Lisa White

Department of Landscape Architecture

PhD student

Lisa White
Profile picture of Lisa White

Full contact details

Lisa White
Department of Landscape Architecture
Arts Tower
Western Bank
S10 2TN

I worked for most of my life as an Accountant while studying horticulture part-time (RHS Level 2 and 3 diplomas). I then completed a full-time degree in Garden Design at Greenwich University, afterwards a full-time master's degree in Garden and Landscape History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London

The Life, Career, and Legacy of Alexander McKenzie (1829-1893): a biography

The aim of this proposed programme of research is to cast new light on the Victorian garden and landscape designer Alexander McKenzie, whose life and work have not yet been the subject of any single study. McKenzie played an important role in the development of public gardens and parks in the late 19th century, most notably in London. The parks in London he had a lead role in the design and laying out of are Finsbury and Southwark Parks, Alexandra Palace Park, Victoria Embankment Gardens, and Queen’s Park. He became the Superintendent of open spaces for the Metropolitan Board of Works and ended his working life as Superintendent of Epping Forest. Over the course of his career, he also fulfilled a wide range of commissions elsewhere including Victoria Park Portsmouth, Brenchley Gardens Maidstone, Banstead Asylum Sutton, the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage Twickenham, and Easton Neston Northamptonshire. A recognition of his personal motivations in terms of improving the public’s health and increasing their opportunities for recreation is key to understanding the social vision that inspired his designs.  Understanding that social vision and how his design of public open spaces responded to urban population growth by improving living conditions is fundamental to an assessment of his legacy. This influential landscape architect was held in high esteem in his own time, but he has largely since been forgotten. By collating and critically reviewing his various projects as well as his writings this research project aims to restore him as a leading designer of public parks and his contribution to the public landscape, a legacy which is still enjoyed by communities and visitors today.

This proposed programme of study over a three year period will fill a significant gap in the history of the development of public open spaces. In doing so, it will secure long overdue recognition for McKenzie, as well as examining the paradox of why someone so prominent in his time has not yet been studied as a figure in his own right.  The thesis will explore what can be learned from this omission in terms of how the study of garden and landscape history is approached; and will refer to a range of nineteenth-century issues - financial, social, medical, and horticultural - which help to place McKenzie in his historical context. The research will employ independent critical thinking and analysis to reveal McKenzie’s significant contribution to landscape design in the UK during the second half of the nineteenth century.

My previous studies of McKenzie include a master’s dissertation with the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, and so I already have a good foundation of knowledge about the subject and experience in archival research. While not yet an expert on McKenzie, my aim is to be an acknowledged authority on his life and works, and following this proposed programme of study, my aim is to publish a book that reviews his historical significance, encourages further studies, and increases public interest in his legacy.