06/11/1924 – 30/11/2015

Obituary: Peter Geoffrey Daniel

Peter Daniel, who has died at the age of 91, was a distinguished landscape architect, planner and architect and it is hard to imagine anyone having such a long, varied and influential career as Peter, writes Marc van Grieken.

Following officer training, Peter held the King’s Commission in the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve (RNVR). He served initially as a midshipman, subsequently as a sub-lieutenant, with service in the Arctic Squadron, and later witnessed the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb and the liberation of Hong Kong. On 15 July 2013 he received the Arctic Star from the Prime Minister and President Putin at no 10.

Peter graduated from Liverpool University in architecture and civic design in 1953, but understanding and working with the landscape was his life-long passion and he later qualified as a landscape architect, mentored by the late Frank Clark.  (PPLI)

In 1954, aged 30, Peter started practising and he was still active in 2015.  His career involved public service, teaching landscape architecture and being a consultant in private practice both in the UK and overseas.  He had a wide range of interests which meant that his approach to landscape was holistic.  Peter was exceptionally modest about his achievements as a teacher and as a designer.  He was highly intelligent and gentle in his approach and was exceptionally creative, thoughtful and a consummate professional.  Peter was a team player who was dismissive of those who were driven purely by commercial interests or their own self-promotion.

Those of us fortunate enough to be taught by Peter, to work with him and to be counted amongst his friends, know that you would undoubtedly have been touched by his warmth, sense of humour and the odd party.

Peter taught post-graduate students at the University of Edinburgh between 1973 and 2002. Through his teaching and his approach to professional work he instilled the professional foundations and standards expected of a skilled landscape architect in hundreds of students who now practise throughout the world.

He exemplified this through his own work at Peterlee New Town, his masterplan for Livingston New Town, Cathkin Park and numerous gap sites and reclamation projects in Glasgow, his private gardens and his favourites: the garden at Rozel Fort in Jersey, the study for the Four Botanical Gardens in Scotland, and his work at Bankton House and the Jupiter Artland sculpture park.

His strategic interest in, and concern for the Scottish landscape resulted in the influential conference he helped organise in 1962 entitled: “A National Landscape Policy for Scotland”.  Fifty years later, in 2012 he was involved in organising and speaking at a national conference entitled “Managing Change in Scotland’s Landscapes” which built on the earlier conference and its conclusions.  At the conference Peter eloquently shared his passion and concerns for the Scottish landscape just as he had at the time of the first conference but this time to a larger, but equally attentive audience.  At the 2012 conference, Peter became the first recipient of the Landscape Institute Scotland’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

This was just one occasion where Peter bridged generations, which was a hallmark of his life.  His wonderful ability as a teacher and someone whose friends were so often younger than him must have been one of the things that gave him such a long life.

Peter was confident about the future of his profession; like others he had great successes and enjoyed the many thrills and hazards of practice, but how many of us have had to be concerned about the prospect of being torpedoed or hit by a kamikaze as a prelude to our professional careers?

His simple but most enduring message was that you cannot do anything to improve the landscape if you do not understand how it got to be the way it is.  Peter understood and led by example and there is a great deal to celebrate about his long career and his quiet but effective influence on our (landscape) profession.

Peter was highly respected by those who were fortunate enough to know him.  We will all miss his inspiration, his wonderfully gentle and warm personality, his encouragement always to strive to do better and his wisdom.  We will remember him for his love of life, quietly forceful character and for that engaging twinkle in his eye when something interested him.

I would sum up his legacy as a landscape profession better able to understand and care for the landscape of Scotland’s towns and countryside and better able to deliver excellence in design and to create inspiring landscapes contributing to people’s happiness.

On a very personal note, since I set foot on Scottish soil 36 years ago, Peter has inspired me, been a mentor and friend and welcomed me into his home and family.  We will all miss him greatly.

Peter has a son William, daughters Tacye and Sarah, three grand-children and two great grand-children.


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