By Ruth Slavid
© Tom Lee
One of the people I spoke to at June’s Landscape Institute conference was a mature student. Not a mature student in the sense we normally know, of somebody who embarks on their education at 25 or even 30, rather than immediately on leaving school. No, he was really mature, about to complete his masters just before his 50th birthday. And, encouragingly, he was already being contacted by potential employers.
What I found most cheering about this though was how much this man really loved his subject. He had had a couple of careers already when he took his son on a round of universities, to explore potential subjects. When the father visited a landscape architecture department, he saw a subject that brought together all his interests, and embarked on his own massive life change.
And he has had no regrets, despite the expected financial constraints. Not only does he love the subject as much as he thought he would, but he also found all the people who he encountered open and interested and engaged, in contrast to those he had met in his previous roles.
I think this experience has a lot of positive things to teach the profession – and not that most people should wait half a century before embarking on a career in landscape! Of course, the profession is making great efforts to attract more young people and so it should. But the love for the profession and the humanity of its practitioners are what everybody should aspire to – and what the conference pointed up.
It felt as if there had been a sea change in the profession. There are enormous difficulties and disappointments to deal with, but this conference felt outstandingly positive, both in the presentations that were given and in the mood of the delegates. The talk was of possibilities and not of problems. Nothing can compare to the excitement and stimulation of actually attending such an event, not least for the chance encounters and the ad hoc conversations. But for those who could not attend there are compensations. The LI has videoed all the main sessions, and this issue of the journal contains, as well as a conference report, pieces written by some of those who participated. In fact, there were so many of those pieces that we have had to defer some to future issues.
I hope that you find plenty to interest, inform and inspire you in these pieces, which range across countries and disciplines. But most of all, I hope that they make you realise that you really should have been there – and that you will put next year’s dates – 6 and 7 September at the University of Greenwich – into your diaries now.