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Keynote events


Professor John Wylie will present the keynote address to open the Symposium.

John Wylie

The Distant

The world shrinks, distances are overcome and rendered insignificant, the near and the far lose their salience as means of orientation and understanding. Yet just as this happens, new distances are felt and observed to have opened up. New distances between and amongst us, multiplying distances of indifference, incomprehension and antagonism. And felt distances between us and ‘land’ and ‘nature’ – a sense of separation, alienation and loss which it then becomes imperative – ethically, environmentally – to overcome.

But is it possible to sense distance more positively – a sense of the distant as something worthwhile to cultivate, or even as something integral? I will turn to landscape specifically as a venue for thinking distance anew. Notions of apartness and alienation are, it can be argued, historically stitched into Western visual art traditions of landscape. This has most commonly been critically understood as an ideological fabrication – in Robin Kelsey’s terms, landscape names a ‘fantasy of not belonging to the totality of life of a terrestrial expanse’. But, drawing in particular upon Jean-Luc Nancy’s account of landscape as uncanny and estranged spatiality, I will argue that the distances of not-belonging are the signature elements of landscape’s distinction as a mode of experience, imagination and presentation. And I will also argue that this is a distance that must be kept.

Explore Prof. Wylie’s seminal text: Landscape


Dr. Laura Mayer


Dr Laura Mayer

Dr. Laura Mayer will present

A Legacy in Landscape: the aesthetic minimalism of Lancelot Capability Brown

An exploration of how the language of taste weaved its way through the design revolutions of the eighteenth-century English garden, restructuring social hierarchies and re-writing the landscape. Laura will take us on a brief journey – beginning with the contrived, classically-laced Arcadian layout, through the stylistic free-for-alls of the mid-century Rococo garden – and culminating in the landscape minimalism of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. 

Brown’s lasting vision for an idealised England continues to frame our perceptions of the natural landscape. It came as a response to the taste for artifice, and this presentation will concentrate on his groundbreaking aesthetics. Brown’s style evolved from the twin principles of comfort and elegance, or in his own words, it embodied ‘all the elegance and all the comforts that mankind wants in the Country’. His landscapes needed to provide for the practical needs of a great estate, but above all they were to appear seamless and graceful. By stripping an estate back to three basic forms – serpentine lakes, bare lawns and informal planting – Laura reveals how Brown’s designs superseded anything that had come before them, and dominated garden design completely. 



Hal Moggridge OBE

Hal Moggridge

Hal Moggridge

Charlotte Rathbone will interview Hal Moggridge OBE about his work with historic gardens. He is in his 90s and a pre-eminent designer working with historic gardens.

‘If, under hostile cross examination, it is possible to name the species of a specific tree or remember the condition of a particular gate, then conviction is given to opinions about more strategic matters’. Moggridge believes that a complete empathy with the site lies at the heart of successful landscape design. In the 1970s he played a key role in restoring the Capability Brown masterpiece at Blenheim, thus reviving the national interest in Brown and the Georgian natural landscape garden. Hal has never lost his feeling for the importance of views that his rediscovery of Brown inspired, and more recently, his pioneering work defining the spatial character of important urban views in Edinburgh and London has won him international acclaim.



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