Próblēma, “anything thrown forward,

Albert solving some problems, or so it looks.

Why we need problems.

Recently watched a Vpro ( documentary maker from the Netherlands) documentary. Highlighting the issue of University inventions and thus patents being given away free to private industry to use and then profit from, with the bizarre reality of the state buying them back including a rent for the patent! Think pharmaceuticals and the NHS.

The well known and often quoted is the iphone, most of the internal components were government funded projects for defence, navigation and general public funded university research, all used by Steve Jobs and co, and cleverly put together to create the ubiquitous smartphone which was then marketed for huge profits, with none going back to the publicly funded organisations as if it was all the ideas of just the private sector (remember these corporations also avoid taxation).

So Mariana Mazzucato goes through this in her book The Entrepreneurial State (debunking public v private sector myths, video further down the page) and the Vpro video.

One section near the end caught my imagination.
Problems are there to be solved, the Kennedy moonshot speech;

We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon… We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too”.

Street Corner Game changer; the brown paper bag

The poor mans lounge

So the seemingly innocent intersection of roads and footpaths has become so imbedded in our subconscious that we hardly recognize its importance, and yet the phrase ‘meet you at the corner’ is part of our everyday life. So why?

  • It’s a node
  • More options of escape, fight or flight
  • A prairie view

That’s the text-book view, but it’s so much more than that.

So to understand the culture of the street corner in a housing district that is designed around the grid street system ( think squares ), a social document should be viewed, understood and lessons learnt from said study.

An easily understood document is a TV series from the early 2000’s called the ‘The Wire’, considered by the local community, police, politicians, educators and press to be an accurate portrayal of the Baltimore area 1995-Present.

Written by a former crime reporter of the Baltimore Sun, David Simon and Ed Burns, a Senior Detective. They collaborated on a book ” The Corner: A Year In The Life Of  An Inner City Neighborhood” This was written from a street perspective and eventually was used as a base for The Wire.

So you have the corner shop and corners occupied by the drug dealers. The series goes through the turf wars between the dealers, the police trying to rid the corners of the gangs ( think; futile), the politicians trying bury/solve the problems to thier advantage within 5 year terms, the education system trying to give the children a way out, all in the confines of a post industriual town with middle class flight. The series is about all the consequences of little or no investment into new industry, of fire fighting rather than getting to the root cause, and ultimatly letting it fend for its self.

“The recent History of Baltimore is the same all over the post industrial world where the old heavy, labour intensive industries move out or are mechanized, leaving a local population with a lost identity of work and place.”

Think of the Royal Docks in the east end of London, once the container shipping  moved in at Tilbury, the boom of the London docks died over night, leaving disenfranchisement, no identity of place that had a sense of pride, no industry leading to high unemployment and eventually no hope.

A void remained to be filled, and with the local politicians with a small government agenda this will not stop the natural hard-working resourcefulness of people, it’s just that the easiest way with highest profit is at present drugs for the resourceful and for some, who lose hope, it can become a form of escape from the harsh relativity of day-to-day living. So the ‘Supply and Demand’, pure Smithsonian Market forces that the neoliberals propagate as the capitalist utopia with the invisible hand of self-regulation, will, left to its own devices bring us to a place where every man helps his brother for the good of the market. Experience tells us this is not so, short-term markets post big bang* will not allow this, the god of self-interest*, our irrational inner chimp*, fear* and greed all add up to the distopia that is Balitmore.

“And the corner is where it would be played out in this Drama”


So the how does the humble brown paper bag relate to all this?


Below is an interpretation of a scene from the episode where this all comes to a head, leading to the parable.


Paper Bag Monologue from the Wire (Kinetic Typography) from Hydraulic Pictures on Vimeo.

Obviously this is not the answer, but the point of the exercise is to look around you, take stock and think. The rational rather than the reactive*is needed to understand the cause and effect of a small change mixed with compromise can offer a solution, and get the thinking to a more Lateral position, asking different questions and exploring the consequences of long and short-term interventions.

“So the street corner where people, stop, meet and feel comfortable, it’s a place of high value.”

If a place has high unemployment, no hope then it can become a place of conflict, but it’s still a place, good or bad.

Ultimately people need money and at present that comes through gainful employment, so no matter how many beautiful parks, housing developments we build, if people don’t feel valued in themselves, then that will show on the outside. No work, then other high profit means will appear. Gentrification may push the problem elsewhere under the carpet, but you will eventually trip over it and fall flat on your face, i.e. Baltimore, Trump, Brexit etc.

This is what a Rowndtree commission conclusion was on Regeneration, but more of that for a later post.*

* Later posts for more explanation

Absolute must reads for park and urban design!

