2016 is the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the man often credited with changing the face of eighteenth-century English landscape and as part of these celebrations, a unique competition offered students and professional landscape architects the opportunity to walk in the great man’s creative footsteps.
1) What kind of landscape would Brown have designed if he were living today?
2) How would you create a contemporary landscape following his design principles and building on what he designed?
3) How can you make Brown and his landscapes meaningful to audiences today?
These were some of the questions posed by the design brief for the competition, hosted by Natural England, and run by the Landscape Institute. It aimed to stimulate engagement with Capability Brown’s work and practice, while also inspiring current practitioners to incorporate some of the valuable lessons Brown has to offer into their own work.
This was not simply a theoretical exercise, but one in which the winners could influence the design and layout of a real site: Moccas, part of a Grade II* registered park and garden near Hereford, a Brown influenced historic designed landscape, that also incorporates Moccas National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). A 20th century conifer plantation across the site has recently been felled with the aim of restoring it to wood pasture and parkland habitat.
As Ceryl Evans, Director of the Capability Brown Festival 2016 explains: “The aim was not to create a pastiche landscape, but for participants to produce a contemporary, multi-functional landscape, inspired by Brown and in harmony with the rich natural and cultural heritage of the existing site and its surroundings.”
The winners of the Capability Brown Festival Design Ideas Competition are listed below and will receive their prizes at The Landscape Institute Awards Ceremony on 26 November at The Brewery, London.
Natural England’s Leslie Pearman, Senior Advisor Heritage Estates, said: “The winning design ideas give Natural England a clear picture of how to extend the ancient tree habitat of the medieval deer park, making the best of the fabulous views and historic and archaeological features in a way that will inspire people to enjoy the site for a further 300 years.”
– Matthew Wigan Associates, described by the judges as: ‘A very detailed analysis of the historic influences connecting with the concepts of the Beautiful and Picturesque, with practical scope for sensitive wood pasture and habitat creation.’
– Colvin and Moggridge Landscape Architects, described by the judges as: ‘Packed with detailed analysis, backed up by an array of design ideas to complement this site and inspire others.’
– Jo Phillips and Owen Byrom – Manchester Metropolitan University – Moccas Skyscape. Described by the judges as: ‘A striking concept that connects people with trees and the sky. A design with a strong spatial structure which optimises the emotional effect of openness and enclosure and takes advantage of the available views.’
– Leopold Taylor and Naomi Rubbra – Edinburgh College of Art – Moccas Hill Wood: the contemporary Brown? Described by the judges as: ‘Work of a very high quality, full of interest and invention and beautifully presented in a style redolent of the 18th century .…an enchanting masterplan which reflects the hand of the contemporary Brown.’
– Harrie Carr, Emma Henderson, Emma Thompson, Kit Bowen – Edinburgh College of Art – Rewilding Capability Brown
– Anne-Charlotte Lee – ACL Paysages, France – Moccas Hill Wood – A Vernacular Hybrid
– Matt Machouki – Leeds Beckett University – Mocccas Hill Park
Tree and shrub planting will be carried out at Moccas Park and Garden in 2016 to coincide with the year of the Capability Brown Festival and tercentenary of Brown’s birth.
The Capability Brown Festival 2016 is managed by the Landscape Institute and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.