Landscape Institute – its viable future?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Landscape Institute – its viable future?

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    Lucy Wilson

    Just curious to know the thoughts of other members on the ongoing financial issues at the LI and the proposed solutions; particularly the future security of the Library and Archive, which still appears to hang in a precarious balance.

    I have to admit I’m one of those who would still appreciate an accurate and true breakdown of what members get for their fees. The Library seems to be one of the most useful resources offered by the LI.

    To sell it off as a knee-jerk reaction to a serious financial situation which, to be frank, should never have been allowed to escalate to the level it has, is plain daft. It would also be against the wishes of the majority of members who voted on the issue at the recent EGM. The short term cost savings would be minimal when viewed against the scale of the problem, the long term effect on the future of the Institute, goodwill amongst its members and its professional standing are all questionable.

    Musings on a postcard please.

    Tim Waterman

    Hi Lucy,

    I posted the article below on Talking Landscape under the title “EGM mired in misunderstanding and mistrust”. It’s a bit long, but maybe it will help a bit:

    “Last week’s Extraordinary General Meeting of the Landscape Institute’s membership was a demoralising and sorry affair, with discussion revolving around intractable absolutes based upon ‘principle’. Alarming, truly, when the key strengths of our profession are the ability to see and evaluate context and nuance and to frame a long-term vision.

    It is particularly vexing that this misunderstanding should come at a point when the Landscape Institute has finally been showing real focus and ambition, based in the knowledge that the answers to the pressing issues of our day, such as climate change and the insecurity of our food supply are to be found in the landscape. Not once in the EGM did either the membership or the Institute staff think to evaluate the bigger picture and the LI’s long-term goals.

    The meeting consisted almost entirely of a discussion based in the erroneous assumption that the LI seeks to dissolve the library and archive – the intention, rather, seems to be to relocate both, but still under the aegis of the LI. I have read back through communications from the LI, and not once was there mention of putting it all in the bin. It came as a shock, then, to spend a depressing evening discussing empty conjecture. And the rancour was in full flow – one member actually compared the relocation of the archive to the Kristallnacht. This is reckless, dangerous hyperbole that shows an utter lack of context.

    Further, mention was made of the RIBA’s recent relocation of their archive to the V&A – -as a bad example. I think it sounds delightful to have our profession’s patrimony lodged in such an august institution. Can we please consider this possibility? I would be happy to make a small donation towards the cause.

    I am utterly dedicated to the idea that our profession holds many of the keys to a better future – that building architecture is the profession of the last, often disastrous century and that holistic, large-scale and wide-ranging work in landscape urbanism, architecture, planning and management could well save the planet. I think that those greats represented in the archive would agree, especially Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, whose “Landscape of Man” points directly to such scope and possibility.

    I beg of the membership for cool heads to prevail. Can we frame this discussion in terms of the future and in terms of the most pressing priorities both for the profession and for the planet? Compromise will clearly be necessary, and we must base any future discussion upon clear understanding and communication.”

    Gabino Carballo

    I will give you my point of view, as a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute.

    You may are aware of the fact that our Institute is virtually bankrupt and in urgent need to move premises. We are penniless and homeless so to speak. We can now refer to it as the “Landscape Destitute” quite freely.

    The official explanation given so far is that a “sudden drop in advertising income” is to be blamed for the situation. I do not accept this explanation, as I have been aware of the poor way the Li has been managed and I have been waiting for something like this to come through for a long time. To state my case, I have gone through the last year’s accounts first and, later, I have gone over the last five years accounts.

    We are bound to lose our 75 year old archive and we have had to let go a number of employees to make up for what it seems to me excessive and unjustifiable expenditure. I consider these redundancies unfair, as our employees are being made to pay by the LI’s Council Members gross oversight and incompetence. I believe that the LI COuncil has enganged in attempts at concealling the true origins of of our financial situation, which is due to not properly detailed and justified expenditure at the tune of 200,000 in one single year.

    The Institute’s response so far has been to ignore me. I have been banned from all the Landscape Institute’s Forums and my password access to the Professional Directory no longer works and cannot get in touch with other members and have my views heard.

    All my postings related to the true origins of our troubles have been removed. In spite of some members request for my messages to be reinstated and be allowed to explain my views, I have received no confirmation from the Institute on what has become to me an issue of free speech.

    The Landscape Institute has become one of the last refuges of the WAMPSIS or “White And Mediocre Public School IdiotS”. Their contempt for Members is legendary and their inability to run our house properly is for all to see.

    I have now formally written to the President of the LI, specifically asking whether he is aware of any form of wrongdoing and conflict of interest with regards to the use of funds at the Institute’s disposal, and I outline my scepticism with regards to the reasons given for our bankruptcy so far.

    You can download my views from or here.

    The official reply up to now has been that my letter is “receiving attention”.

    I am trying to get the Charity Commission to raise this issue with the Institute, even though they seem to be reluctant to do so.

    There are three points that I feel are essential:

    1. We are professionals bound by a code of conduct we are supposed to uphold. We cannot accept deception, misinformation, mismanagement and/or cover ups to sustain a slim facade of respectability at our own professional body because it simply reflects on us as a whole. It is ethically repugnant and morally wrong to pretend otherwise, particularly when we are asking young people to join the profession.

    2. My research shows that the LI suffers from endemic mismanagement and, very possibly, corruption as well. It is not just my opinion, it is shared by other, better qualified, individuals that have been able to read through it. We cannot tolerate and sustain the loss of our archives because of individual wrong doing. We cannot make people redundant to pay for our oversight and lack of corporate sense of ethics or responsibility.

    3. Whatever mistakes I may have made in putting my ideas accross, a clear fact remains: the LI has attempted to mislead and misinform its members regarding the origins of its financial situation. Those responsible must face their responsibilities and resign. Failure to achieve so equals perpetuating and vindicating their actions for the future.

    One more issue to consider is our attitude and outlook in life as professionals. For a very long time, I have felt that our profession has lost its way and “raison d’être”. We are flying on very low expectations and without a very clear long term mission and vision for our role in society. I am not surprised the Architect Will Alsop took issue with us, because the truth is that we deserve a good battering for rewarding incompetence and mediocrity all the way through the professional ladder, particularly large practices. We occupy one of the lowest levels in the Consultancy industry and our influence in contemporary culture and thought is next to nil.

    The way nearly 5000 members of this institute are behaiving (mostly keeping their heads in the sand) is rather troubling to me and it reflects a deep erosion of the British society’s values I once learnt.

    It seems that anything goes now: lying, grabbing money that is not yours, avoiding work and responsibility, and above all, keeping quiet in the face of blatant misconduct and brazen dishonesty. It has all become a massive “I’m all right, Jack” one size fits all reflex, where the main goal is to keep your head low, avoid rocking the boat and go unnoticed.

    I no longer recognize the society where I once learnt just the oppossite values, rather distant from my own country’s, by the way.

    I cannot do much more than what I have done so far. Now, it is up to the other 4999 members to decide what the future is going to be like. The choice is clear and simple to me, but they could just say that “I am from Barcelona” and joke their way out of this, with very few remarkable individual exceptions.

    I have already outraged quite a few LI Members by suggesting that if Drake had counted on Landscape Architects to sink the Armada, the British would all be singing “Que Viva España” and sleeping siesta in the mud by now.

    Mostly, it seems that many are happy to be taken for a ride and acknowledge that even though foul play is a distinct possibility, it is better to keep it quiet to avoid “disrepute”. I find this unacceptable.

    I hope that my views will not be censored yet again.

    Gabino Carballo CMLI

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