Charles Smart AILA celebrates the life of Jack Lowe OBE (1922 – 2012), landscape architect, town planner and chartered surveyor.

Henry John Lowe – Jack
Henry John Lowe – Jack

“Jack’s strength was not only to aspire to a high level of technical excellence but, by assembling an in-house team of landscape architects and related environmental professionals, he ensured that structural change and development would meet the prevailing high standards expected of today’s designers.” – Charles Smart

Although not a widely known member of the landscape profession Jack Lowe’s achievements were highly respected within his sphere of operation. From a strong farming background, in which he actively remained involved throughout his life, he nevertheless chose to qualify as a town planner, landscape architect and chartered surveyor.

As one of the early wave of post-war planners, Jack’s first post, in North Bedfordshire, was a baptism of fire in that after just three months as a planning assistant he found himself deputised to fulfil the role of planning officer, advising eight local authorities at the age of 24. After a spell with Essex County Council, he was appointed County Planning Officer for the Isle of Ely at still only 35 years of age.

Six years later he became County Director of Planning for Nottinghamshire, which provided a wide range of environmental challenges. Jack’s programme of colliery tip restoration was one of the earliest in the country, followed by the integration of power stations in the Trent Valley, the creation of country parks, the managements of areas of Sherwood Forest (and its ancient Major Oak) and the creation of Britain’s first 2,000-metre Olympic rowing course and country park created from derelict gravel workings.

Having studied the Dutch and German versions of Olympic rowing courses, Jack embarked on the first scientifically tested studies to ensure a state-of-the-art course using wind tunnel tests and a hydraulic research station model of the water course to overcome flooding risks from the River Trent and to minimise ‘wave bounce’ from the sides and bottom of the course profile. All this had to be achieved in nine months, so that the completed course would be ready for competitive training, on a budget one seventh of that of the Munich Olympic course.

Jack’s strength was not only to aspire to a high level of technical excellence but, by assembling an in-house team of landscape architects and related environmental professionals, he ensured that structural change and development would meet the prevailing high standards expected of today’s designers.

A final example of Jack’s attention to detail was when farmers employed by the Coal Board to graze sheep on the newly restored tips, were unconvinced of the health and safety of sheep being used in this way. They were later persuaded otherwise, when Jack introduced a flock of sheep that had been specially acquired by the County Council for this purpose. No ill effects resulted and so the farmers were convinced.

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