Obituary: Professor Brian Hackett
Tuesday 05 May 1998
His two books Man, Society and Environment (1950) and Landscape Planning (1971) helped his students and the young profession recognise the scope of the work to be done in this field, where man's impact on the environment through farming, forestry, water supply, new towns and transport systems was growing so rapidly. He shared with other pioneers a place in the development of broader ideas about regional planning and environmental conservation.
Having qualified as an architect and planner at the Birmingham School of Architecture, in 1945 he returned, after war service with the RAFVR, to teach in the London School of Planning and Regional Redevelopment. At that time the school was offering short courses designed to equip members of the land-using professions to guide the process of post-war reconstruction.
However, Hackett was soon attracted away from London to the North, for in the following year Professor J.S. Allen, another pioneer of planning education, invited him to join the staff of the newly formed Department of Town and Country Planning in King's College, Newcastle upon Tyne, then part of Durham University, where an undergraduate course in planning had just been established. This department was to be his academic and professional base until his retirement in 1977.
For many years Hackett's main interest had been in landscape, and this had been greatly strengthened through his membership of the Landscape Institute as early as 1945. In 1950 he set up a one-year programme for a postgraduate Diploma in Landscape Design. This was a pioneer venture, only one other such course (in Reading) being then available. Much of the inspiration for it sprang from Hackett's visits to, and contacts in, Scandinavia, where professional education in landscape architecture was already established. The one-year diploma course was run on a limited scale until 1965 when, to meet the increasing demands of the profession, it was replaced, first by a two-year diploma and then, in 1977, by a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.
At the same time Hackett's personal ideas on the theory and practice of landscape design were growing in influence and importance through his teaching, research and publications. He was recognised as a clear thinker and a powerful advocate of ecological concepts as the essential basis for the design of landscapes, an approach which again was formed from his experiences in Scandinavia.
As a working practitioner Hackett was able to realise these concepts in practice and through his published research. In this respect his work on the restoration of derelict colliery sites and other lands in Northumberland and Durham and his special studies and reports on the restoration of the steep banks of the River Tyne within the urban area were particularly influential.
Hackett played an important role outside his university. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Landscape Architects in 1954, and acted as President from 1967 to 1969 and Honorary Vice-President from 1991. He served on the North of England Regional Advisory Committee on Forestry and the National Water Space Amenity Commission, and was Chairman of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society. In 1967 Newcastle University elected him to a personal Chair in Landscape Design, and he received the Europa Prize for Landscape in 1972.
Brian Hackett will also be remembered for his other gifts - his participation in music- making, as a flautist, his skill in the difficult art of watercolour painting and the pleasure he took (as an expert cook) in entertaining his friends.
Brian Hackett, landscape architect: born 3 November 1911; Lecturer in Town and Country Planning, Durham University 1947-48, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture 1948-49, Senior Lecturer 1949-59; Visiting Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois 1960-61; Reader in Landscape Architecture, Newcastle University 1962-66, Professor of Landscape Architecture 1967-77 (Emeritus); married 1942 Frederica Grundy (died 1979; two sons, one daughter), 1980 Elizabeth Ratcliff; died Newcastle upon Tyne 22 March 1998.
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