Landscape Insight December 2017 - Page 44

OPEN STUDIO IDENTITY CRISIS OPEN STUDIO Issue of the Month: OPEN STUDIO - Identity Crisis The generally quiet and thoughtful atmosphere of The Terra Firma Consultancy’s open plan studio is frequently punctuated by periods of intense discussion with flurries of questions, ideas and thoughts flying around. There are some really important issues we grapple with sometimes, and here in this monthly column, we share our thoughts on a hot issue and encourage wider debate. By ALISON GALBRAITH W hile researching my undergraduate dissertation I interviewed the late Bodfan Grufydd, a pioneering landscape architect who had been instrumental in setting up the irst full-time landscape architecture course in England in 1961, at Cheltenham (now the University of Gloucestershire), where I was then studying. Mr Grufydd was a formidable man who, despite being in his late 80s when I met him, had a vigorous and intimidating presence. His irst words to me, spoken as he ushered me into his dark and cluttered study, were to bullishly demand what we were being taught ‘these days’ about landscape architecture and what it is. Unsettled by his somewhat aggressive and bad-tempered manner, I stammered, rambling an, I imagine, incoherent response which was received 44 Landscape Insight | December 2017 with disappointment. This seemed to conirm his fears about the current and future status of our profession. It was one of those ‘elevator pitch’ moments which I should have used to clearly and succinctly state my understanding of my chosen profession, which evidently I failed to do on that occasion. Thankfully, I’ve got better at articulating the essence of landscape architecture since that time. According to an article in Landscape Issues (the University of Gloucestershire’s journal Bodfan Grufydd’s view of landscape was, ‘organic, building on landform and climate, with a sound knowledge of plants and creating places of aesthetic quality… [a] dynamic symbiosis of art and ecology’. I’m not sure that Bodfan Grufydd would have made the most encouraging role model to represent the profession and inspire young people to join but he certainly had clarity about what landscape architecture is all about. This clarity of vision about landscape architecture is not always expressed by those in our profession and is certainly not shared by most outside it. Landscape architecture is a diicult concept to articulate in a short snappy phrase although it turns out that we are not the only profession to sufer such ambiguity. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Institute of Civil Engineers South East England Engineering Excellence Awards 2017 as a guest of the engineering team at Peter Brett Associates, with whom we collaborated on a stream restoration scheme which was shortlisted for an award. The awards ceremony was hosted by science and technology