Overgrown By Julian Raxworthy – Book Review

Overgrown by Julian Raxworthy calls on landscape architects to embrace gardening and connecting with the site and working plants in the landscape. He encourages landscape architects to develop a new type of design practice by leaving their offices including the visualisations and plans to acknowledge and learn from the growing landscape.

Throughout reading the book you often feel like you are wandering down a meandering garden path with Raxworthy using case studies and insights into the works of landscape architects including Burle Marx, Kiley, Sven-Ingvar Andersson, McHarg, Dutton as he explores this notion of this new type of practice which he calls “the viridic”.

Raxworthy seeks to encourage landscape architects to work in the landscape and use the unique language of landscape architecture that makes it distinct from other design professions. The final chapter – A Manifesto for the Viridic calls on landscape architects to change practice by embracing gardening to learn about plant growth and maintained spaces to “exercise design judgement over what is emerging over time”.

Overgrown provides landscape architects with a work that challenges that existing paradigm of a design practice seeking to push landscape architects to move out of the office into the landscape as many of us yearned for during university and throughtout our professional careers.

Overgrownis available from Amazon for $35.56 (as 12 July 2019)

Overgrown: Practices Between Landscape Architecture and Gardening
by Julian Raxworthy (Author), Fiona Harrisson (Foreword)

Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (15 October 2018)
ISBN-10: 0262038536
ISBN-13: 978-0262038539

Overgrown was purchased by WLA from Amazon for this review. Links above are affiliated with Amazon.

Why professional/industry niche books will still exist.

Over the last few years the publishing industry has been struggling with declining sales and creating more books with broader appeal (high increase in coffee table books). However, I think that books will still exist although the maybe more increase in digital format (ebook, pdf, interactive) and that is because they are edited and curated around a topic or idea providing a broad range of information. You might be thinking “of course, what a simple thing to write” but I think that in a world of fast information and being bombarded with information and being able to search any topic we have lost site of the value of books and what they bring.

This sentiment may seem fairly ironic or hypocritical coming from someone who publishes a blog on landscape architecture with over 5,000 posts but I think that we often get too lost in thinking about the bright new shiny thing and how the old shiny thing will be killed off, this has happened numerous times in history. The radio didn’t kill newspapers, tv didn’t kill radio, the internet didn’t kill (all) newspapers, online blogs didn’t kill magazines, online streaming hasn’t killed tv, and the next thing (AR, VR, whatever R) will not kill off online streaming. Books will still be around as they are an easy way to gain knowledge about a topic in a concise, curated format and I think spending two hours in a book store is more relaxing than spending two hours reading through news articles and the comments section.

How do you read?

I know some people read one book at a time cover to cover as they want to keep the same train of thought. I read multiple books at the same time, I feel that reading books at the same time in the same or different areas allows for a crossflow of ideas and then possibly germination of new ideas triggered by reading two or three books at the same time.

For remembering those ideas I usually either bend the corner to quickly reread when I have finished the book. I also take notes in my phone with title, page number and idea I had, this allows me to come back through the reread and see if there is something I wish to action on or research further.

I try to read 12-20 books a year along with the numerous blog articles and academic papers. Most of the books I read are non-fiction, I will read fiction every so often but usually on holidays when I want to try and take a break from work, WLA and other business pursuits.

BOOK REVIEW | Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: Angela Lee Duckworth

After hearing Angela on a TED talk podcast I was interested in reading her book – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: Angela Lee Duckworth. I found the first few chapters interesting but felt that after about 70-80 pages I had gotten the main points of the book. I perceived and read to the end, however I found the book had fallen into the same practice that many books in the business/self-help category. It was repeating the same points in two or three different ways, which can become frustrating and make the book seem to move slow and actually take longer to get to the points the author was trying to convey to the reader.

Overall, the book did provide some useful points about why people succeed at different stages of their and levels of their careers and that passion, perseverance, patience and grit get you through many stages of life and more successful in your careers. I would recommend that you watch Angela’s TED talk and read or listen to some her interviews and you will obtain the same amount of knowledge and insight as you would reading the book.

Angela Lee Duckworth – TED Talk

Angela Duckworth on Passion, Grit and Success

The Limits of “Grit” – New Yorker



Dreaming – Compendium and Elon Musk

This week has been an interesting week. I just finished reading Compendium for the Civic Economy – which shows what 25 ideas and communities can do to transform their local economies and I also watched a couple of videos from D11 conference including the one with Elon Musk. The Compendium show cases projects solving problems within communities – local problems. Some of the case studies went on to have a greater impact and be used on a wider scale like Jayride – rideshare program that expanded from NZ to Australia, Ireland and the UK. The lesson from the book was that small ideas and people can have greater wider impact. This is not a new lesson but one we often forget when trying to solve a problem.

