Penton Park

A family home and award-winning wedding venue.

Studio 31 were recently commissioned to design the landscape surrounding the wonderful Penton Park Country House and the magic of this place is so special we wanted to share a little of it with you.

The family who run Penton Park describe the house as a family home first and foremost and this probably defines all that this exceptional place is; warm, joyful and welcoming. Despite Penton having been in the family for generations, they continue to view themselves only as custodians of this home and see it as their responsibility to restore and conserve Penton for the future.

What makes Penton such a joy to design is it’s many faces. It is not only a family home but a quite spectacular and award-winning wedding venue, home to James’ Place which offers a unique environment for members of the disabled community to spend time, the occasional film or photography set location and most recently home to Penton Park Brewery; a microbrewery whose secret ingredient is the pure unspoilt drinking water running under the grounds of Penton Park itself.

The design and restoration of the building has been a painstaking process with the family’s attention to detail second to none. The most captivating thing about this house though, isn’t just the spectacular setting they have created but the way that the house flexes to each of its functions. There are secret stairways and unexpected doorways (utilising what would once have been the servants areas) which mean that the family are able to use the house at the same time as a wedding or function and a guest would never know they are there. They want to create the same with the landscape. They need a dynamic and intelligent landscape that creates spaces for the family to relax in whilst also complementing the architecture and sympathetically restored interior. Far from feeling restricted in their own home, they want the house to carry out its duel functions as a business and family home in tandem and for the children to feel free to run, play and enjoy the house as they would any other day. This is a wonderful design challenge to think in a new way about the connections and corridors between the landscape spaces. It is, of course, common for country houses to have hidden or concealed back areas or walkways historically for gardeners or staff to use but it is less common to make those spaces as beautiful and intriguing as the openly seen spaces. This landscape needs to create privacy and openness, intimacy and grandeur all at the same time.

Country Estate Hampshire

The formal areas need to be dynamic enough to cater for the needs of an adventurous toddler as well as sophisticated enough to host a bride and groom. They need to be inclusive, functional, beautiful and reflect both the heritage of the building but also the contemporary diversity of its functions.

With the family’s history and heritage wrapped up in the walls of this building, its restoration truly brings new meaning to “a labour of love”. The love of three generations working together has built Penton Park to where it is today, and we could not be more thrilled to be a small part of the next step of its journey.

 

 

For more information on this project, visit our portfolio or watch this space for design updates.

Photos courtesy of the team at Penton Park.

 

Natural World

Why ambivalence about the natural world needs resolution

How our day to day lives are intrinsically linked to the health of the natural world.

Since the dawn of time, nature has formed the basis for life on earth. The natural cycles of the earth are so perfectly balanced that one species’ waste product is another’s resource and so life on earth has been maintained in equilibrium for thousands of years. It’s no secret that human intervention has upset this balance and that we use far more and at a far greater pace than the earth is able to replace. It’s also no secret that as a species we are becoming more and more disconnected from nature and spending less and less time in its company. I spend time wondering then, if these two things are related; That many people have little or no awareness of the intrinsic link between our day to day technology driven lives and nature itself.  It’s easy to consider people’s lack of environmental action as driven by malice or malevolence but have we considered that it could be the product of unfamiliarity and ignorance?

This a blog, not for the environmentally conscientious but for the ambivalent. For those people who (perhaps fairly) ask the question “In this modern world, full of technology and convenience, how am I connected to nature?” The answers are many, these points are only few, but this blog is to help people consider how our existence as a species is tied inextricably to nature and how, put simply, ambivalence about its conservation needs resolution.

Food

Perhaps the most obvious. All our food comes from nature or our manipulation of it. From large and small-scale farming to growing fruit and vegetables on our own allotments to foraging our forests and coast lines. Nature provides us with one resource we quite simply cannot live without; food.

Water

If you’ve ever lived in a country like Australia or Africa or seen, on the news, the plight of the many millions of people in the world living in drought, then you have seen the devastating effects of water shortage. We can only live an average of three days without water and where do we get our water? Nature.

Economy

Natural capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. It is from this natural capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible.

