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Bringing public spaces to life – James Corner gives the Landscape Institute’s annual Jellicoe lecture

One of the world’s leading landscape architects, James Corner, delivered the Landscape Institute’s annual Jellicoe lecture on Thursday 22 October to an invited audience at Reading University.

In a stirring lecture, James Corner made a passionate plea for nature to inspire and capture the imagination drawing on his experience designing the South Park at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the High Line in New York. At the heart of his lecture was the idea of bringing public spaces to life, creating theatrical spaces for people to interconnect and intertwining structure with nature to create human scale green spaces.

The example of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park highlights what can be achieved through landscape architecture. The regeneration brought back to life an underachieving part of London with a park at its centre. Corner hailed it the most important landscape master plan in 50 years and the Park has engaged the local community with 90% of visitors coming from within a 3 mile radius of the Park.

Corner outlined New York’s High Line which has transformed  an unusual 1.2-mile long abandoned elevated railway into a new public open space and linear park along the west side of Manhattan.  It is universally recognised as an important and distinctive asset to the city, attracting over four million visitors a year. It is a new model for the ‘greening’ of the urban environment and has re-imagined an industrial relic.

Noel Farrer, President of the Landscape Institute, said:

‘Geoffrey Jellicoe was the leading landscape architect of his generation and it was fitting that this year’s lecture was given by James Corner who is a design leader today and inspiration for everyone.  I say this because his message speaks to decision makers and clients as much as to the profession of landscape architecture to which he belongs. The decision makers who value him have benefitted through the delivery of distinct sustainable places that encourage social dynamics but perhaps benefit most not for his works undoubted transformational qualities but that the projects catalyse regeneration, private investment and increased desirability and values.

‘James propounds an uncompromising landscape led approach and shows how it is this that is central to the success of place, town and city making and reshaping.  All landscape architects I spoke to after felt a little taller, a little more relevant, and hopefully all felt a little bolder in the next work conversation they will be having’.

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