Who is our Capability Brown for the next 300 Years

It is timely for me to reflect on the dilemma surrounding the future of urban parks and cities.  Yes it is the 300th Anniversary of the great ‘Capability” Brown:

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown changed the face of eighteenth century England, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making flowing lakes and serpentine rivers, a magical world of green

http://www.capabilitybrown.org/about-capability-brown

He set a foundation for urban parks that we still depended on and are still iconic such as Blenheim Palace.

I have written about his influence through my Design Legacy posts and recognised that Capability Brown has given us some very significant:

Foundational Design Legacy Principles

Building upon the works of Brown and Olmsted, there are six initial principles that we can build upon in terms of urban parks:

Principle 1: Natural Form – is the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space;

Principle 2: Blend – is “subordination” – the subordination of individual details to the whole;

Principle 3: Concealment – is concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself;

Principle 4: Sense: is design to enhance the sense of space;

Principle 5: Utility – is utility above all else

Principle 6: System – is where space is designed as part of a network

However the discussion that is occurring though out the world regarding “Who are our Capability Browns” of this century, is both concerning and with the rapid urbanisation occurring, needs to be a world wide conversation, now.  It is harder to leave a legacy for the next 300 years if we are constantly correcting the problems of the recent past.

I draw your attention to an thought starter from  (Associate Professor at Griffith University) –  Is idealism dead in city planning?

The issue we are faced with is not only the rapid changing nature of cities but how we “rethink” what design legacy is.  It is not just what “Capability” Brown did some 300 years ago.  The world has changed and our thinking needs to rapidly evolve.  I have spoke and written on this at very conceptual level (Design Legacy) and have formulated xx Foundational Principles that build on the legacy of Capability Brown and others.

The Foundational Design Legacy Principles – Summary

The Brown-Olmsted Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 1: Natural Form – is the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space;
  • Principle 2: Blend – is “subordination” – the subordination of individual details to the whole;
  • Principle 3: Concealment – is concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself;
  • Principle 4: Sense: is design to enhance the sense of space;
  • Principle 5: Utility – is utility above all else
  • Principle 6: System – is where space is designed as part of a network

The Monash Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 7: History – is the understanding of culture, history and significance of place;
  • Principle 8: Soul – is the creation of a “soul” in design that gives the place a sense of purpose and relevance;
  • Principle 9: Adaptation – is the creation of the ability of the space to adapt and change with time;

The O’Neill Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 10: Belief – is the understanding that communities and individuals can achieve achieve outstanding success;
  • Principle 11: Community Fabric – is that the fabric of the park and open space should reflect the in sense of what the community is! ;
  • Principle 12: Connections – is about making connections between all sectors of society and individuals and making “parks’ relevant to them;
  • Principle 13: Systems Rethink – is about exploring “parks’ as a broader component of a whole system and how it becomes the fabric of a city;
  • Principle 14: Leadership without Fear – is about considering ideas and innovations that not only challenge existing concepts but also change the concept.

It is important to expand our thinking and embrace the ever emerging placed based concepts and concepts such as 8-80Cities and inspirational thinkers such as Gil Penalosa.

The Questions is how will society in these ever changing times, encourage and nuture and even allow dramatic changes and shift in our (re)thinking?  The World Urban Parks organisation is constantly asking this “question” and encouraging it’s members to think differently and embrace the paradigm shift that is occurring but who will be the “Capability” Brown of this century?

A question we may not have to answer except to embrace the individuals who are already “rethinking” and “reshaping” the concepts of urban parks, the 21st Century “Capability” Brown may already be here, we just need to embrace them, accept them and heed their insights.

And in this modern era, how do we connect them together to even make a more dramatic impact.  The speed of change in the world as we move towards 2030 when over 75% of the world’s populations will be in Mega-cities, where is the mega response?  We don’t have the luxury of time that “Capability” Brown’s legacy has had.

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