I am a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute, the body that represents Landscape Architects in the UK. I would like to explain myself with regards to its current situation, should you find this subject of interest.
You may be aware of the fact that our Institute is virtually bankrupt and in urgent need to move premises. We are penniless and homeless so to speak. We now refer to it as the "Landscape Destitute" but I do not find it funny.
We are bound to lose our 55 year old archive and we have had to let go a number of employees to make up for excessive expenditure. I consider these redundancies unfair, as our employees are being made to pay by the LI's Council Members gross oversight and incompetence, if not something worse
The official explanation given so far is that a "sudden drop in advertising income" is to be blamed for the situation. I do not accept this explanation, as I have been aware of the poor way the Li has been managed and I have been waiting for something like this to come through for a long time. To state my case, I have gone through the last year's accounts first and, later, I have gone over the last five years accounts.
I believe that the LI Council has engaged in attempts at concealing the true origins of of our financial situation, which is due to not properly detailed and justified expenditure at the tune of 200,000 in one single year.
The Institutes's response so far has been to ignore me. I have been banned from all the Landscape Institute's Forums and my password access to the Professional Directory no longer works and cannot get in touch with other members and have my views heard.
All my postings related to the true origins of our troubles have been removed. In spite of some members request for my messages to be reinstated and be allowed to explain my views, I have received no confirmation from the Institute on what has become to me an issue of free speech.
Their contempt for Members is legendary and their inability to run our house properly is for all to see. Of course, given their low moral stature, they have promptly engaged in character assassination: I have been banned because I "issue threats", I am "libellous and hysterical" and make "personal attacks".
Well, I do not issue threats: I ask for summary sacking of incompetent and under performing staff, I assert the responsibility of the Council for the current situation and I call for the Police to have a look at our accounts present and past. I have also called for mass resignations at the LI and a public apology. Everything in a brutally frank language, by the way.
I have formally written to the President of the LI, specifically asking whether he is aware of any form of wrongdoing and conflict of interest with regards to the use of funds at the Institutes's disposal, and I outline my scepticism with regards to the reasons given for our bankruptcy so far.
The official reply up to now, several weeks later, has been that my letter is "receiving attention", even though my views where dismissed straight away as described above. Well, my hysterical views are receiving attention, it seems.
I am trying to get the Charity Commission to raise this issue with the Institute, even though they seem to be reluctant to do so. In fact, it would appear that they consider my concerns, "speculation" and they suggest that if I have any evidence of wrongdoing, I appeal to the Police, directly. So much for public stewardship, I presume that British Banks where run on a similar basis, so we can expect that British Charities will go pretty much the same way, the difference is that banks are being bailed out by taxpayers, the LI is being bailed out by Members like me: I pay and get nothing in return, some highly paid smart ones keep their cushy jobs and insult me back. Nice.
Mr McCapra's comment to me on all this is that "Resignations may satisfy a public sense of drama but they serve little purpose in practical terms".
Well, his resignation, along with that of the Head of Communications, Paul Lincoln for issuing what I consider, and have proven to be, a misleading series of statements, would save us not only thousands of pounds sterling, but would also further blunders, embarrassment and incompetence. Then we may be able to have our archive and archivist back. As simple as that.
There are three points that I feel are essential and are at stake:
1. We are professionals bound by a code of conduct we are supposed to uphold. We cannot accept deception, misinformation, mismanagement and/or cover ups to sustain a slim façade of respectability at our own professional body because it simply reflects on us as a whole. It is ethically repugnant and morally wrong to pretend otherwise, particularly when we are asking young people to join the profession.
2. My research shows that the LI suffers from endemic mismanagement and, very possibly, corruption as well. It is not just my opinion, it is shared by other, better qualified, individuals that have been able to read through it. We cannot tolerate and sustain the loss of our archives because of individual wrong doing. We cannot make people redundant to pay for our oversight and lack of corporate sense of ethics or responsibility.
3. Whatever mistakes I may have made in putting my ideas across, a clear fact remains: the LI has attempted to mislead and misinform its members regarding the origins of its financial situation. Those responsible must face their responsibilities and resign. Failure to achieve so equals perpetuating and vindicating their actions for the future.
One more issue to consider is our attitude and outlook in life as professionals. For a very long time, I have felt that our profession has lost its way and "raison d'être". We are flying on very low expectations and without a very clear long term mission and vision for our role in society.
I am not surprised the Architect Will Alsop took issue with us, because the truth is that we deserve a good battering for rewarding incompetence and mediocrity all the way through the professional ladder, particularly large practices. We occupy one of the lowest levels in the Consultancy industry and our influence in contemporary culture and thought is next to nil.
The way nearly 5000 members of this institute are behaving (mostly keeping their heads in the sand) is rather troubling to me and it reflects a deep erosion of the British society's values I once learnt.
It seems that anything goes now: lying, grabbing money that is not yours, avoiding work and responsibility, and above all, keeping quiet in the face of blatant misconduct and brazen dishonesty. It has all become a massive "I'm all right, Jack" one size fits all reflex, where the main goal is to keep your head low, avoid rocking the boat and go unnoticed.
I no longer recognize the society where I once learnt just the opposite values, rather distant from my own country's, by the way. I cannot do much more than what I have done so far. Now, it is up to the other 4999 members to decide what the future is going to be like. The choice is clear and simple to me, but they could just say that "I am from Barcelona" and joke their way out of this, with very few remarkable individual exceptions.
I have already outraged quite a few LI Members by suggesting that if Drake had counted on Landscape Architects to sink the Armada, the British would all be singing "Que Viva España" and sleeping siesta in the mud by now.
Mostly, it seems that many are happy to be taken for a ride and acknowledge that even though foul play is a distinct possibility, it is better to keep it quiet to avoid "disrepute". I find this unacceptable.
Hidding away and quitting has never been for me. In fact, that much I learned in Britain: when you fight, you fight with everything you’ve got, to the last. But the truth is that I do not longer wish to share membership with those that feel that it is better to stay quiet and let all this pass.
The truth is that I no longer recognise myself as a Member of the Landscape Institute and I do not wish to continue to be associated with this tainted organisation. Well, I have fought for what I believe in and love and as a result I just got spat in my face and little more. One has to know when one has been defeated, and I guess that the fact that weeks have gone by and I have heard nothing from the LI, means that there is nothing further to go on.
Just a tacit understanding that my views are right, but, so what? After all, we have always have been treated as a herd of imbeciles. Why change now?
For longer musings and more robust views on all this, please see: