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Landscape Institute Awards 2012

Paul Finch


Buildings tend to get a better press than landscapes when it comes to awards.Inherently easier to present as objects, they have the advantage of being stars on a big stage. That stage, of course, is the subject of the awards contained in this publication. There is no predicting the scale of the idea, though the awards are neatly divided into different sizes for some categories, to allow the judges to compare apples with apples.

Even given the division by scale, it is a tough job comparing landscape designs because of the differences, vagaries or ambiguities of the brief, and of the decisions that may have been made while the landscape has had time to mature. While urban design landscapes tend to be relatively complete the moment they are opened, and will represent the same idea even when (as it were) the trees have grown, there are other examples of landscape thinking which are dependent on time to do its work. That is both advantage and disadvantage to the designer, since the disbenefits of incompleteness will be offset by growing satisfaction at a nurtured outcome.

The president’s award this year is recognition of both these conditions and is a welcome sign of understanding that excellence can be both evident and potential, in this case in relation to the Olympic Park. This was a project that was tough to achieve because of the imposed circumstances behind the project; difficult to remember now, but the London bid was one year behind that of competing cities because of an inability on the part of the UK government to make its mind up whether to offer support.
The masterplan that managed to get us to first base in the competition, and then helped us win the bid, was a joint production by Allies and Morrison, EDAW (now AECOM) and Foreign Office Architects, which envisaged in conceptual form the ‘dumb-bell’ design which gives distinct character to the north and south ends of the Olympic park.

The evolution and improvement of the landscape with its changing cast of designers over five years is a fascinating story, full of incident and dramas (many of which had little to do with landscape architecture as such). That is the nature of great collaborative projects, and all one can say is that the end of the journey, or at least the first part of it, was greeted with the congratulations of all who had the pleasure of experiencing the Park during the Games.

As with most landscape stories, the Games were just the beginning. How the Park (andexemplary work by Vogt on the Olympic Village) turn out will be the subject of observation and analysis for years to come, no doubt accompanied by changes in thinking about some elements of the facilities as they adjust to their new legacy condition.

In this, the Park project and LDA’s significant achievement with Arup and Atkins, not their only winning design this year, represent to some extent the generality of the landscape condition. Control of landscape and public realm is notoriously difficult to establish and/or predict; how is the landscape designer supposed to anticipate what may happen in respect of ownership, management, enhancement and change? With a building it is rather simpler: adjustment; adaptation; refurbishment, retrofit or ultimately demolition. But the building does not change of its own volition. That is obviously not the case where nature is involved (cf wildflower meadows), and the extent to which a successful landscape project is predicated on greater or lesser degrees of intervention post-completion is a fascinating subject all of its own. By coincidence, LDA Design has also won this year’s Heritage and Conservation category, where it had to deal with the consequences of no-doubt benign neglect of a landscape condition, resulting in the dislocation of a relationship between a building and its grounds because of unrestrained nature asserting itself in the way it knows best.

The resulting cutting back of trees to restore a semi-picturesque landscape and mansion was a reminder that designed landscapes are man-made, not an accident of nature. But without a profound understanding of nature, landscape architecture is impossible to achieve. How wonderful, then when that knowledge is applied to the equally man-made surroundings of the contemporary city, introducing life to the inert.
Today, the landscape project has moved inexorably on from the traditions of Capability Brown or Geoffrey Jellicoe. An understanding of crowds becomes a parallel to the individual journey around the walled garden; materials become as important as planting; water takes on an almost autonomous life as urban attribute rather than rural given.

The awards represented in this publication each tell a particular story, but combined they tell us something about our attitudes to aesthetics, to buildings as well as landscapes, and to love and manipulation in respect of the natural world.

Paul Finch chairs Design Council Cabe, and is deputy chair of the Design Council. He is Programme Director of the World Architecture Festival, and Editorial Director of Architectural Review/ The Architects’ Journal.
The Landscape Institute would like to thank all the judges of the awards who gave up their time to scrutinise the entries.

Design under 1 ha
— Chair — Louise Wyman, Homes and Communities Agency.
— Francesca Berriman, Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists.
— Carola Enrich CMLI, Townshend Landscape Architects.
— Donncha O’Shea, Gustafson Porter.
— Carolyn Willits, Carolyn Willits Design.

Design 1–5 ha
— Chair — Robin Buckle, Transport for London.
— Sue Evans CMLI, Central Scotland Forest Trust.
— Matthew Jessop CMLI, Mouchel.
— Peter Massini, Greater London Authority.
— Robert Rummey CMLI, Rummey Design.

Design over 5 ha
— Chair — Alan Thompson, Design Council CABE
— Allan Cox CMLI Broadway Malyan
— John Pegg CMLI craft:pegg

Heritage & Conservation
— Chair — Victor Callister, City of London.
— Deborah Evans CMLI, English Heritage.
— Seán O’Reilly, Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

Student Portfolio and Dissertation
— Chair — Blanche Cameron, RESET.
— Prof. Eckart Lange, University of Sheffield.

Neighbourhood Planning
— Chair — Kate Bailey CMLI, Envision.
— Sue Percy, Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation.
— Kate Pinnock, Ingham Pinnock.

Communications and Presentation
— Chair — Peter Holland, Linear Structure.
—Micheline Mannion, Graphic Designer.
— Claire Thirlwall CMLI, Thirlwall Associates.

Landscape Policy and Research
— Chair — Ed Wall, Kingston University.
— Tim Johns CMLI, TEP.
— Tim Waterman, Writtle College.

Strategic Landscape Planning
— Chair — David Marshall, Royal Town Planning Institute.
— Ian Houlston CMLI, LDA Design.
— Toby Jones CMLI, Toby Jones Associates.

Urban Design and Masterplanning
— Chair — Karen Anderson, Architecture + Design Scotland.
— Romy Rawlings CMLI, Woodhouse.
— Ewan Smith CMLI, Arup.

Landscape Institute Awards Committee
— Chair — David Withycombe CMLI
— Rob Beswick CMLI
— Nicola Cox CMLI
— Anne Evans CMLI
— Paj Valley FLI
— Jo Watkins PPLI CMLI

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