Lessons from a Dystopian landscape

A future landscape?

A fantastic video of a future reality set within the confines of a virtual world within a dystopian landscape. A good lesson in cause and effect


A thought process

Learning from our past

A thought that keeps coming to mind is that the study of a dystopian landscape is possibly more important than a proposed utopian dream scape, as virtually all the designs where originally designed with utopian ideals, (political, social, economic etc), but now often regarded as dystopian, often mis-judged (by present day judgement) and ugly. Some mistakes where made through focussing on one area i.e. large scale plan, and forgetting human scale/perspective, modernism to a tee. So who is to say we are not mis-judged? Looking at perceived failures with a narrow ascetic value of fashion for example, thus a lot of perspectives need to be taken into consideration with the avoidance of presumption of present day wisdom over the dreams of the birth of the idea. Also not taking into account changes that created a conflict along the time line from conception to the present moment of judgement to what may seem’s a ruined space. So the question is what has changed? Often we are too quick to write a off a space without fully understanding its long term aim. Thats not saying mistakes have not been made, but not to make the same mistake again due to a poorly thought out process only taking in present day fashions into consideration.

It will always come back to adoption of space by the people who live in the area. Why should anybody want to live here? At its base level what will me and my family gain? What is the core of any community? On questioning some residents on The Isle Dogs, London (now re-developed, but issues of the local working class having no relevant jobs to their skill set or if there is any work then the jobs are often with no prospects of promotion or further training ( or self employed under the tax radar thus trapped). It became clear that gentrification had pushed out the old community of seeing the place as home leaving them with no identity and thus no sense of place leading to non engagement, which eventually leads to the ‘I have nothing to loose attitude’ were the rot of crime and vandalism eats into the core of the community. So all might look rosy, but get below the skin. 
North Woolwich has the same problems though yet to be developed. The loss of the Docks caused a complete loss of identity to the community. Any sense of ‘pride of place’ is gone. If you have no job, hope of employment or low skilled with no future training, then the most beautiful park is not going to lift the spirits of a down beaten soul. If you want to understand more listen to ‘The Message’ by ‘Grand Masterflash and the Furious 5;


When a couple of life long residents were asked if they could have anything as part of a redevelopment what would it be, as quick as a flash, work, not just any work, but skilled work with training to bring back a pride in the individual and provide prospects and thus investment of the individual back into the area. So Work has to be at the core, as a means not only earn a living from the landscape, but create an identity of place to the resident, wanting to stay and raise a family and invest emotionally to the place. Then a park that is beautiful to the designer/visitor will have so much more meaning and beauty to the residents, whatever the income. Hope and prospects are an empty politicians promise unless there is a long term plan to deliver. So the Joseph Rowntree  commission report sums up various European dockside redevelopments which we can learn from;
Without a doubt a must read document for all who want to bring prosperity and ‘the of spirit of place’ to a space, so all who reside have a future of substance and prospect.
Framework rather than strict rules so adaption can occur as employment styles change, technology, community that adopts the as the space changes, global warming, political change, transport change (battery boosted bicycles), source energy (i.e. Fusion, when this comes on line it will be a World changer, squeezing two forms of Hydrogen atoms (heavy and heavy heavy) together to produce Helium plus a proton and energy (1 gallon of water= 300 gallons of petrol), even though some web sites say there is no waste product this is not entirely true as a radioactive product is produced, but through reprocessing it can be used to re-fuel and have a short half life (30 years instead of 24,000 years this is what happens in present re-processing plants for Fission waste) and less obvious types of employment moving into areo-space, heavy industry (which may comeback to theses shores as other countries become less competitive) Art, etc. 
Garden Design and Landscape Architecture
So what has the above got to do with our industry, well we no longer live a bubble as an industry. Design crosses platforms and inspiration can come from anywhere. So as the term ‘Garden Cities’ have come back into vogue (though I suspect those who use don’t understand the history of the movement) this is not just the property of Architects and town planners or even Landscape Architects/Garden Designers, but of designers who have a passion for people and the built landscape that they live in. 
Anyway you get my train of thought, we can’t entirely future proof our spaces, but we can leave room for future development that will always occur, ‘as this is our nature’. The beauty of humanity is its messiness as well as its order, both have a place and should be celebrated, so decay as well as pristine should be built in/admired…… At what point does decay turn from an eyesore to nostalgic ruins? Or any style come to think of it. Two Generations? I like modernists buildings from the 1930-50’s ( I was born in 1964) especially underground stations/Tunbridge wells main Civic Centre, I really dislike the Pastiche post modern buildings of the 80-90’s, not one thing or another, both were designed with the best of intentions, so a generational view can have an effect and which generation is in the driving seat. 

