Visionary and Genius

It’s fitting that in this Jubilee year, in which we’ve also marked the bicentenary of the great Charles Dickens, we should also begin to think about celebrating the life of another great British cultural icon — the visionary seventeenth-century landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Sometimes referred to as “England’s greatest gardener”, Brown was responsible for more than 260 landscapes at country houses and estates around Britain but his designs and approaches continue to influence how we work today.

As a Brown fan I was only too happy to join an initiative led by John Phibbs of the Debois Landscape Survey Group to celebrate the tercentenary of Brown’s birth in 2016. John, who is a great friend of our practice, has enthused,Wholesale NFL Jerseys cajoled and inspired a diverse range of 20 organisations including English Heritage, The National Trust, and Visit Britain to join the Capability Brown 1716-2016 Partnership.

Each organisation has its own reasons for wanting to celebrate the widely recognised genius of Brown, whose many titles include gardener, contractor, entrepreneur, artist and engineer.

Representing the Landscape Institute and the Landscape Design Trust, my agenda is clear: I want to celebrate Brown as the first designer to embrace nature and design. He saw the potential in every landscape. His technical skill was immense and his work has stood the test of time.

If he was practising today, there is no doubt that he would be one of our foremost landscape architects with some positive thoughts on how we should approach some of the major sustainability issues we face today. We need to look back to learn more and to work harder to create even better landscape solutions.

Brown’s landscapes are extensive and he is still a major influence on landscape design in the Western world. He is revered not only in this country but also abroad, and not just by landscape architects but also by architects. Brown had his critics and it has been fashionable to ignore him. No more. As Steffi Shields of the Association of Gardens Trusts put it, “Brown is the Shakespeare of gardening”. Indeed, Brown himself celebrated the 200 year centenary of Shakespeare with David Garrick, so it feels entirely appropriate that we should celebrate his tercentenary in a few years’ time.

So what exactly is the plan? At the moment, John is encouraging owners of the surviving Brown landscapes to open them to the public for celebration during 2016 and has announced a planning seminar at Ampthill Park on 13 June this year for owners, managers and landscape architects. So if you’d like to attend the seminar, if you have worked on a Brown, or if you happen to own one and have not had the invitation yet, then get in touch by emailing the Partnership’s project manager, Adam Clarke, adam@creativeandculturallearning.co.uk.

Do you think Capability Brown is still relevant to us now? How do you think we should celebrate his tercentenary? What are your experiences of his work? We’d love to hear what you think!

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