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People come first

by Ruth Slavid

Photo ©: Agnese Sanvito

Think of a national park and you probably think first of the views, either in terms of photographs, published or amateur, or of what you saw the last time you visited one.

It is surprising therefore to see the photographs accompanying Jill White’s article on the MOSAIC project because these are photographs of national parks in which the people dominate. Surely this is inappropriate for a landscape journal, which should concentrate on the structure, conservation and treatment of the landscape, rather than on the people in it?

Not at all, and particularly not in the case of White’s article, where the people are not the normal white middle aged and middle class who predominate in the national parks. She is writing about a successful initiative to broaden that appeal. And it touches
on something that we should all remember,
and that is a motif running through this issue – that primarily landscape is for people. This is at the heart of the European Landscape Convention, but too easily forgotten.

George Bull’s article about liveable cities examines experiences from around the world that underlie the Landscape Institute’s decision to make this one of its main messages. Rather than talking about what landscape professionals do, it talks about the environments in which people can aspire to live – environments that landscape professionals are best placed to create.

Even the gloriously empty photograph by Jason Orton of the Essex coast, which is our ‘Bigger Picture’ in this issue, is from a publication that takes Essex as the exemplar of a new kind of landscape that we are creating as we move away from pre-conceived ideas of busy cities and pristine countryside to a more amorphous and compromised conception. The Thames estuary is the proposed site for the ‘Boris Island’ airport, and we look at the design of airports as they struggle to treat people as people and not just as ‘units’ who buy tickets and goods.

Botanic gardens, which one might think are all about the plants, are being rethought in terms of the ways that they can appeal to and engage the public. In some ways, they can be seen as the plant equivalent of museum collections, and we all know that museums are having to be rethought in the digital age and with new ways of learning – so why not botanic gardens as well?

The people involved with landscape are not only the consumers, the users, the customers or whatever you care to call them. There are the landscape professionals too – yes that means you. And in this issue Tim Waterman throws down the gauntlet and argues that professionals should think harder about how they present themselves. Landscape – it’s all about people.

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