Lockdown and all that

In week  twelve of our new life, confined to the house and gardens, I thought  that a blog, with the story of one of my trips around the world, or Europe anyway, might be a slight diversion and show how one’s  view, in any kind of design can be changed by the work of others.

The Cottage Garden

The Cottage Garden

Almost as soon as I was appointed as a Lecturer in Architecture at Strathclyde University in Glasgow in 1973, I was asked if I could devise a course in Landscape Architecture given my interest and study in that subject, twenty four lectures over two years of the curriculum. I was of course delighted and daunted at the same time, but almost simultaneously I saw an outline of a course in the subject in Aarhus in Denmark with seminars, and then twenty one days of travel and visits throughout  that country and briefly in Sweden. Why Denmark, well although there have been wonderful periods of historic  landscape design in France, think of Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Versailles and in Britain, Humphry Repton, Capability Brown and Gertrude Jekyll, in modern times most of the influential design ideas had, in my view, come from Denmark and/or Holland or the United States. So I asked if it would be possible take a place on the course at University expense.  It was very expensive, given the flights, accommodation, travel both by coach and ferry and an incredible range of lectures and seminars. To my astonishment permission was given, so off I went.

The gallery of Modern Art, Louisiana, Helsingborg, Denmark

The gallery of Modern Art, Louisiana, Helsingborg, Denmark

The first surprise was that there were only thirteen of us, some were professional Landscape Architects, some were students, some were Academics, some were Gardeners or already working as Garden Designers, and one or two were simply curious.  An even bigger surprise was that they ranged in ages by fifty years in some cases, and the bulk of the attendees were women; not all, as I had rather stupidly imagined were from Britain, but from Canada, Hawaii, USA, France, Germany, Australia and one wee Scot.  It made for varied and interesting interactions and created many friendships which in my case have lasted for forty years. The  accommodation was superb, the food wonderful, but best of all the visits and the conversations, or the more formal receptions with Danish Landscape practitioners, either in their own homes or the homes or developments of clients, including local authorities, parks, and Art Foundations. Some were considered historic ie, done in the last fifty years, but at many the designer and client were also present.  They included The Museum of Art at Louisiana,  Utzon’s  housing at Helsingor  and another dozen or more wonderful projects which, for me, had a life changing approach to landscape planning and architectural design.  A wonderful side effect was the collection of photographic slides which I hope had some impact on the design skills of the coming students, who were to listen to me raving about the subject for the next thirty years.  So why this subject now, I hear you ask, well in lockdown I have had the time to adjust the Woodland garden in front of our Cottage and the ”cottage” garden at the rear, but also with the Mill and Museum closed, I have begun to tidy up the thousands of slides languishing in a filing cabinet in the Museum office.  I took most of them myself so I can share them with you some other time if you would like, meantime have a look at the results of twelve weeks of jolly lockdown, a taste of green only landscape and a WELCOME BACK to those of you who have been so good to write and tell me that you enjoyed some of the other blogs, including the former student who wrote recently to say that some of the lectures on Landscape changed his life, well his design life anyway!

Rob Ferguson

The Woodland Garden, Townfoot

The Woodland Garden, Townfoot

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