Landscape Education in the UK: past present and future

On Saturday 1 April 2017 MERL hosted a FOLAR (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) study day on the topic of: ‘Landscape Architecture and Management Education in the UK: past present and future’.  

The day included talks and a pop up display of archive and library material from our Landscape Institute collections.  FOLAR Chair, Penny Beckett, gives an account of the event:

Selection of material from our Landscape Institute collections

The best discussion we’ve had about UK landscape architecture education in a long while

So said one of those who attended the recent seminar at MERL organised by FOLAR.  Chaired by John Stuart-Murray (University of Edinburgh), this half day event had 4 speakers: Guy Baxter, the University Archivist, who spoke about the first English university course in Landscape Architecture set up at Reading in the 1930s; Jan Woudstra (University of Sheffield) on the development of English Landscape Architecture Education and after the tea break, former Reading senior lecturer Richard Bisgrove who spoke about the Landscape Management degree at Reading which ran from 1986 to 2009.

Our Archivist Guy Baxter speaking at #folar2017

The last speaker was Robert Holden (former University of Greenwich), who gave us much food for thought about the current state of landscape education in the UK. It appears to be in decline, while at the same time the demand for qualified landscape architects by employers outstrips the supply of home grown graduates. Much of the question and answer session after Robert’s talk explored why this might be the case when the situation seems very different in both the USA and other European countries. Earlier, Jan Woudstra had suggested possible reasons, citing the encroachment of ‘new’ course topics, such as ‘landscape urbanism’ into a subject area once occupied by landscape architecture alone. He mentioned too the lack of landscape research in the UK (though Sheffield boasts a healthy 45 PhD students!); the difficulty too of conveying a consistent image to the wider public, prospective students and their parents  about what the profession landscape architecture is all about. The irony is that the work of landscape professionals lies at the very heart of the current political agenda, while landscape architects and managers have long been used to the interdisciplinary working that is now essential in our 21st century world.

Selection of material from our Landscape Institute collections, 1930s journals

Guy Baxter’s talk made interesting links between the pre-war students at Reading and some of the members of the fledgling Institute of Landscape Architects (ILA) they helped to establish. The Institute’s archives deposited at MERL reveal the connections. The first ILA member, for example, ‘Member No. 1’ was Marjory Allen (Lady Allen of Hurtwood) the landscape architect who was an early advocate of the importance of providing for children’s play in our urban areas.

Selection of material from our Landscape Institute collections

Richard Bisgrove described the genesis of the BSc (Hons) in Landscape Management course he set up at Reading in 1986. It ran successfully for many years, training students who then went into various branches of the landscape profession. Lecturers on the course included Tony Kendle who later went to the Eden Project and Ross Cameron who moved to the University of Sheffield.

Selection of material from our Landscape Institute collections

One small downside of the day was that the full programme allowed little time to look at the wonderful display of archive material put out for us in MERL’s Reading Room. So to the MERL staff involved, can I offer both apologies as well as many thanks for helping to make such a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day. A video recording of the seminar itself will be posted on the FOLAR website shortly.

Penny Beckett, FOLAR Chair

You can find out more about our Landscape Institute collections, using our Reading Room, FOLAR or see tweets and Instagram posts from the event.  

 

Research post: X marks the spot

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We’ve all been very busy researching nine new galleries for the Our Country Lives redevelopment, covering everything from wagon construction to rural fashion. What caught our eye recently, however, was a one-way, horse-drawn Butterfly plough.

While delving into our accession files for its measurements we found this interesting little map tucked into a sheaf of correspondence (below). It depicts a working farm in Polventon, Cornwall where our plough came from. It shows a house, barn, stables, a waggon and cart hovel, a ‘new building’ and a chapel. It also has some queries – such as one building labelled ‘bullock house? Pigs?’. I doubt we’ll ever know which.

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The correspondence also revealed that the farmer used this horse-drawn plough to fill in the gaps which his tractor-drawn plough could not reach, such as by the hedges, showing the perseverance of old technology where practical. The curator has marked two X’s on the map where two ploughs were found in hedges (including the one in our collection). Not exactly buried treasure to most people, but valuable to us nonetheless.

