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About Ken Worpole

Ken Worpole is a writer on architecture, landscape, planning, design, and social history. He was a founder-member of openDemocracy, and is a senior professor at The Cities Institute, London Metropolitan University. His many books include Modern Hospice Design: The Architecture of Palliative Care (Routledge, 2009); Contemporary Library Architecture: a planning and design guide (Routledge, April 2013); and 350 Miles: An Essex Journey, with photographer Jason Orton (2005, £7.95). His website is here. Ken’s most recent book, with photographer Jason Orton, is The New English Landscape. He blogs here.

Articles by Ken Worpole

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The law of the forest and the freedom of the streets

The forest idea is not based on centre-periphery economies and spatial hierarchies, but on equitable networks of livelihood and exchange. It embodies many historic associations with freedom and social justice.

Where is England?

If countries are geographies understood through the culture of those who inhabit them, then what is England?

The great tide of 31 January 1953

An enormous surge of water over the coastal lands of south-east England sixty years ago took hundreds of lives and marked survivors for a lifetime. A meticulous account of the tragedy written a few years later is still the best source to understand what happened, says Ken Worpole, a native of one of the places most affected, Canvey Island.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain

The ‘new ruins’ – poorly designed and shoddy shopping malls and mass-produced housing – are ubiquitous throughout our cities. Ken Worpole finds that Owen Hatherley is a witty and erudite gazetteer of terrible mistakes, but wonders if the acerbic author is as fair as he could be

The Re-Enchantment of Place: a book about Britain is launched

For the past 20 years or more people have increasingly been exploring the British landscape on foot and by bike. Ken Worpole is one of them and here he reflects on the rewards for modern society in a renewed acquaintance with the natural world

Colin Ward, 1924 – 2010

A Colin Ward Memorial Gathering is being held this Saturday to honour the life and work of the great anarchist thinker.

Stockholm Woodland Cemetery

Cemeteries are at the beginning and end of landscape and architecture. A visit to Stockholm Woodland Cemetery, finds Ken Worpole, impresses for more than its vast scale, or the emotionally rich allusiveness of its shadowy forest interior. It achieves a rare respect for the vulnerability and equity of the human condition.

(This article was first published on 23 January 2003)

Roger Deakin, a journey through landscape

The author of "Waterlog" and the forthcoming "Wildwood" explored the natural landscape in fresh, surprising and influential ways. Ken Worpole pays tribute to Roger Deakin, and introduces his openDemocracy "swimmer's journey" article from July 2001.

The British Landscape

John Davies' beautiful panoramic photographs of the British landscape capture an industrial world now lost and a modernity running away from its past, says Ken Worpole.

Ian Hamilton Finlay's world

The landscape artist Ian Hamilton Finlay created an extraordinary fusion of sculpture, inscription and philosophy in his Little Sparta garden. Ken Worpole considers a complex figure.

Lido life

"When we get down to swimming, we get down to democracy." Ken Worpole finds a political challenge in the revival of a public arena where sensuous and spiritual pleasures combine: the lido and open-air swimming pool.

'The Playgrounds and the City,' Aldo van Eyck

"Most books about architecture or town planning are earnest treatises: this book sings"

Living on water: welcome to a shedboatshed world

A journey through the coastal landscape of Essex, eastern England, convinces Ken Worpole that human beings in the 21st century must relearn how to live with water.

Saraband: from Dalarna to Dallas, and back

Ingmar Bergman’s late film returns to the characters of his “Scenes from a Marriage” thirty years on. For Ken Worpole, it confirms the Swedish director as the “Shakespeare of the 20th century”.

The world's first environmental blogger

Ken Worpole visits an English country garden where the seeds of the modern world were planted.

There is nothing, then there is something, then there is nothing again

John Berger & Jean Mohr’s 1967 book “A Fortunate Man: the story of a country doctor” shaped the lives and political beliefs of many involved with Britain’s health service. At a packed London gathering, Ken Worpole hears it freshly echo their hopes and disappointments.

A problem with drink?

Britain’s city and town centres float on a sea of alcoholic excess. After years of promoting the benefits of the “leisure economy”, can its public policy help restore alcohol to its truer place as a lubricant of life and laughter?

The afterlife of bodies: a reply to Tiffany Jenkins

Respect for the interred human body is shared across human cultures from prehistoric time. It involves not just attachment to the consolations of memory, but responsibility across generations. This, says Ken Worpole is “the ethical politics of ‘the long now’”.

Death in the Luxembourg Gardens

A memorial to atrocity in a beautiful Paris park causes Ken Worpole to reflect on the dark shadows of the public realm.

Essex shores, Essex lives

Behind the clichés of tacky commercialism and suburban sprawl that mark the eastern English county of Essex in the national imagination, lies another world: home-grown food, swimming by mudflats and the eternal cry of the oyster-catchers, finds openDemocracy’s associate editor.

Landscapes and farewells

Landscape is both imagination and livelihood, the setting for human stories that are made as well as inherited. From farming to floods, from photography to hunting, the debate on Landscape & Identity has revealed the vital importance of human attachment in giving meaning to place.

Landscape and identity in a globalised world

How is the sense of place, essential to people’s ability to find meaning in the world, being affected by transformations of landscape in the age of globalisation? openDemocracy’s City&Country editors introduce a new debate.

How you travel is who you are

‘Transport’, before it is policy or statistics, is the experience of movement; and the ways we move imply different patterns of living and being. The Ecology & Place co-editor opens our transport debate by reaffirming this truth, and looking freshly at the most elemental form of movement: walking.

After planning: movement within settlement

The debate on planning, just concluded, has underlined the importance of aesthetic considerations; the forthcoming debate on transport will similarly broaden the topic by viewing it in the light of culture, history, and people’s everyday experience.

After the white papers: green dreams, brown sites, blue sky

City & Country’s two editors, one from the Wiltshire countryside and the other from Hackney in London, join forces in search of a new urban-rural relationship.
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