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Surrey Hills Landscape Assessment

Artists' Brief


A brief to engage artists to work alongside landscape architects in carrying out the landscape assessment for the nationally important Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Background to landscape assessments

1. The Countryside Commission have commissioned a landscape assessment (see Countryside Commission contract dated 15th February 1996 - number 2091345) for the Surrey Hills Area of outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as one of a national series. Like the other AONB landscape assessments the one for the Surrey Hills aims to raise awareness of the importance of the AONB and its designation by describing the special character, distinctiveness and qualities of the landscape, and identifying the forces for landscape change. The landscape assessment reports are primarily technical publications intended to guide and influence policy makers and landscape managers. They are also used to raise awareness amongst the wider public about the importance of the AONBs.

2. The Commission, as the Government agency responsible for protecting and conserving the natural beauty of the countryside, leads in methodologies for landscape assessments (see publications such as CCP 423 Landscape Assessment Guidance). Landscape assessment has been developed by the Commission over the last 10 years to provide a systematic means of describing and classifying landscapes that takes into account subjective and qualitative aspects as well as physical, cultural and historical ones. Landscape assessments should be a consensus of both professional and public opinion. Landscape reflections through writings and paintings have been incorporated in the landscape assessments to express the cultural dimension of each area.

The Surrey Hills AONB landscape assessment approach

3. Under its experimental powers the Commission looks to further develop its landscape assessment approach, and the research contract for the Surrey Hills AONB seeks to explore the cultural aspects. The aim is to let the cultural associations shape the technical content landscape assessment rather than the usual analysis of physical features with a chronological appraisal of artists and writers who have described the countryside.

4. The timing of this experiment is apt with the lively national debate about arts and the landscape, and quest for dialogue between the two professional disciplines. The Surrey Hills AONB landscape assessment offers practical experience to feed into the debate, and in particular the UK Year of Visual Arts November 1996 conference on the same subject.

5. Centre for Environmental Interpretation (CEI), in partnership with Arts Project Management (Isobel Vasseur and Vicki Berger), have been appointed to undertake the landscape assessment on the basis of their tender which not only proposed to look at how artists working in the Surrey Hills had been influenced by the landscape but also to involve artists in the landscape assessment itself.

6. A small group of artists, sympathetic to the idea of appraising landscape, will be commissioned to contribute their perspective of the AONB landscape and to provide an additional dimension to the work undertaken by the landscape designers and historians in the study team. The group of artists may include painters, photographers, writer, poet, environmental artists; musicians and performance artists. The artists shall determine the artistic expression, scope, design, scale and medium of the work in consultation with CEI (and subject to approval by the Countryside Commission). They will be briefed about the AONB by CEI during a day's walk through the area in early August. They will then be asked to respond, over a four week period, in work books, or equivalent form, with their initial feelings and ideas about the landscape, and also to present their responses to the study team. The outcome will be :

  • the interactive process between the artists and the landscape study team and a commentary;
  • the artists' own response in terms of their work-book ideas (or whatever form they choose to make their response in);
  • a commentary/appraisal of the experiment (possibly as a contribution to the UK Year of the Visual Arts "Arts and Landscape" Conference in November 1996).

The artists' commissions

7. The artists will be commissioned as CEI's subcontractors as part of their contract with the Commission dated 15th February 1996. CEI will be responsible for issuing the artists' commissions contracts, arranging the timetable to fit with programming of the contract dated 15th February 1996, subsequent contract management and compliance, and claims for payment from the Countryside Commission when the commissions are complete. CEI should also ensure that the commissions include additional requirements such as submission of professional resume and other information on each artist, that the work and services of the artists are personal and must not be assigned, sublet or transferred, risk of damage to submission, indemnification for the Countryside Commission. The artists should report direct to CEI. The Countryside Commission will monitor the progress of the artists' commissions and standard of work produced through the landscape assessment steering group. Copies of the artists' commissions should be copied to the Countryside Commission.

8. The artists' commissioning contracts must include the Countryside Commission's Conditions of Contract for Research and Experimental Projects dated September 1991 (see annex 1). For the purposes of interpreting these standard conditions for the artists' commissioning contracts the "consultant" is CEI, and the proposed sub contractor is the artist. Condition 41 about ownership rights and condition 43-47 inclusive about publicity and dissemination of results should be noted in particular. The following conditions are not applicable for the artists' commissioning contracts : travel and subsistence costs in conditions 16 and 17 as the artists will be awarded a set fee for their work which is inclusive of costs, review of fees in conditions 26 and 28 as the artists will be offered set fees, termination of artists' commissions as in conditions 29 and 30, and capital items in conditions 32 to 38 inclusive.

9. The artists' commissions should explain that the combined landscape professional and artists' perceptions of the AONB will form part of the landscape assessment publication, and that they should be minded of this in the format chosen for recording their thoughts. CEI should also arrange for the discussion on the briefing day to be recorded.


10. The artists' commissions would be fixed at £1000.00 for a minimum of five days work including the one day's briefing. CEI and Arts Project Management costs, as well as the artists' commissions, as part of this subcontract will be paid by Countryside Commission. The project management is viewed by the Countryside Commission as essential to bring together the artists and landscape professionals perceptions and to ensure the process influences the landscape assessment as intended in this experimental approach. Expenses for the briefing day such as travel and subsistence costs are also eligible costs as part of this project.


11. As an experimental approach in joint working between the arts and landscape professionals it is important that the respective government agencies are involved in this project. The Arts Council (Tim Eastop) and SE Arts (Jim Shea (principal arts officer) and Clare Cumberlidge (public art coordinator), and Surrey County Council's arts officer (Imogen Haig) should be kept briefed about this projects, and the Arts Council's advice sought for the selection of artists. The range and number of artists depends on the resources pooled between the Countryside Commission, Arts Council, SE Arts, and the County Council. The Countryside Commission has allocated £5,000 for this contract as part of this landscape assessment but to demonstrate the partnership it would be valuable to secure matching money from the arts organisations, plus increase the budget for commissioning the artists.

prepared by: Jenifer White, Countryside Commission

date: 4th July 1996