The Social life of small Urban Places

The Movie

The film quality of the movie at the start is rather poor, but stick with it, as it’s about the content.

Made in 1980 so some amusement can be gained from the conservative fashion, but the main point is the simplicity of how humans react in public space and what makes a space successful or not.
Note; at the end of the film recommendations are made to the New York City planning control. The effects can been seen today, think of how many areas have movable chairs and how the atmosphere of the city has changed from many complete no go areas, to a city that now feels much safer, at ease and sittable!

“The present issue (as with all popular cities) is ‘gentrification’ when regeneration arrives”

The present issue (as with all popular cities) is gentrification, the meat-packing district has been changed by the High Line Park which is great, but the lower paid workers who service the area are being pushed out by unregulated high rents, all cause and effect. So what ever we do as designers/planners we have to always look to the bigger picture, build a frame-work for flexibility so area can evolve without expensive re-builds and social cleansing.

High Line: A Quick Overview from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

“I so love this little film, Holly Whyte’s voice reminds me of my wise grandparents, thoughtful, never rushing a sentence, understanding the power of a pause and the simple profound observations of the world around them.”

Some Books,Absolutely must be on your shelf

The Social life of small Urban Places

Author William H Whyte


A good review blog of the book. An essential for anyone who wants to understand Why some one would possibly want to visit and stay in your local park….Ignore this book at your peril. Based most of my final degree design on his proven observations

“A park without people is a field”

The Wit and Wisdom of Holly Whyte 

Gathered by Albert LaFarge 

Continue reading

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.  


Video Work

Video Work

Various styles of work depending on the brief. Some sketchy, some a bit more polished all trying to find that way of communicating the work in a direct way, but leaving room for the ever British sense of quirkiness.

Theme Project

A one minute presentation with no speech from the presenter. Power point/film. Used a mix of ‘Keynotes’ (Apple’s version of Power Point), photoshop, hand drawings, sketch up and iMovie. The most popular of all the movies, I think its the simple idea, pace, Dave Brubeck and some humour. The graphics could be a lot better, but its a sketch idea after all!

Urban trees 1 minute Version from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

Tried to get some kind of narrative going on this one. Using sound to show the effect of sound barriers. Then the emotion to sell the dream. Seasons, with one image at different times of the day to remind all that open space is resides within time i.e.24 hours, with different users having different requirements

Urban Noise 1 minute from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

Really pleased with the idea of using lost space to full effect, Sketch up model. 
Sequential’s a bit poor, as time was short. Good idea, poor execution. Used music to help set the scene

Urban Aquaponics, Coldharbour Lane SE17 from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

Spent an absolute age on this one to make up for the previous. A favourite subject of Context in particular reference to ‘Modernism’ (which by all accounts ignored ‘Context’ as it was there to create a new context, out with the old ect).
As most of us know it was often not the buildings at fault, but the poor social engineering of local authorities (ie creating ghetto’s). So spend money, mixed residences of income, provide facilities that are relevant, and encourage ownership (i.e. give responsibility to the residents for the space).
And, oh could not resist a bit of humour.
Note: Music reference to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ then an about turn to minor to major emotional trick (with some editing) from Nillsson

Urban Context, Brandon Estate, Camberwell from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

High Line

All work on Keynotes, edited with iMovie. An awful lot of work, with pace, timing and flow to keep the viewer engaged. Working with the music to get the history, evolution and excitement of the project. Good fun, though you can only do this kind of video occasionally as it can soon become predictable.

High Line: A Quick Overview from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

North Woolwich project 

My personal impressions of ‘place’, with the realisation of my mistake to judge from the outside forgetting from the inside its ‘home’ thus the need to tread carefully when making a Judgement. Including the forgotten apostrophe…too late. 

North Woolwich First Impressions from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

BA Work

Digital landscapes. 

‘The journey is the reward’ was the first attempt at a 5 min video with words, images and music to describe my feelings and response to a new site/landscape. All on Key Notes (Apple’s version of power point) then iMovie. 
Tried to keep the pace relevant to the subject matter, also the music reflecting the mood of the three sections. Used film and other devices to break up the film so as not to be monotonous (remit was 5mins) as 5 minutes can be long time if interest is lost. Generally 1-2 mins seems enough for most punchy movies.


Final Edit: The Journey is the Reward from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

‘The Revolutionary piece of Art’ is a short using Bryce (3D landscape programme) to show an alternative world. The remit was Landscape of the Imagination, read anything goes…Thus the slightly surreal clip. I wanted to show that I had some humour after the previous piece, so a curry and some good wine, the idea and complete narrative done within 5 minutes (if only all creative work came that quick). The actual film itself took a lot longer! 

The Revolutionary piece of Art from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.


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 tube 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( ). 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.

↵ 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