 ‘The Sprit of 45’  

Worth seeing the whole film to understand why Labour got in with such a land slide and 180 degree opposite plan to the previous generations and why Margret Thatcher turned it back again.
What next? We are still suffering from the big bang and all the consequences of short termism, the breaking up of unions (divide and rule), selling off of Natural Monopolies under the guise of competition. Capitalism has a hold, know one actually believes there is an alternative, but all the time the Press Barons hold the keys to our politicians it will be hard to unite, lets hope we don’t need war to unite us or extreme poverty, what ever happens it will be bottom up as it was in 1945.



Images of seduction?


So the brochure we all have to put some text and images in a limited space.
Therefore trying to create an eye catching effect, plus some kind of narrative.

Header image
The err…shot as Robert would say. Had this image for a while, love Banksy.   
Had to a bit of work to do as the girl and balloon were facing the wrong way. Lighten wall shadow, darken footpath shadow. Drawing blended on the wall with a couple of layers to get the colour effect. Grass (a bit naff, time etc). Light, light and light to get that grundge and dreamy contrast.
Overall pleased, more work on the grass and the image was cropped for the brochure as more of a letterbox view which works better.


Update, letterbox view, grass

Secondary images
Three images each with a different message and mood.

Dock side 
A mix of three images, two beautiful women (with freckles, is it warm in here), its the eyes….
A bold sunset and a hand drawn image, rendered/PShopped by yours truly.
The idea was to join people and not necassarlly men to the dock side as its also a public place. Viewing the river and looking at the working dockside from the upper deck 
A normal British day.
I wanted to show that the river side walk is a part of the greenway system of NW, thus used in an ordinary way, caught in a shower, the rest of the narrative is for the viewer to decide, being chased or owner? Long flowering meadow grass, resin bonded on bitmac, so easy for curves etc. Practical more than decorative. Let the planting do the work.

A chilly visit to the Aquarium
Footbridge designed with desire lines in mind, so its function over form (a modernist at heart). So whats the story? You decide.

Zeroed In

Don’t do small

Well after some debate (and some chat with Paul) decided not to try and cram my MP on A1. Due to the fact that the next scale down from 1;2500 is 1;5000 it just was lost on A1. So A0 it is.

Lots of explaining to do to justify the drawing, which can only be done with sequential’s and flow digrams. No point writing an essay when the 1000 word rule works with a picture (plus spelling and grammar mistakes are not so obvious).

Added a high street for destination and node.

No slogan or log yet..

bed zzzzzzzzzzzzz 


Almost There

Like all struggling with the beast, that is master planning. I keep thinking about the quote from James Corner that master planning can sometimes lead to an alienation of the site, as in reality the site will be used and seen from a human eye line perspective. So I have constantly tried to visualise each area, creating visual references along routes, nodes, Fused Grid theory etc. So it may look a bit jumbled  (ie not that pretty) from a plan view (and to be honest only Gulls and Crows will have that pleasure), but hopefully the journeys through the greenways to destinations, whether as a visitor or resident, will act as an encouragement to leave the Car at home ( along with the fused Grid idea of the Car route is less convenient than walking).


Once annotated, I get on with the many (eye level) visuals that will be needed to explain the flow, beauty and hope that I would like to bring to North Woolwich.

Not entirely finished, annotation and composition etc.

Construction Drawings 
Spot Heights
Tree Planting Scheme (but not schedule)
Drainage on Elevated sections
Hard works and Index


First of all a quote,

Doctor Albert Einstein. A journalist showed him a picture of a tree growing inside an abandoned warehouse with the smallest bit of sun beaming down on it, and said doesn’t this beauty prove the existence of god, his reply, “the planet does not need us, it is us that needs the planet.”