The most obvious ecosystem services include the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines. There are also many less visible ecosystem services such as the climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, or the pollination of crops by insects (NCF, 2018).

In 2014 the journal of Global Environmental Change revealed that the total value of the World’s ecosystem services amounted to twice as much as global aggregate GDP – as much as $124.8 trillion per year.

Medicines

Throughout history, humans have used plants to treat all kinds of illness and disease. To this day a huge proportion of our modern medicines are derived originally from plants. Just two examples are Aspirin where the key ingredient comes from Willow Bark and Morphine which is derived from the Opium Poppy. Rather than a move to greater use of synthetic drugs, there is actually an increasing demand for medicines derived from more natural and environmentally friendly sources. There is a hope that increasing research into this area can develop new drugs that have more effectiveness and fewer side effects than most modern drugs. Here’s a paper worth reading on the subject.

Nature gives us the power to heal, to treat, to prolong life and to reduce suffering through modern medicine.

Wider health

There is a quickly growing body of evidence demonstrating the links between nature and health (this is our specialist area here at Studio 31). There’s evidence to suggest that we heal more quickly, get sick less and have improved mental health by being in regular contact with nature. Moreover, nature facilitates some of the most common ways of exercising; walking, hiking, running and cycling to name but a few. When we design for health we facilitate people to be able to interact with nature and therefore contribute to improved health, concentration, happiness and fitness.

Play

You’ve probably heard the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. He argues that all of us, especially children, are spending more time indoors, which makes us feel alienated from nature and perhaps more vulnerable to negative moods or reduced attention span (Louv, 2009) The emergence of natural play spaces, den building, forest schools and garden classrooms are just some of the strategies being used to combat this disassociation with nature and help our children to thrive physically, socially, academically and emotionally.

Conclusion

Almost everything we do, eat, wear or touch in our day to day lives either currently does or once had a connection to the natural world. Nature meets almost all of our basic needs; food, water, shelter, health, and happiness and whether you love or loathe its company, the truth is, our very existence depends on the health and survival of the natural world.

Perhaps then, with the growth in education about the natural world sparked by programmes like the Blue Planet and gaining momentum through industrious individuals and organisations, we can begin to transform ambivalence into action and doubt into hope.

 

 

 

References

NCF (2018) https://naturalcapitalforum.com/about/ Accessed 21st June 2018.

Louv (2009) https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/people-in-nature/200901/no-more-nature-deficit-disorder Accessed 21st June 2018

 

connection

The value of connection

What we’ve learned from our time at Grand Designs Live.

I think most professionals like to think their practices, offices or studios are built on connection so I suppose in that sense, Studio 31 is like most others. We pride ourselves on building strong relationships with clients but this past week at Grand Designs Live has really put that into perspective.

It has truly been a inspiring experience to share a small part of people’s (largely very personal) projects and to be able to advise, excite or support them on the next part of their journey in making that project happen.

We’ve talked landscapes large and small, contemporary and traditional, muted and colourful. We’ve mused over plants, lighting, drainage and planning permission and we’ve had more than a few laughs along the way. It sounds cliché but the biggest thing we have taken from Grand Designs Live is to have met some really wonderful people. People who were kind enough to share with us photos of their gardens, homes and visions for making that the place that they want to spend their futures.

We run our practice with two main drivers; research-led design which promotes health and wellbeing and a sustainable ethos. This exhibition really has cemented for us the idea that being true to your values and aspirations, really does carve its path for you. People already know the value of nature, the value of their outdoor space and the importance of their own private part of the landscape. Our approach to design simply makes that space the most valuable space it can be for that individual or family.

And it’s not just clients either. As our first exhibition, we were surprised by the number of professional connections we have made. The ease of those conversations and the warmth with which our studio has been received has again been emboldening. We have met so many likeminded professionals from architects building extraordinary homes to suppliers going that extra mile to create sustainable products which reflect the quality and ingenuity of our designs. We’ve built partnerships with professionals who range from veterans of the industry to small independents who are making their way in the world of grand designs but all who share our values and our vision. We’ve met new colleagues who we can give the opportunities we were once given and others from whose wisdom we can draw but in either case, mutual partnerships that will hopefully create collaborative, cooperative and all together better solutions for the clients we aspire to work with.

