I have had countless heated discussions with a very good friend and fellow colleague about this very subject and have never really come to a solid conclusion about who is right or what should be done. Should all garden designers have a baseline qualification and belong to a governing body or should we let raw talent and creative people be and mind our own business?
To leave it alone is just not an option for me as this is something that I have become very passionate about over the last 10 years while working within the industry, alongside studying for my BA Hon in Garden Design at Greenwich University and Hadlow College.
I recently read a fantastic article by Janine Pattison about the very same thing ‘The Garden Skills Gap’ in the January edition of the Society of Garden Design’s Journal, discussing the varying skill levels that garden designers have post education. I say fantastic when clearly this flags an extreme issue within the garden design education sector, but I am thankful that someone else has seen and had the courage to mention this problem.
The issues, as I see them, are simply that nothing governs who sets up as a garden designer, nothing controls the very education that these people have been taught and overall nothing governs the very industry as a whole.
The SGD, Society of Garden Design, is the only official body in the UK dedicated to garden designers and does amazing work to support, promote and raise the standards of its members and designers in general, helping to encourage others to achieve the high standards required to become a member. However outside of this there is little control to the type of education that schools, colleges and universities are offering aspiring garden designers and no control on who is actively practicing and the quality of the services they are providing.
What I feel and think should be done, I suppose a personal crusade and lifetime goal, is focused on education, however I don’t think the answer is singular and one directional. I think a combination of a governing body that regulates the entire industry like RIBA is to Architects or LI is too Landscape Architects, alongside a shake up in the education sector to provide a baseline qualification and a standard syllabus.
The industry needs a working partnership between the education sector and garden designers/practices. I believe the first step towards a more cohesive industry is a formal syllabus for gardening schools, colleges and universities to conform too, to ensure that the level of education is firstly what is required out in the real world and, done to the standards it needs to be to ensure that designers heading out into the world are ready and prepared for the jobs they will be doing.
In short, the age-old war of education vs. raw talent and experience needs to be put to bed! It is to do with a combination of all 3 of these things standing together as all are essential qualities and must not be denied or pushed aside, however something must be done for the industry to move forward and grow!
Feel free to post any thoughts, comments or ideas, would be great to discuss them.