29/12/31 – 17/04/16

Obituary: Alan Smith

Alan Weaver Smith, FLI, has died at the age of 85. 28 October 1965. His career spanned the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, being a lecturer at Leeds Polytechnic  in landscape architecture, and working on the London Borough of Hounslow’s green space development.

He joined the LI  as a student member in 1965, and was elected associate on 25 September 1969, In 1977 he was elected Fellow.

Alan was a founder member of the Irish Chapter of the Landscape Institute, and was its honorary secretary and vice-chair from 1977 to 1979. He was also the Irish representative to council, and sat on the education committee.

Alan Simson recalls: “Alan was great. He was a tall, thin, Irish bloke, somewhat eccentric and ‘of the old school’, and thus some people found him a tad frustrating, especially local, Northern folk. It was typical that it was suggested that folks should wear ‘colourful attire’ at his funeral.

“I must confess that I seemed to get on with him well – I’m not quite sure what that says about me! He was more than happy to ‘interpret’ the rules to fit the situation on the day, and that again didn’t always please everyone. At that time, the landscape courses were on the University of Leeds Campus, so we were a bit remote from day-to-day polytechnic life.

“Alan knew much about the early 20th Century  landscape names and their philosophies – the Geddes, Colvin, McHarg, Lynch, Jellicoes, etc, and that was his strength. Some folk, as ever, thought this was all a bit yesteryear stuff, but his idea that you should always have some sort of philosophical rationale for your designs, and his phrase ‘design the rug not the picnic’ always stuck with me. Denis Wilkinson was also here then, but he died a couple of months ago. He too was a great philosopher, and we sometimes had sessions that lasted well over four hours, much of which was way above our heads. You do remember them though, even after all this time.

“Alan encouraged me to continue with my interest in urban trees, long before it became fashionable so to do, as they were such an important part of his ‘new town’ ideas, and I’m very grateful to him for that. That was one of the reasons why I went on to work in the UK New Towns. He was also an enthusiastic chorister, and sang in several choirs around here. He moved down to Swanage and, as far as I know, stayed around there.”


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