History of the Landscape Institute

The ILA's founder members were:

President: Thomas H. Mawson

Founder members:
Marjory Allen (Lady Allen of Hurtwood)
Prentice Mawson
Edward White
Gilbert Jenkins
George Dillistone
Richard Sudell
Stanley V Hart
Brenda Colvin
Arthur J Cobb
Geoffrey Jellicoe
JE Grant White
Giffard Woolley

In 1930 there were just 42 Institute members

ILA members 1938 © The Landscape Institute/MERL

From left to right: Cecil E Hughes, Geoffrey Jellicoe, Gilbert H Jenkins,(in front of Jenkins) Lady Allen, Richard Sudell, (in front of Sudell) Susan Jellicoe, Russell Page, Edward White.

At the beginning of the 20th century urban design, then known as civic design, was the preserve of architects and engineers in the UK. Civic design, despite a rather paternalistic tone, was concerned with improving public health and amenity, and concentrated on 'seemliness'. In contrast, the Garden City Association formed in 1899 and led by the Victorian idealist, Ebenezer Howard, wanted to build completely new communities to fulfil those same ambitions, and combined the virtues of the rural idyll with the convenience of the town and communal shared space. The first of their experiments, in 1903, was to plan and build the new development of Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire.

Government intervention in the planning process was minimal at this time. The 1909 Housing and Town Planning Act was the first, rather half hearted attempt to exert some kind of design control over development and the following year Thomas Adams (1871-1940) became the first town planning inspector of the local government board. In 1914 a group of like minded individuals which included Adams got together and formed the Town Planning Institute (TPI. The 'Royal' title was conferred much later, in 1959). Thomas Adams was the natural choice to become their first President. Subsequently, he was made a Fellow of both the RIBA and the newly created Institute of Landscape Architects (ILA) serving as the ILA's fifth president from 1937 to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The interwar years (1918-1939) were a time of great debate in the UK about the need for some form of comprehensive planning control. Concern was expressed about the quality and type of suburban development that was being built and this was combined during this period with arguments for and against greater access to the countryside. The mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932 is perhaps the most famous example of the direct action that was taken at this time.

In 1923 Thomas H Mawson (1861-1933) became the President of the TPI and, like Adams and other later TPI Presidents Patrick Abercrombie, Thomas Sharp and WG (Lord) Holford, was invited and accepted the offer to join the ILA in an honorary capacity. In Thomas Mawson's case he already had a thriving practice as a garden designer and planner of parks and other civic spaces throughout the UK as well as completed commissions in Europe and elsewhere. He was the obvious choice to become the Institute of Landscape Architects' first President with his reputation as a garden designer, town planner and now landscape architect secure and was duly invited to do so. He took on the role but was in poor health and, while he served his term, he did not actively participate in establishing the fledgling Institute.

'...urban design is 'located' somewhere between planning, architecture, landscape architecture and transport planning'...'The history of landscape architecture is a rich one and there has been much interchange with the structure of urban form'
extract 'Introducing Urban Design' by Greed, C & Roberts,M, 1998, p4

Urban design is not, of itself, a profession. Neither is urban design the preserve of any one profession or group. It is an important and relevant area of work for the modern landscape architect since the aesthetics of urban design is now linked to an agenda of sustainable growth and resilience in the face of both climate change and biodiversity loss. In encouraging the early adoption of green and blue infrastructure for new development, retrofitting older settlements and engaging with local communities, the landscape architect remains a key contributor, with others, to our urban futures.

Funding landscape in the 20th Century

"As the pressures upon these densely populated islands continue to mount it would seem that the role of the landscape architect in Britain is guaranteed into the distant future. The job is always changing, shifting as society and government redefine priorities/ ...

in the late 1970s the enthusiasm was for country parks and the funding followed the enthusiasm. New Towns and coal-tip reclamation were also major sources of employment. The 1980s saw the emphasis move on the one hand to the edge-of-town business park and on the other to the inner city, where environmental improvement and urban regeneration were the rallying cries. Garden Festivals caught the public imagination. Groundwork Trusts emerged as a third-way option between the public and private sectors and pioneered new ways of working more closely with communities/...

In the 1990s we/had urban development corporations and/ the Millennium Commission and the Heritage Lottery Fund".

(extract from Ecology, Community & Delight, Thomson, I.H, E & FN Spon, 2000, p.189)

Dr. Ian Thompson, Reader in Landscape Architecture,School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape, University of Newcastle

1997 to 2008: the Landscape Institute & the policy making agenda

In May 1997 a Labour government was elected with a huge majority and an agenda for change in society and the way we live in our cities.

For the Landscape Institute (LI), the two most relevant actions by the new government under the direction of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott were the commissioning of the Urban Task Force in 1998, chaired by Lord Rogers, leading to the publication of Towards an Urban Renaissance in the summer of 1999 and the creation of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment or CABE which was tasked with improving the quality the design of buildings and our environment.

Despite much lobbying, the Landscape Institute was not represented on the Urban Task Force although we were involved with CABE from its inception.

The LI was more successful when engaging with decision makers on the need for an in-depth review of public parks in the UK. Once the showpiece of many British towns and cities, urban parks were recognised as being in a state of almost terminal decline despite their value to urban life. The LI had produced a policy paper in 1992 on Urban Parks [Tom Turner, Robert Holden, John Merivale] and was subsequently invited to give evidence to the parliamentary select inquiry into town and country parks in 1998. Two years later 'the Urban White Paper 2000 - Our Towns and Cities - the Future', recommended the formation of an 'Urban Green Spaces Taskforce' with the LI fully represented on working groups and the steering committee chaired by a government minister. The report's aim was to develop "…a new national strategy for urban parks and green spaces …at the heart of our vision of liveable sustainable modern towns and cities." Included in the 52 recommendations was the formation of an 'urban green spaces agency' later to become Cabe Space.

Around the same time a movement developed among the principle professional institutes involved with design of the environment to collaborate in a co-ordinated overview of urban design leading to the formation of the Urban Design Alliance in December 1997 including the Landscape Institute, RIBA, RICS, RTPI, ICE, Urban Design Group and Civic Trust. Terry Farrell of the RIBA was the first chair followed by the RICS, ICE, RTPI and the LI represented by Tim Gale. UDAL's mission published in 1998 was "…to act as a forum for discussion, to foster greater awareness and to seek higher standards of urban design through education. To this end UDAL seeks to encourage collaboration between the public, private and voluntary sectors."

Action was based on this central focus of a forum for discussion bringing the design professions closer during a period of expansion and rising prosperity. An important legacy was the interactive tool Placecheck – a structured method of engaging with local communities.

These strands came together in 2003 with the formation of CABE Space, a specialist unit of CABE with the aim to…" bring excellence to the design and management of parks and public space in our towns and cities." A steering committee including Tim Gale from the Landscape Institute was set up and two new CABE commissioners Alan Barber and Jason Prior, were appointed with special responsibility for Space. Over the next eight years CABE Space operating within the wider CABE organisation established a body of evidence-based research, design advice and enabling.

The austerity-focussed coalition government elected in 2010 withdrew all funding to CABE which became part of the Design Council a charity.

Text by Tim Gale, PPLI; President LI 1999 – 2000; Chair of UDAL 2001; Steering Group Member of 'Urban Green Spaces Taskforce'; Member of steering group of CABE Space