Robert Holden CMLI reports on this year’s FOLAR AGM, where he and fellow speakers discussed the history and current state of landscape education

    The London Road campus of Reading University, location of the first university landscape architecture course in Britain from 1930

    The subject of the seminar at this year’s FOLAR AGM, held on 1 April 2017, was ‘Landscape architecture and management education in the UK: past, present and future’. Robert Holden CMLI, one of the four speakers, reflects on the event.


    FOLAR (the Friends of the Landscape Library and Archives at Reading) exists to promote the Landscape Institute archives and library, now held at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Reading. Each year, FOLAR holds a seminar to promote these collections. This year, FOLAR’s seminar dealt with the origins and history of landscape architecture and management education in the UK, their present situation, and the future.

    Professional landscape education in this country goes back to 1881 and the Crystal Palace School of Landscape Gardening. The first university landscape architecture course was at Reading and started in 1930; so Reading was a suitable place for this discussion about the history of landscape education.

    At this annual FOLAR seminar, Guy Baxter, University Archivist at Reading, described the development of the three-year Diploma in Landscape Architecture, which survived until 1959. Jan Woudstra then outlined the development of gardening education in this country from its 17th-century origins.

    Richard Bisgrove described his landscape management course at Reading, which lasted from 1986 until 2009. And finally, your reporter discussed the present scene of course closures, understaffing (compared with overseas), paucity of landscape professors, subsidiary status of landscape education, and failure to exploit the dramatic increase in numbers of applications over the past ten years.

    With the exception of Jan Woudstra’s work, landscape education has been little studied in the past. Look at Tony Aldous’s and Brian Clouston’s history of the Landscape Institute, Landscape by Design (1979), published on the LI’s fiftieth anniversary, which has almost nothing on landscape architecture or landscape management education. One ambition of these FOLAR seminars is to promote an overview of the development of the landscape profession in the UK. One hope is that this will contribute to the centenary of the Landscape Institute in 2029, so that the history of the profession is better developed. Through that understanding, we can plot its development and future.


    The Landscape Institute is currently conducting a major cross-discipline review of education and practice in the landscape sector. Read more and find out how to contribute here.

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