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What is also particularly interesting for us is the inclusion of a floor-plan of the farmhouse (below), labeling familiar objects in our collection such as settles. Considering our plans for the redeveloped galleries include a focus on ‘Hearth and Home’, exploring both the romanticised view of the cottage and the too-often grim reality, these plans may well shape our interpretation and object layout.

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The farmhouse still exists in the exact same shape, although the ‘waggon hovel’ has since been converted into a garage. No longer used as part of a farm, you can rent out the house for a self-catering holiday, which is itself an interesting comment on the changes in farming and rural real estate over the past fifty years.

Hopefully we’ll have more interesting things crop up as we research over the next few weeks!

Discovering the Landscape #1

written by Claire Wooldridge, Landscape Institute Library Officer.

Since the arrival of the Landscape Institute Library and Archive a few weeks ago, I have been immersed in a new world of international architectural design, rural development, urban regeneration and land art.

Initial sorting of the library materials is underway – we have received approximately 60 metres of books, periodicals and pamphlets.  Whilst complementing our existing holdings, particularly our MERL library books on topics such as gardening, land policy and the environment, this new material also prompts us to consider our MERL collections afresh.   The landscape is the backdrop to all aspects of rural life, but must also be seen as a worthy subject of consideration in its own right.

We have received a wonderful and varied mix of material, including twentieth century perspectives on the landscape, several beautifully bound nineteenth century books on gardening, a few rare books and works by some of the Landscape Institute big hitters such as Geoffrey Jellicoe and Sylvia Crowe.

Already a few gems have been unearthed which are featured in this post.  I particularly like the beautiful illustration of variegated pelargoniums from the 1930s and the colour chart issued by the Royal Horticultural Society and the British Colour Council.

Illustration of variegated pelargoniums from the 1930s.

Illustration of variegated pelargoniums from the 1930s.

Colour Chart issued by the Royal Horticultural Society and the British Colour Council.

Colour Chart issued by the Royal Horticultural Society and the British Colour Council.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also see examples of some of the strikingly illustrated nineteenth century bindings we have received, alongside literature on the 1951 Festival of Britain (the book shown here features its logo) which celebrated the centenary of the Great Exhibition, fitting in nicely with our Great Exhibition collection.

Some strikingly illustrated 19th century bindings, plus a volume from the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Some strikingly illustrated 19th century bindings, plus a volume from the 1951 Festival of Britain.

For rare book fans we have also received Instruction pair les Jardins Fruitiers et Potages printed in Paris in 1697 and a copy of Della Agricoltura di M. Giovanni Tati printed in Venice in 1556 to sit alongside the copy we have in our Reserve collection.

'Instruction pair les Jardins Fruitiers et Potages' printed in Paris in 1697.

‘Instruction pair les Jardins Fruitiers et Potages’ printed in Paris in 1697.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated developments with our progress on the Landscape Institute Library and Archive in the coming weeks.

'Della Agricoltura di M. Giovanni Tati' printed in Venice in 1556.

‘Della Agricoltura di M. Giovanni Tati’ printed in Venice in 1556.

 

Research Tip #3: Easy as A, B, C

written by Hayley Whiting, Reading Connections Digital Content/Online Engagement Officer

Advert for Ransomes

Advert for Ransomes

Finding out about what is held in the MERL Archive just got a whole lot easier! The A-Z index of archive collections is now available. This is an extremely valuable resource for users looking for information on specific collections and a great way to gain an overview of what is held here at MERL.

This is a work in progress and is constantly being added to by the Arts Council England funded Reading Connections Project team (link to blog). The A-Z already contains over 250 entries on major archive collections. Each entry provides an overview of the collection and has a link to the relevant entry in our online database. Details are also given on how to request items for consultation.

There is a handy search facility where you can browse by subject category or do a keyword search, so why not take a look and explore the wealth of archives available!