Landscape and Power

Changing technologies result in new forms of infrastructure and, as designers, we need to accommodate these new typologies within our existing landscapes. The works of the landscape architect Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) always amaze me. Her understanding of the scale and proportion of space, materials and planting resulted in wonderful landscapes, whether private gardens or large-scale infrastructural projects. After reading her book ‘Land and Landscape’  and spending long hours researching her plans in the archives of the Landscape Institute, it was a great experience to visit one of her key infrastructural projects, Eggborough Power Station. The matured planting gives exceptionally interesting views, sometimes exposing, sometimes hiding the buildings themselves. Colvin’s carefully created ‘vues’ sometimes deceive our spatial understanding of the real height and dimension of the cooling towers that she had used as ‘eye-catchers’.  The intricate links between planting, pylons and transmission lines add another dimension to the space: bringing energy transmission down to a personal scale.  Colvin expected that [o]ur power stations, oil refineries, factories and water-works must take their place, in time, with the pyramids, castles and temples of the past. Perhaps they may succeed, visually at least, if something more than sheer materialism enters into their making. Some care for their effect on their surroundings – at least some simple recognition of man’s place in nature and of his responsibility to the land and to the future – is needed” .[1] Her achievements in Eggborough speak for themselves.

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[1]Colvin, B. (1970) Land and Landscape (London: John Murray, 1970) p.344.

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