20th Century Landscape
Michael Ellison (Tarmac Ltd.)


Nature Takes Over Derelict Land

©Michael Ellison

This is a range from Holland, the UK and then finally the USA, just to point out the significant approach that landscape design has to offer late 20th century societies. The first one is in Delft, in Holland, which Allan Ruff in the University of Manchester used as the basis for his book "Holland & the ecological experiment". This shows the very straightforward approach of leaving land semi-derelict alter the builders had moved oil" and allowing the natural elements to bring in seeds, bird-droppings, wind-blown seeds and so on. The result is an astonishing verdure which, being very close to high density welfare blocks of flats in Holland, was seen as an extremely economic way of providing a good green setting untrammelled by any of the influences of traditional landscape thinking. As you can see, it is very rough indeed but it's full of bird life, insect life, and it gives an enormous amount of pleasure to the local population. However, it has, in recent years, grown into such a jungle, that very slight modifications to the access and clearings for picnics have been made so that it too becomes more usable, as babies and toddlers turn into teenagers.


University Of York, Heslington Hall, By RMJM

©Michael Ellison

Another good example, this time from the UK, of where the burning social reform zeal of the post-war period, say 1945 to the 70s, has been taken up by the design of new universities. This is the University of York. The landscape master plan that was by Frank Clark and very early on in its career as a landscape, I worked with Robert Matthews Johnson Marshall as the in-office landscape architect. The first of the slides of York shows the existing topiary, hopelessly overgrown, the monstrous shapes being re-trimmed to match the needs of the headquarters of the university at Heslington Hall. And very elegantly sitting in front of the dark yews is a sculpture on loan from the Henry Moore Foundation. The principle here was to offer a transition of steps and gentle fountains before hitting the main thrust of the new university prefabricated buildings sitting on a reworked 19th century landscaped park.

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