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Gold Medal

Winner: Robert Carson, MBE

The Landscape Institute has awarded a Gold Medal for lifetime achievement to the Northern Ireland-based landscape architect Robert Carson.

Born in Ballymoney, County Antrim in 1928, Carson initially studied architecture and then town planning at Sheffield and Edinburgh respectively.  Working in practice made him aware of a lack of communication between disciplines and led him to study landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania under Ian McHarg, some of whose lectures he had attended at Edinburgh College of Art. 

Carson returned to Northern Ireland in 1962, working as architect and planner (with the added bonus of landscape architecture) in practice and as lecturer, Planning Appeals Inspector, and consultant advisor to the Northern Ireland government. With colleagues Jim Fehily, Philip Shipman and Charles Smart, he established the Society of Landscape Architects in Ireland: the foundation of the profession in Ireland. He consolidated his government advice in the pioneering publication Landscape Aspects of Road Design (1969). 

In 1971, Carson became a partner at multidisciplinary practice, Ferguson McIlveen.   Astutely, he also retained ability to practice independently as Robert Carson Landscape Architects, which additionally enabled him (with a team of more than 15 landscape architectural trainees under his professional tutelage) to provide landscape architectural consultancy services to new audiences, stimulating consideration of landscape architectural concerns of good site planning and design principles. 

His legacy of projects and ideas is a striking testament to a fully integrated design approach.  For example, Carrickfergus Marine Garden in County Antrim (late 1960s) and Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra in County Down (1976) are integrated architectural, transport and planning schemes whose design vision and quality endure and function well today.  Carson’s holistic consideration of site planning and detail set standards that remain a benchmark of excellence and continued throughout his practice.  Examples include the significant engineering, town centre and public services projects of University of Ulster campus at Jordanstown in County Antrim (1982), Antrim Area Hospital (1984), Lagan Weir in Belfast (1994), and Hamilton Town Square in Scotland (1999). 

Carson has spent more than 50 years dedicated to the profession.  He has fostered the careers of many landscape architects, who have themselves gone on to establish practices and become distinguished members of the profession. It is no exaggeration to say that his influence has been felt directly or indirectly by all in Northern Ireland who have practiced in the design of the built environment. 

Carson has long been recognised locally as the pre-eminent landscape architect and father of the landscape profession in Northern Ireland.  The award of the Landscape Institute Gold Medal is a long-overdue acknowledgement of his work and his importance to the profession of landscape architecture not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland, the UK and much further afield. 

Photo © 6: Barret Doherty

Winner: John Hopkins

John Hopkins died in January 2013 at the age of 59. At the time of his death he was Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 

From 1998 to 2007 he was a Partner at LDA Design and from 2007 – 2011 Project Director for the Olympic Delivery Authority, London responsible for parklands and public realm.

When the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was unveiled, it was greeted with real amazement. Quality, biodiversity and sustainability were central to the project and its beauty was beyond anything the public had dreamt could be achieved on that site. But the park was not a surprise to those who knew John Hopkins and his work. As the man appointed to select and lead the team that developed the site, the Queen Elizabeth park realised his vision of what landscape architects could achieve. 

Neil Mattinson, senior partner at LDA Design, paid tribute to John in the Spring edition of Landscape: ‘One of his uncompromising objectives was not only to create a park that would look stunningly beautiful but also one that must work hard in terms of delivering biodiversity and sustainability and become an essential piece in the jigsaw of the social infrastructure of East London. We are fortunate and immensely gratified to know that John was able to see and share with us a number of “firsts”; for the Olympic Parklands in terms of planning, design, biodiversity and sustainability.

‘As a client, John was a “critical friend”, steering and engaging the team to deliver the best work we had ever done. Nothing short of excellence would be good enough. The following piece, in John’s own words, is a fitting reminder for all landscape architects of our fundamental raison – d’être.

“What we achieve, as landscape architects, is bound only by our personal and collective limitations. Our personal and collective moral authority and power will come from a fully fashioned environmental ethic supported by creativity, technical expertise, political awareness and eloquence. We have a critical vested interest in the creation of good places where we can dwell and where we and many future generations may live ... for we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams ... we are the movers and the shakers of the world forever, it seems.” ’

For his leadership, achievements and for providing the vision from which landscape architects gain constant inspiration, John Hopkins is awarded the Landscape Institute Gold Medal.

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