Elon Musk is someone who has big ideas (electric cars, space travel and internet) but what struck a cord and seemed more interesting to me was the revelation that their are too many talented and high-educated people spending time on small ideas. I’m not talking about community ideas or social entrepreneurship, its more that there seems to be a large number of people spending time to build apps,or social media websites/networks to go on an IPO or be acquired. They only have one aim – to make money; I think this is why there is growing number of failing startups. The idea is too small or its a slight twist on previous idea and lacks the passion and conviction to make the idea something big enough to change an industry or change the world. It seems as though there are too many MBA’s, PHd’s and talented people wasting time on ideas that will eventuate to little more than a blip in time. The impact of their app or website will be small, especially if its another networking or marketing tool.

There is a need for small and  big ideas – they may not eventuate but dreaming big is what pushes communities and the world forward whether your living in a village dreaming of education or a multi-billionaire who wants to change intercity travel with a ‘hyperloop’. We all have dreams but the key is to dream bigger than ourselves.

Interesting Things I read this week
We All Spend Too Much Time On Small Ideas. Let’s Follow Elon Musk – Loic Le meur – Linkedin
One of the posts I read this week that inspired this post about dreaming big.

The Risk Not Taken – Andy Dunn – Medium
Andy talks about how it is better to take the risk and go for it, than play it safe.

Why Gary Vaynerchuk’s New Social Media Strategy Should Change The Way You Do Business. – Dorie Clark – Forbes
Gary Vaynerchuk is having someone follow him to write down his ideas. This caused a bit of a “storm in a teacup” as people thought it was 24/7 but in fact its only during the day or a wrap up at the end of the day. I think the noise about this lost the essence of the idea – recording ideas whether big or small. We have all been there, we have a great idea on the bus, in the car or during a meeting but we forget to write it down. Having someone to record ideas is a little extreme but I think that creating a habit of idea recording is good idea – so carry a notebook or your phone and take down those ideas – big or small and recap at the end of the day to see which idea reaches out to you for further development.

Why Conservatives Hate Citi Bike So Much, in One Venn Diagram | New York Magazine
I am amazed at the backlash and rise of noise about Citibikes. Mostly coming from the conservatives who own the media outlets so they’ve been giving Citibike a serve in mainstream media including WSJ’s Dorothy Rabinowitz. I thought this diagram was interesting and funny. Also watch John Stewarts Daily Show take on Citibike (NSFW)

Book Review: Screw business as usual by Richard Branson

I picked up Screw Business As Usual when I was in Hong Kong returning to Shanghai late last year and had seen a couple of videos online of Richard promoting the book and thought it would be a good read.

Screw Business As Usual is full of Branson’s anecdotes on how he setup Virgin Unite and The Elders. The book has some interesting stories about how Richard has evolved the culture of his companies using capitalism for good.  Entrepreneurial philanthropy is gaining favor round the world and this book is brings it into the mainstream. Richard’s main idea throughout the book is “Do good – and the rewards will come” (Pg. 50) and he explains this throughout the book be citing examples of Virgin Group using business for good and also how communities can harness their collective energy for good. The other idea that came across in the book that the “….its not just about doing good. It’s about doing better and having fun on the way.” (Pg. 37).

This book is not a how-to book, there are no definitive summaries of what was learnt, so keep your notepad and pen at hand whilst reading the book. I recommend reading Screw Business As Usual if you’ve ever had an idea to create something for good, what Richard highlights is that you need passionate people who wish to change the world, it also shows that the days of NGO/NPO’s of handing out money to fix problems needs to change and soon.

Book Review: Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli

Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli is a new book from the Domino Project. A publishing project launched by Seth Godin “powered by Amazon”. The book is an interesting read and gives us a reminder of why we all hate meetings, especially the ones that drone on with no resolution in site.

Al gives us a way to categorise meetings and therefore who should attend and the outcome that should occur. Also Al talks about what is and isn’t a meeting and gives a good differentiation. The most important piece of knowledge that he passes on is something he calls the Modern Meeting.

The Modern Meeting is a special instrument, a sacred tool that exists for only one reason: to support decisions (1).

Before you make your preliminary decision, you aren’t allowed to call a meeting. If you invite me to a Modern Meeting for which a clear decision hasn’t been established, I’ll look at you, puzzled. I might even walk out. Modern Meetings can’t exist without a decision to support. Not a question to discuss—a decision. (2)

Pittampalli’s book is an interesting read and is available until August 9 for free on Kindle. After that its a $10-11USD. Worth reading to understand how to run a Modern Meeting and get the best out of meetings without wasting time on planning, preparing and avoid being in meetings that just don’t work.

(1) Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (Kindle Locations 226-227). The Domino Project. Kindle Edition.
(2) Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (Kindle Locations 268-270). The Domino Project. Kindle Edition.