tolerance' (Mohammed Nuru/SLUG) and facile efforts at prettifying urban spaces.

    The London Olympics scheme, masterplanned by EDAW, has some winning features that focus on landscape, such as the restoration of navigable waterways. It also has its clangers in the form of displacing people and spoiling some of the nicer semi-wild areas of the metropolis. Landscape architects of the sort taken on for that kind of job would not do any better, nor any worse. But neither bunch seem to have the stomach for tackling issues of exclusion, poverty, and, particularly in places like formerly industrial east London, issues around the tricky balance between cultural and environmental heritage, sustainability, economic inequalities, and pressure for redevelopment.

    So I think that Kathryn, for all her perspicacity, would better serve the profession, and the public, if she shifted the focus to something like the imbalances of power between residents and powerful alliances of state/quango/commercial interests. But that's a tough call. She'd be pilloried for it.


  • Anonymous
  • June 18, 2006 at 12:36:00 PM CDT
  • Whenever i hear Moore speak on the olympics it never seems anything more than a session praising Jasonm Prior. I am getting a bit fed up with it now.


  • e-tat
  • June 19, 2006 at 4:07:00 PM CDT
  • A fencival charrette:
    Apropos fifty fences, perhaps Kenna would be interested in snow-draped fences along the USA-Mexico border. Some ten million of them would fit in the 1,951 mile stretch. One suspects, however, that these little snow fences are not what planners have in mind. The New York Times sees it differently, and asked ten designers to come up with alternatives to the sheet metal and wire standard. (Thanks, as always, to Anne)

    This is reasonable, given the cost estimate for extending the existing style of fence, some forty billion dollars. If the State Departments figures are pertinent, the standard fence will equate to 60 days worth of cross-border trade. But how much of that can be diverted to pay for the project? Perhaps the smart alternative is to get the fence to pay for itself. A couple of respondents to the NYT indicated as much. But I suspect that they have barely scratched the surface of what it might mean to develop a national barricade as a self-sustaining economy. For one, it might be necessary to expand the permiter to include the boundary region, and think more comprehensively about how that might be affected, and integrated into the design.

    So perhaps it's time to open a design charrette for constructing a national boundary. Something more sustained than that of the NYT charrette, some on-line studio for the presentation and consideration of design functions and elements. How might such a thing get started? Have any design schools taken it up already? Or might it kick off through a competition to design a 1,951 mile long carpet, perhaps?


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