Half-way through the first semester, it is time to address the main project for our first-year students in the module Appraising Landscapes. So far we have looked mainly at things scientific: soils, rocks, microclimate, ecology… These are some of the components we need to understand in order to produce a new design for a given site. Decisions have to be well-informed. According to Alexander (1964), designing is “the search for fit between form and context”. Context is the physical expression of the existing site. Form can be taken as meaning the new design, based on criteria in the brief.
The project site is the western part of Pittville Park and the brief is asking for a sport-centred landscape to be created, with a new stadium, BMX track, skate-boarding facilities, children’s (adventure) play and the like, all set in a bio-diverse landscape based on a green and blue infrastructure to encourage wildlife as well as local people to reconnect with the environment.
In the 1960s Geoffrey Jellicoe, former president of the Institute of Landscape Architects designed part of this Pittville landscape. He took as his inspiration the classical world’s notion that the well-rounded person is both an artist and an athlete which he saw as the product of an education in fine art and sport in the local colleges (now the university). He also used the notion of a romantic-classical landscape, one in which landscape not buildings is dominant, and he chose to invert the river valley (Wyman’s Brook) in a “topsy-turvy” fashion to create a hill, which “for good measure” he called Mount Kronos. In Greek mythology, Kronos is occasionally interpreted as Chronos, the personification of time, and in Latin he is named Saturn, who is depicted in Goya’s famous painting devouring one of his sons.
Whether the students choose to delve into such classical history for inspiration for their designs of Pittville Park is up to them, but it is hoped they will at least come up with something novel if not “topsy-turvy”.
Alexander, C (1964) Notes on the synthesis of form, Harvard University
Jellicoe, G (1970) Studies in Landscape Architecture, Oxford University