Early in September, some of the most accomplished members of the landscape and related professions gave up 24 hours of their free time to judge this year’s Landscape Institute Awards. They were given food and drink, and beds to sleep in, but no other recompense.
Some of them gave up more of their time to visit the selected winning projects and ensure that they deserved a prize. The awards committee also put in a great deal of effort, and the president of the institute, Noel Farrer, spent time poring over the winners to select the best of the best, the recipient of the President’s Award.
This happens every year and it is not unusual for an awards scheme. All well-run awards schemes rely on the efforts of volunteers. Those entering awards schemes also devote a considerable amount of time to putting their submissions together, just as they do when entering a competition to win work. The difference with the award scheme is that, even if successful, they will not receive any recompense.
What a lot of work it all is. There may be a few disgruntled entrants, pipped at the post by what they consider an inferior entry, but for everybody else it is vastly rewarding. Judging awards provides an opportunity to meet your peers, to be inspired and to think about landscape in a way that may not be possible when bogged down by day-to-day activities. CPD is seen by some as an obligation, and by the wiser as a chance not only to stay up to date but to broaden their horizons and refresh their thinking, and judging awards is a glorified form of CPD.
Tim Waterman, in ‘A word’ at the back of this journal, argues cogently that we should not work too much and that overwork can actually make people worse at what they do. But what if people can have work that is so pleasurable that it is the best thing that they can do? What if the dividing lines between work and leisure become so blurred that people no longer know where they are? Fortunately for the organisers of awards, and for those seeking volunteers in other capacities, that seems to be an ideal solution for many.
The LI awards may not be unique in the way that they call on volunteers, but they are different from the norm in another sense. Almost all awards in the built environment are given for design or, sometimes, for execution. The LI awards are special because, in addition to the design categories, they recognise areas such as planning, research and communication. These are not the easiest to judge. You can’t just look at a few pretty pictures and plump for the one that you prefer. But they do reflect the breadth of activities that members of the landscape profession undertake, and reward excellence in all its forms.
The importance of work that is not a straightforward design project can be seen in our future on the coastal management plan of Galicia. By looking carefully at the way that land is used and developed the Spanish region has come up with a way of preventing the indiscriminate development and sprawl that was threatening to overwhelm a valuable natural resource. You won’t of course ever see this project win an LI award because it is in the wrong country, but I hope you enjoy reading about it.