Honesty is always the best policy, so really didn’t know what the word meant so looked it up;

zeitgeist |ˈtsītˌgīst; ˈzīt-|noun [in sing. ]the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s.ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from German Zeitgeist, from Zeit time’ Geist spirit.’
Ok so that cleared up.The Storey so far….My beloved LX3 Panasonic camera is going wrong, and being the suspicious person that I am, immediately thought’ ‘built in obsolescence.‘ So i googled it just for fun.Well found some great links on you tubehttp://youtu.be/N2KLyYKJGk0Planned ObsolescenceThis video really explains the theroy pefectly, especially the light bulb that is still working after over a 100 years!!!!!So what is going on???So on my previous blog I went into the idea of Desire over Need, thanks to Edward Bernays( http://felixfatfunk.blogspot.com/2010/11/psycology-of-crowd.html ). This really goes into the corporate company cartels that arose to create false markets, due to product failure after a period of time (just long enough to keep brand loyalty ), so that we purchase again and thus keep the ‘consumer’ model going. So yes we know that, but the depth of the roots of this idea are really frightening, and thus lead to MASS waste/Landfill/ moved to third world countries, who really pay the price. No thought of finite resources, only the support of the blaoted market economy that needs growth at all costs.I have argued strongly against zero growth in the past due to the spirit of human evolution. Parents wanting their off spring to have a better life than themselves. So not wanting a dictatorial regiem (grew up in the Cold War) growth is ‘Evolution’. But not the monterist view which relies of an ever increasing debt on money that was printed out of nothing in the first place.Its now called ‘Product Life cycle’ just imagine an aircraft failing after a year, or a communication satellite (that has a life of 25years ) breaking down before its ‘life cycle’. ATM machines are old and very rarely fail, yet computers fail after 3+ years. The best example is the old telephone system, when it was owned by the telephone company, the phones lasted forever, as coming out to service them would cost money, now, mobile handsets are changed between 12-24 months, still don’t believe it goes on? I have had two Sony camera’s fail after 2 years to the day virtually, the reason? A particular glue that dry’s out causing failure, forums are full of dissatisfied customers , Sony ignore it knowing its a numbers game. They are big enough to take bad press and and they know that in the end we will get tired and buy another camera. Though as for me I won’y buy another Sony product.  This would not happen if we were truly serious about sustainability.Built to last? Cartels in the market and Governments won’t accept it as the trap of the Monetarist model needs to have growth to pay the ever increasing debt of the previous generation. It is legalised Pyramid selling.Note;You Tube’s embedding not working, so click on link.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5DCwN28y8o&feature=related

↵ Use original player
← Replay

Note: The Chip for failure!!!!!! Fact not fiction. In all our printers and computers.

‘The Man in the White Suit’

This Film is a hoot, but opens the can of worms that is the short term view of employer and employee due to the system that needs the flow of capital, A real classic film.


So the main event

So linked onto this movie, now I am sure most of you are aware of this movie (I wasn’t ), but if not, its free on You Tube its 2h 40 mins long (for good reason) and a must watch if you really want to understand the big picture of true sustainability. Rather than a fringe touchy feely thing. The core or big picture has to be tackled other wise the status quo will remain.

I have long held the belief that debt is what controls 95% of us, the basic theory being, a debt ridden population needs to service that debt, so employers can  easily enslave people to a wage packet, and when times are really hard they don’t have to increase wages, as the saying goes ‘you pay just enough to stop people leaving.’

As Landscape Architects we have an opportunity to create environments that in their planning can to a degree, effect the populous that live there (but only to a degree, not entirely, don’t make the mistake of the Modernists).

Rather than going through the strengths and weaknesses of the film (some area’s that I feel area bit weak are at the beginning and the utopian view at the end especially the actual design, Le Corbusier would of loved it, Tom Turner would hate it). How can I put it into some kind of context for my final proposal? Bottom line still seems to be ‘Hope, social mobility, tackling the issue of finite resources with a structured approach of energy consumption, place-making, breaking the monopoly of landownership by corporations/landlords especially via the theft of Leasehold and a real alternative to the present norm of build ’em cheap/run with a profit, philosophy.




I am in the fortunate postion of owning just enough to get by and not being completely flattened by ‘the man’. So i don’t have the pressure of being a complete wage slave, thus choice ,freedom etc.

In my latter years my little pearl of wisdom, is that the consumer society needs us to judge each other constantly, do we measure up? am i fitting in? what will people think, the trick is to not judge others… just accept or even ignore. Then when others judge you badly etc, its not in your value system and thus you can be free of the oppression of being judged. So what is my value system? Using my talent for the betterment of others.
Six plus billion people on the planet and if, so and so thinks blah blah.. really does it matter? Just get on with doing what you were/are designed for. We are all less that perfect and have plenty of ‘fails’ in our cupboard, so the pointing of a finger always has three pointing back for good reason ( and those who have a ‘Faith’ the thumb pointing to Heavenly direction).

