Grassy Landscape

Podcast 41 – Kim Wilkie – Led By the Land

Part 2 of the Design Experts Series, kindly sponsored by the London College of Garden Design

My guest for this episode is Kim Wilkie. Kim grew up in the Malaysian jungle and the Iraqi desert, before moving to England to attend school. He is a prolific landscape architect who works on large-scale projects in the UK and internationally, in both public and private spaces. He works on a scale that is beyond the experience of many, if not most designers, for example, designing the green spaces around an entire new city in Oman or his 100 year Thames Landscape Strategy that encompasses the land along the river Thames from Richmond to Kew.

Arguably, it’s necessary on any project to tie together the culture, history, geology, the people, the place but never is it more important to get this right on projects of this scale where human experience is being shaped through what happens in the landscape on a huge scale and will be for generations to come. Kim’s book Led by the Land explores just that, how he is led by the land through every part of his design process.

About Kim Wilkie:

“After 25 years of running his own practice, Kim now works as a strategic and conceptual landscape consultant. He collaborates with architects and landscape architects around the world and combines designing with the muddy practicalities of running a small farm in Hampshire, where he is now based.

Kim studied history at Oxford and landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, before setting up his landscape studio in London in 1989. He continues to teach and lecture in America; writes optimistically about land and place from Hampshire; and meddles in various national committees on landscape and environmental policy in the UK.
Current projects are focused on regenerative farming combined with human settlement, both in England and North America.” –

What we talk about:

Keeping landscapes in a state of adolescence

Kim’s projects in Solovki and Transylvania. How modern ways of living seem so incompatible with bygone ways where people lived in harmony with the land and with the other species that occur within that landscape. Can we successfully have it all i.e. have a life where all the component parts work together in a mutually beneficial way or is it one compromise after another when we try to modernise?

An overview of the Thames Landscape Strategy

Kim’s work at the Natural History Museum and how Kim sees urban green spaces performing as natural resources get more squeezed and our climate changes

Kim’s Chelsea Barracks design, incorporating a vegetable garden. Who looks after the vegetable garden, who can harvest the produce and where would the produce be used or sold?

Landforms are dramatic and designed to be in place a long time, can we justify these extravagant landscapes today? If so, how?

The need to reconcile areas of high maintenance turf with wildlife gardening?

Is it the job of the designer to impose their artistry on a project or to channel the views of the stakeholders? Or both?

Are gardens art? If they are, does this mean we can sacrifice the environment when creating them so as not to compromise our artistic freedom? If so, where do we draw the line, should we draw a line in terms of materials used, the ecological impact and so on?



Led by The Land – Kim Wilkie, Updated, expanded and reissued by Pimpernel Press, 2019

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