Loading Events

« All Events


Organised by the Friends of the Landscape Archive at Reading (FOLAR)
April 30 - June 11

Booking Details

Booking recommended (Eventbrite link coming soon)


April 30
June 11
Event Category:


The Museum of English Rural Life
The Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road
Reading, Berkshire RG1 5EX United Kingdom
+ Google Map
Photo of Green Park for the FOLAR designing landscapes seminar series

DESIGNING LANDSCAPES FOR THE PEOPLE – from the Clapham omnibus to the Royal Parks

This series of lunchtime talks will span the early 20c UK approach to city planning, civic design, parks and gardens, encompass the formation of the UK professional body of landscape architects, the evolving Royal Parks, the impact of corporate landscapes, and profile a contemporary example of the Green Business Park in Reading.

Thursdays, 1-2pm
Booking recommended (but not essential)

Please note that due to the coronavirus situation, all events at The MERL are cancelled until the end of April. This will affect the first in this series. We will review the situation regarding events beyond the end of April in due course. Read our full statement here.

30 April: Michael Gilson – Richard Sudell: Suburban Garden Pioneer and Forgotten Man of Landscape Architecture

In summer 2019, the planning committee of Westminster City Council rejected a scheme for a major redevelopment of the large apartment complex at Dolphin Square, Pimlico, London, citing, as one reason, the need to preserve the historically important courtyard garden at its heart. Campaigners seeking to halt the redevelopment had succeeded in earlier persuading Historic England to register the garden as a Grade II landmark of interest. The garden is the last wholly intact example of the work of Richard Sudell (1892-1968), early twentieth-century suburban garden pioneer, founder member of the Institute of Landscape Architects and a man largely forgotten to garden and landscape history, his almost evangelical role in inspiring a newly situated working class to embrace open space neglected. Yet study of the life and times of Sudell brings rich reward for the garden historian seeking grassroot evidence of how the tumultuous social and political upheavals arising from the two World Wars manifested themselves in a new battle for definitions of landscape.

7 May: Tom Turner – Geddes, McHarg and urbanism

Geddes and McHarg represent a key strand in landscape architecture, quite distinct from the strand that comes from garden history and design. Patrick Geddes was the first European to call himself a ‘landscape architect’ in Frederick Law Olmsted’s sense. He was also, in Tom’s view, the most important town and regional planning theorist of the twentieth century and the author of a great book, on Cities in Evolution.
Ian McHarg, also a Scot and also born near the Highland Boundary Fault, was greatly influenced by Geddes and drew upon his ideas when writing the most widely read landscape architecture book of the twentieth century: Design with nature (1961).
The work of Geddes and McHarg is now a central strand in the most promising approach to landscape and ecological planning in the twenty-first century (so far): landscape urbanism.

14 May: Richard Flenley – Succession and Survival; The Royal Parks in 100 years of change

This illustrated talk looks at how The Royal Parks have held a relatively steady course through the 20th century while all around has witnessed dramatic changes in style, capacity, intensity, social and culture diversity. But masked beneath this “steady state”, the Parks have frequently been battered and have had to adapt and adjust, often to resist, and to rise again to challenges and expectations. The talk will review the 8 constituent Parks, their differences of origin and design styles, and what they still represent to us of our landscape and gardens heritage . We shall look at the challenges brought in by WW1, the adaptations in shifting from Royal to wholly public patronage and the ever-threatening accumulation of layers, hard surfaces and artefacts. The 21st century now brings its own changes of agenda with greater pressures on use, resourcing, funds and even brand……. ecology coming to the fore; horticulture perhaps going backwards ? Yet the Parks survive …. England expects …..

4 June: Tony Edwards – Green Park, Reading – 30 years of work in progress

Green Park Reading is a 190 acre business park, conceived in the early 1980s and on a site spanning three planning authorities. It had poor access and comprised amongst other things a civic amenity tip and low quality agricultural land in the flood plain.
Following the appointment of Foster Associates as architect-master planners, the design team created a landscape masterplan to provide a richly biodiverse and green working environment for people and wildlife, incorporating 40 acres of flood storage and additional flood water conveyance. Changing the contours of land, forming new waterbodies, and forming of buildings plots in a new naturalistic landscape is of course in the tradition of Brown and Repton!

One of the most significant aspects of the initial works was the formation of 130 acres of development platforms above the 1:200 year flood level. Water levels were monitored for over a year before development plot and path levels were finalised but paths have subsequently been raised by 0.5m as a result of climate and water regime variations over the past 30 years.
Development has been continuous since 1996: one large plot is currently in the course of construction and five others will follow. Despite three changes of project ownership, the same landscape architects have remained involved for over 30 years combining design responsibility with ongoing management. The project has a number of awards including the Wildlife Trust’s Biodiversity Benchmark –the only business park in the UK to hold this award.

11 June: Helena Chance – Chocolate Heaven to Tech Nirvana: corporate landscapes from Bournville to Google

How are gardens and parks used in workplaces to inspire and support the people who work there? How beneficial are they to corporate identity and profit? Helena Chance will talk about some of the gardens provided by tech companies such as Google and Apple, and will discuss how we can better understand them by looking at the past. She will examine the landscapes of some of the British and American corporate giants of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Cadbury and the National Cash Register Company (NCR), the motives behind their making and the role of design and designers in their success. Helena’s talk will be based on her recently published book The Factory in a Garden. A History of Corporate Landscapes from the Industrial to the Digital Age (Manchester University Press).

Organised by the Friends of the Landscape Archive at Reading (FOLAR) 

The Archive of the Landscape Institute is held at The MERL