Leading members of the Landscape Institute discussed and debated the topics that will help define the future direction of the profession

Paj Valley FLI, Director of Cities and Urbanism at Atkins, chaired the event

In September, leading landscape practitioners met to address the most pressing issues for the profession today.

The College of Fellows of the Landscape Institute joined selected guests at Roffey Park in Sussex to discuss and debate landscape and placemaking topics, and ‘big ideas’ for the future of the profession.

Between them, the Fellows present represented decades of combined experience working across the globe in the fields of masterplanning, landscape design, landscape management, urban design and more. Paj Valley FLI, Director of Cities and Urbanism at Atkins, chaired the event, which included interactive sessions, discussions and open-mic presentations.

Prioritising critical thinking

Adrian Wikeley CMLI, Director of Landscape Architecture at LUC, discussed the state of landscape education, highlighting challenges including lack of flexibility in courses, the challenges of balancing technical and creative skills, and universities’ failure to advertise.

He argued that we should do more to celebrate the landscape profession and the name of the Institute, educate early-years students and inspiring the young to pursue careers in landscape. Adrian also highlighted the concerning shortfall of technical skills in the sector, arguing that the provision of technical knowledge is a lifelong service for professional bodies.

Societal and cultural needs, Adrian argued, should inform our approach to education, as should differences between public and private sector employment requirements. To ensure continued success and relevance, the landscape industry should prioritise critical thinking and use economics and market intelligence to determine need.

Read more: LI education and practice review

‘Landscape justice’

Sarah McCarthy discussed the Landscape Research Group’s 50th Anniversary Research Fund

Sarah McCarthy, Development Manager at the Landscape Research Group (LRG), talked about how LRG’s 50th Anniversary Research Fund will help the charity achieve its objective ‘to advance research that contributes towards just and sustainable relationships between people and landscapes’.

Sarah’s talk marked the beginning of a crucial dialogue between LRG and the LI that could see collaboration on future case studies and policy development – with the LI’s recent strategic alliance with the Institute of Place Management providing even greater outreach potential.

Sarah discussed the importance of seeking extra-professional influence – from artists, musicians, writers and politicians – and of reconnecting with academic establishments. Being dynamic and concentrating on what we offer, she said, will be key. Sarah also noted the need for better understanding of the context in which we operate, observing the need for more overseas technical guidance.

Merrick Denton-Thompson, President of the LI, speaks at the #LIFutures think tank event

Building relationships and developing a legacy

Drawing upon the many successes of the recent Capability Brown Festival, Jenifer White CMLI discussed what we can learn in terms of attracting new sponsors, reaching new audiences and promoting the profession.

Upcoming events include the bicentenary of the death of Humphry Repton, the 50th anniversary of the Countryside Act 1968, and the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the UK’s first national parks. These celebrations, Jenifer argued, present an opportunity to link the great work of the past with modern design and management.

Insights and observations

The Fellows present contributed wholeheartedly to a day of lively and productive debates. Among other topics discussed were:

  • diversity: reflecting the community we serve and identifying and overcoming barriers to inclusion
  • collaboration: sharing knowledge with other professional organisations and exploring professional links
  • celebration: focusing on the legacy of the profession, solutions to modern problems, and recognising the value of our day-to-day work
  • strategy: promoting creative and technical skills
  • influencing: pursuing alliances with politicians and boosting our policy work

Daniel Cook, CEO of the Landscape Institute, was present at the event.

‘Fellowship is the highest form of chartered membership,’ he said. ‘LI Fellows are our innovators, leaders and ambassadors, and the insight and assistance they can provide in developing and promoting the profession are invaluable.

‘We are doing more to draw upon this wealth of knowledge and experience available to us. There will be more Fellows’ gatherings in the future: the College should be our senior go-to group.

‘The College should also be more visible to younger members of the profession, both as influencers and as exemplars of what landscape professionals can achieve, personally and for society as a whole.

‘Only 2.5% of our members belong to the College of Fellows. We need our experienced members and registered practice heads to continue putting themselves forward and adding to this incredible pool of talent.’

The College of Fellows will next meet ahead of our new member graduation event in January 2018.

Find out more: Fellow of the Landscape Institute (FLI) membership


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