Is the Landscape Institute dying?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Is the Landscape Institute dying?

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    Gabino Carballo

    I would like to post here this text by Tom Turner, of the University of Greenwich, as sent to all valid uk landscape practices email addresses known:

    —– Forwarded message from —–
    Date: Fri, 22 May 2009 20:52:53 +0100
    Subject: Is the Landscape Institute dying?

    Dear Landscape Architect

    Please will you circulate this email to your colleagues.

    The Landscape Institute has lost its Financial Reserves. Its officers have lost the confidence of the membership. Council hopes to dispose of our library and archive, which contains important documents from Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and others. Next week, I hear, there will be further exposés of LI problems in Horticulture Week and Building Design. Brian Clouston is taking a leading role in organizing an EGM to get our senior Council members to stand down. Is the LI dying? Too many landscape architects now regard it as an expensive irrelevance.
    We can’t be bothered to do anything about it.

    Let us remember why the LI came into existence and what it could do.

    The aim was to benefit society, to benefit the landscape and to benefit each other. These are public goods. The Institute’s finest hour was under the presidency of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe. With a volunteer secretariat (his wife!) Jellicoe produced a series of policy papers which created the jobs we are all doing today. He explained to governments how landscape architects could help make New Towns and advise on other aspects of public policy. This led directly to the first salaried posts for landscape architects and to the first generation of landscape practices. Derek Lovejoy, for example, got his first job through Jellicoe’s activism.

    • If you wonder why landscape architects are so weak in Spain, it is because there is no Spanish Landscape Institute
    • If you wonder why landscape architects are so strong in the USA, it is because the ASLA is such an effective organization
    • If you wonder why the landscape professions have made so much progress in Germany and Sweden, it is because their professional bodies were able to influence government policy

    One explanation for the UK Landscape Institute’s problems is that our offices have had a very busy decade. We have been working long hours, surviving deadlines and rushing about. We have had little time or energy for attending meetings and, as the Moderator of the Church of Scotland remarked, people congregate less than formerly – except for music festivals and football matches.

    But we now have other ways to meet, exchange views and debate ideas freely: through the web. Landscape Architects have their own space in the Talking Landscapes Forum. It has far too many comments by me in proportion to those by others. We need new voices, new ideas, and renewed convictions. So please join up and take part. There is a great need for younger members, older members and student members to express their views. As Benjamin Franklyn remarked, when signing America’s Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

    If the LI is going to be hung – let’s put up a good fight.

    Best wishes to all

    Tom Turner

    University of Greenwich, a charity and company limited by guarantee,
    registered in England (reg. no. 986729). Registered office:
    Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9LS.

    Gabino Carballo
    Gabino Carballo

    More on this. Boring, isn’t it?

    Mr Williamson,

    Following Mr Thorne’s publication in our Forum a private message concerning several confidential and delicate matters regarding the situation at the Landscape Institute, I would like to bring up a number of points.

    Firstly, I must commend Mr Thorne’s courage and regret his foolishness. I believe that he has at least acknowledged my communications with you all for first time in public, and has allowed my views to be expressed in the Forum, if in a strangely back-handed way.

    His behaviour exemplifies the decadence of our current Institute, where past Presidents care to dignify messages that others would have found both distasteful and delicate. He concedes that he hasn’t even finished reading the message, which is telling. The fact that he is so ready to go into the gutter is also telling.

    You would excuse me if I consider this extraordinary display of double standards at the hands of someone who ought to be a respected figure in the LI. It seems that you will only publicise my messages to you for the purposes of public defamation of my character and little more.

    I am afraid that Mr Thorne has played well the role I believe several past Presidents of the LI have played in recent years: that of an “useful idiot”. I am afraid that I cannot extend the charitable usage of the term “useful” to your tenure.

    Since you seem to be more than ready to breach common sense rules and decency (not to mention the law) regarding the publication of private messages containing confidential matters, you will excuse me if I do the same with a degree of impunity.

    Firstly, I would to query the reasons why my lead for potential financial patronage and advice by a relevant financial institution has not been followed up in any meaningful way. The head of this family’s business is a well know patron of the art of Landscape Architecture and I am confident that he would have responded with interest to such as request for assistance. I believe that, at the very least, you owe me a summary report on the course of action taken by Mr McCapra on this matter and its results. A thank you letter attached to it would be nice too.

    Secondly, it has been brought to my attention that Mr Watkins has apparently been involved in negotiations to raise a loan in the region of £250,000 in order to redevelop Barnard Mews. I would like to receive a detailed statement from Mr Watkins on this point, for members clarification. I am in possession of a written document with details of location, date and people who may appear to have been party to the conversation where this possibility may have been disclosed, so please notice I am ready to submit it to the courts, should the matter reach that much further. I suggest that you may want to be very careful in the wording of any statements concerning this matter.

    You can also use this opportunity to clarify why Mr Watkin’s £10,000 expenses for 2007-08 have been placed under an Item reserved for staff costs. Is he a staff member or is he one of those brave volunteers that you boast so much about?