A Blue Meanie

A Stirling Moss Job


Art and Context Trip

Well thought is was about time i put up something about the now legendary trip. 

What is the point?

Well for me it was a chance to really think about ‘space’ and how i use it as a designer and whether or not i really understand the consequences of an intervention, and experiment if you like. what happens if….

My studio

Rather than going into the in’s and out’s of the trip. The drinking, screaming in the forest and general getting back to the core of it all, ( and that was just Joey!!!).
The space, Joey and I just wandered off talking the usual crap and came upon this magical spot. Facing the right direction, with just right amount of shade and dampness to create a field of Moss beneath the Douglas firs. In fairness I probably ruined the space, but the space was a false creation anyway due to the forestry planting. A steep bank and hard accessibility also added to the drama. 

So with my simple tools, I attacked! The first (not shown) piece was to contrived, so the second (v in the ground) I just did it, not trying to be contextual, or adding any story, just shape, balance and contrasting colour. Tom and Jim seemed to like it and suggested I do a 3D piece.

Next day, rain, but up on site soon after dawn. A flask of hot water (for black Chai) and biscuits so a happy man.
Saw this decaying stump and just got stuck in, again just intuitively cutting and pasting so to speak. A mixture of additive and subtractive sculpture, only really thinking about the composition. A lot of teeth sucking. Worked like a dog ( no change there), once finished, decided lift the piece by adding more moss for contrast. Then ended clearing all the wood around the various pieces so as not to distract.

Just finished and Jim turned up (one of the lecturers) scrambling up the bank. Had a really good long talk. Pointing out some obvious points which were nagging in the back of my mind. Changed a couple of bits. And if i had time i would of extended one of the pieces.


Well ended up with more questions than answers, which is great as that means that previous views have been challenged, and thus need re-evaluating. So now working on this, learnt more doing this that building a hundred gardens.

Trusty tools, including bare hands

Flat Canvas

Looking up, pre Jim suggestion which simplified the piece

Simplified, framed in extra moss, what does it say? You tell me!

Dug in to expose the roots as to exaggerate the intervention

Just like these Pictures, Goodbye Moss, Goodbye Cornwall

The best unit of the whole 5 years

Winging It

Is defiantly not good for you!

Well our group (group two Green Cranes) got away with blue murder today. Tom and Benz were very generous with their marks for us. Well done to Lisa, Jimmy and Ben, also all who contributed to the hashed together presentation.
Some of the other presentations were very slick and deserved the high marks that they got, particularly liked the model of Andy’s group, the graphics of the Isle of Dogs group and the Piano concept of Joey and the crowd. Well done to all, plenty to plagiarise sorry, be inspired by.

So we have now divided some of the work out to peoples strengths ( read comfort zones). The plan being that we all place our work on Dans mobile me account and then put together a slick, stunning and well thought out presentation.

A couple of sequential sketches.

A 300 year in the future (yep we still wear Jeans so my time traveller friend tells me, and they re-named the Snickers Bar back to a Marathon, so all is not lost for humanity) picture of a flooded London, with high rises losing their lower floor, but in tact as they were designed with that in mind (thanks Ambica). Also floating houses that move with the tide. Not very pleased with this one a bit rushed thus the distant buildings look a bit naff. Generally looks photoshopped thus the effect of belief is lost.

Much happier with this one. Set for the more recent history by the edge of the River Lee. Maybe some better refection of the sky in the water and more dappled atmospheric light, but it seems to work in a, Jekyll painterly manner’

Friday another  1 min silent presentation, particularly difficult for the likes of Jimmy, Ben, Dan and I (who says women are the talkers).

Curry, Bed and digging tomorrow at Hadlow……Nice.

9/11 Memorial

A Twilight Zone moment

Gassing away on Tom turners blog (Garden Design And Landscape Architecture Blog – Gardenvisit.com ) and going through the process of flushing out idea’s and arguments it struck me that a Chinese proverb i suggested fitted the site with an eery and ironic note.

“He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself”
-Chinese proverb

I suspect the designer did not have this proverb in mind, but……..

I will now be on the Pentagons ‘one to watch list’ Its nice to be appreciated.