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29 de gener de 2009

English obsession with gardening 'prevents improvement of public parks', claims Harvard professor

The British obsession with gardening is preventing the country from improving parks and public green spaces, according to a leading American landscape architect.


The Telegraph (Regne Unit) [Cr˛nica]


The British obsession with gardening is preventing the country from improving parks and public green

Harvard professor Martha Schwartz said the gardening culture has led to a profusion of beautiful private gardens.

But policy-makers do not attach so much importance to the aesthetic quality of streets, squares or parks because the public does not demand the same high standards in open areas that they attach to their own gardens, she claims.

She said the country needs to leave behind the romanticised ideology of the private garden, which is 'holding Britain back'.

Instead Britain must take a more realistic view of what can be achieved through planting trees and shrubs as well as redesigning open space with sculpture, access and amenities in the wider cityscape.

Prof Schwartz warned that if the culture of looking after our green spaces fails to be transferred from gardens to green spaces then London will be left behind other cities in Europe whilst run-down areas in smaller towns and cities in the UK will continue to suffer economic and social breakdown.

Prof Schwartz is responsible for transforming urban areas in the UK and Ireland, including Grand Canal Square in Dublin and Wood Wharf in London as well as various projects in the States.

She is currently on the shortlist to redesign King's Cross Square as part of the regeneration of the area.

She said a number of areas in London are in a state of neglect compared to private gardens.

For example, Shepherds Bush Green in west London is broken up by a large road and there are few amenities while many areas in smaller cities around the UK, that already suffer from deprivation, have few green spaces for the local community.

But although most people in Britain garden, they are not putting pressure on local authorities about green spaces.

'I think it's great that people want to express their individuality through their gardens,' she said. 'However, the romanticised ideologies attached to this are holding Britain's back from thinking about the wider issues that face their landscape. By this, I do not mean only the British countryside, but the space 'in between' buildings, which is a notion people in Britain struggle with.'

Prof Schwartz said the public must put pressure on those in authority by looking beyond their own gardens.

'A man's home is his castle, he is not particularly supportive of collectivism or building cities,' she added.

Prof Schwartz, who will be speaking at Kew Gardens early next month, was keen to point out that the US also has a problem in making urban areas attractive but she said Continental Europe was ahead of the UK.

'Other cities such as Amsterdam and Paris are beginning to embrace and develop this and are set to overtake London,' said Prof Schwartz, who redesigned the Exchange Square in Manchester after it was destroyed by the IRA in 1996.
'Living in London is fantastic because the city's leaders understand how to make the capital the best city in the world,' she said. 'But to progress it needs to continue attracting people who are well trained, educated but also have choice. With the shifting demographics and rising population, simply building more houses will not attract people to the city.

'The focus has to be on supporting life within the city, and that requires effective transportation links, good play areas for children, a robust green infrastructure, and well designed and interesting public spaces where people can unwind and relax.'

Guy Barter, head of gardening advice at the Royal Horticultural Society, agreed there was a problem but said it was more to do with funding than public pressure.

He said: 'Because of our climate and our culture we do garden very enthusiastically in a way that is not duplicated in other countries. But if you look at municipal green space there is question that lack of funding and resources mean they are not as people would like them.'


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