    Thirdly, I am the unhappy recipient of a number of files and documents which appear to contain details of the Landscape Institutes’s affairs. According to these documents, it would appear that that, as far as March 2008 the LI was well aware of an Income Shortfall in the region of £110,000 for the year 2007-08, where £1,982,000 was the Budgeted income. This income shortfall is roughly the amount to be discounted to come up with the Financial Statement accounts presented to Members as late as November 2008 – £1,879,263

    The shortfall in income may be detailed as follows:

    Minus £65,000 for Gift Aid

    Minus £40,000 for Events

    Minus £20,000 for Advertising

    Minus £15,000 for sale of Publications

    As you can see, Advertising does not feature very highly in the reasons for the shortfall in income, which would appear to contradict earlier statements from the Landscape Institute. I would need you to confirm its validity or not, whatever may be the case.

    Strangely, in spite of the shortfall, the same document predicts a overall Income Budget for 2008-09 in the region of 2,285,000, which equals an increase in income in the region of £419,000 for the 2008-09 financial year. Unlikely, to say the least. It may well be a mistake or a forgery. I would beg you to enlighten me on this matter as you appear to budget the Gift Aid for an amount of £20,000, already. Which would mean that you were fully aware of its reduction at the time of budgeting for the year, early in 2008.

    With regards to Expenditure, it would appear that in March 2007-08, the LI was aware of an increase over Budgeted Expenditure for the 2007-08 in the region of £26,000 above the expected £1,979,000. This is quite removed from the amount presented in the Financial Statement for the year – £2,100,130.

    That is to say that in March 2008, the LI would have been aware of a drop in income in the region of £110,000 plus a increase in expenditure in the region of £26,000, which equals some £136,000 deficit for the year. A warning shot, I would think.

    However, by November 2008, the shortfall has become £220,000, which would take the overall expenditure to £2,236,000. Considerably more than budgeted and considerably more than the LI’s executive committee appears to have been aware of since March 2008.

    Adding the £87,000 apparently misspent (by an officer that could not sign cheques, I am told) in 2008, would roughly come up with the desired final figure for expenditure, but would not clarify why the Membership has not been properly informed about events leading up to the latest EGM, when McCapra pushed for budget cuts in the region of £900,000. These budgets cuts appear to be firstly, excessive in relation to the LI’s actual financial position and, secondly, designed to mislead Members from the real issues that originated them.

    These figures in combination with other pieces of evidence bring up more questions that answers, and I would be indebted if you wrote to me as a matter of urgency to clarify my confused mental state. It would appear that my forcefully expressed views are at least partially right, namely:

    1. that excessive and potentially undue expenditure is at the root of our financial problems.
    2. That LI has known about this situation for considerable time.
    3. the problems related to our situation have their origins in the financial year 2008-09.
    4. The budget cuts required have been largely overstated with a view to mislead the membership.
    4. That the LI is or has been involved in some attempt at launching a redevelopment plan for Barnard Mews behind members backs.

    In the light of these personal beliefs and the supporting evidence, I would be grateful if you would reply to me within five working days with a detailed explanation, with all required documents required to back your assertions up, such as Management Budgets (in all their versions), Executive Committee meeting minutes, etc as well as all the previous documentation already requested by myself in my communications with you.

    Please feel free to correct any mistakes I may have made in my message. I am open to an informed and properly backed up reply that may prove me entirely wrong. In fact, I would prefer it that way.

    Should you fail to come up with a detailed and satisfactory explanation, properly backed up by evidence, I will be I will be collating these figures in detail, along with other relevant information in my possession, concerning instances of potentially undue expenditure and dubious management decisions at the LI.

    This information will be shaped as a Financial report, for the purposes of handing it over to the LI first, to my solicitors second and the members later. On my solicitors advice, I will consider calling for the Police to intervene, as it would appear that relevant individuals in the LI are involved in a conspiracy to commit a fraud and default in their financial obligations, as well as to continue to take potential advantage of the position within the Institute.

    All this may be elegantly averted by a timely succession of apologies and resignations and a full disclosure of the facts to Members in the next few days. I require no personal apology or personal redress, but I do require you all to put an end to rumours and potential defamation of those willing to challenge the story peddled so far.

    Please do not act hastily, as your reputations may be considerably more damaged than mine. I will be reporting to the press within a week, should you fail to reply to this message to my satisfaction.

    Overall, I suspect that none of you lot have ever read Swift. You could have gathered considerable insight from the scene where Gulliver urinates upon the Queen’s palace to save it from fire, which results in the Queen decreeing that public urination be banned and that her rooms be left in state of disrepair, as a testimony to her disgust. A telling tale.

    You would have also learnt that “A lie does not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure your neighbour.”

    I guess that prefer to have to read legal texts instead of English literature. As this farce does not appear to have a happy ending for any of us, I suggest that you start reading as soon as possible.

    Gabino Carballo CMLI

    James Conway

    Hi Tom … I agree with you, but also felt that the Landscape Institute fees were a touch out of balance. RE no Spanish Institute there ‘is’, I was a member from 2003 – 2011 … I’ve just stumbled across this post as (since moving here and becoming a legal citizen) I’m now trying to join the Brasilian Institute for LA

    We can only ‘do’ what we can – but fight we still are 😉

    I hope I find you in a better place 5 years after this post – drop me a line sometime.


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