Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, outlined the value that landscape can provide in a discussion at London architect Patel Taylor.

Sue Illman outlines value of landscape at London seminar

She was one of five speakers addressing the question ‘Why invest in landscape?’ at the new offices of the architect, which designed the recently opened Eastside Park in Birmingham.

‘The landscape profession can’t change the world,’ Illman said, ‘but we can make a major contribution by planning, designing, building and managing.’

With greater understanding of the impact of climate change and the need to mitigate its effects, investment in landscape will, said Illman, ‘become easier to justify. We can put forward a business case, which is the language that government understands. There is a need to factor in health and well-being..

She talked out the importance of WSUD (water sensitive urban design) and said that, for example, a small urban park can provide not only recreation but also diminution of the urban heat island, sequestration of pollutants, and flood attenuation.

Urban geographer Jonathan Smales, founder of Beyond Green, warned, ‘We must intensify our cities. They will only be liveable if the public realm is very good.’

Clive Dutton, executive director for regeneration, planning and property in the London Borough of Newham, talked about the importance of temporary interventions and rapid responses. He also stressed the importance of signifiers, mentioning the controversial Orbit at the Olympic Park, which is within his borough. ‘The only thing wrong with the Orbit,’ he said, ‘is that it should have been three times bigger.’

Mark Davy, founder of culture and placemaking consultancy Future City, said that he was interested in the narrative of landscape and in artists working as lead consultants. He showed a variety of projects, including edible landscapes and the use of text in landscape, as well as  a project at Heathrow airport, where he described Richard Wilson’s suspended sculpture Slipstream as being ‘instead of landscape’.

Andrew Taylor of Patel Taylor said that ‘landscape is the medium that brings buildings together’ and described how the design guidelines that the practice wrote for the Athletes’ Village were intended to determine the way that the buildings related to the public realm.

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