So, thank you to all those who we have connected with these past nine days and to all those who have shared our vision to create beautiful gardens and turn more remarkable corners of the landscape into extensions of the home.

 

Horticultural

Our monthly professionals series; Benjamin Brace, Horticultural Projects Manager, RHS

 Benjamin Brace, Horticultural Projects Manager at the Royal Horticultural Society

One of the great privileges of a career in the Landscape Industry is the number of likeminded professionals you get to meet. People who inspire, advise and innovate. That in itself is a rare and wonderful thing but every now and again you get to call one of those people a friend and our guest this month for our professionals’ blog is just that. Horticulturist, Landscape Architect and RHS Projects Manager, Benjamin Brace.

We’ve been fortunate to know Ben for over a decade and writing this blog has been a really great honour to get to tap into the drivers and inspirations of one of the most passionate landscape professionals we know.

“For me it all starts with plants…I am the son of a market trader. My parents ran a stall selling plants and cut flowers and I wanted to understand these things that I was selling”

This was, for Ben, to be the beginning of a “hugely meandering and varied professional career”. It began with studying Horticulture at Writtle College and encompassed almost all areas of the landscape industry from work at a plant nursery to working for landscape contractors and garden maintenance. He then went on to train in Landscape Architecture and has subsequently worked for a variety of practices both here in the UK and in Australia expanding his experience across a whole range of specialist areas.

“One of the main reasons I pursued a career in Landscape Architecture was a love of people and public space, and the opportunity to implement positive change”

Ben’s focus on creating positive change is much more than just words, it’s almost a part of his personality and almost certainly fed into his decision to join the RHS last year as their Horticultural Projects Manager. We asked Ben what appealed to him about working for the RHS

“Being a horticulturist first and foremost, what The RHS represents to me is the best of the best. That’s not to say what they do is out of reach, but for me it is the voice of authority in horticulture. It was the place I would always reference whilst studying; the first port of call to check a plant name or a hardiness rating.

One particular charitable aim the RHS shares with me is their commitment to getting more people into horticulture. As a self-confessed plant geek nothing excites me more than introducing someone to horticulture and getting someone who’s never grown anything to try it out. It’s balm for my soul.”

Ben is a big part of the development of RHS Garden Bridgewater, the society’s newest garden (and though we think having your office in the centre of RHS Garden Wisley can’t be bad), it is this that he describes as one of his favourite parts of his role.

“The surrounding community are incredibly engaged with what’s happening, and as such demand for volunteering slots is outstripping supply – we’re booked out until August! I love how this garden is going to be so different from the existing gardens, and once it’s open, it’s going to be such a tremendous resource for the wider community of Salford and Greater Manchester. The garden is littered with historical artefacts, and at almost every turn you are confronted with something that makes you stop in your tracks.”

What’s really interesting about Ben though is that he is the sole Landscape Architect within the RHS and quite possibly, this is what gives him the unique skillset required for his role there.

“I provide a vital link between the curatorial and estate teams – they are in effect my two clients. One is driven by aesthetics and horticulture, and the other by budget and programme, the perfect fit for any Landscape Architect. But that is my day to day job. I am beginning to view this new role, for me and the RHS, as an opportunity to promote a side of Landscape Architecture that some may not appreciate; an appreciation of horticulture and planting design. I’ve known of more than a few occasions where the profession is the butt of a joke when it comes to planting and horticulture, and this is something I’m keen to address.”

And Ben himself is testament to the fact that Landscape Architecture and Horticulture are most certainly not mutually exclusive.

True to his roots, landscape extends well beyond a profession for Ben. We aren’t sure how he finds the time, but outside of work, he is an Ambassador for Landscape with the Landscape Institute, Trustee of environmental charity; The Garden Classroom, co-chair of The Landscape’s Institute’s Bio-security Working Group, Volunteer with Friends of Horsham Park, Local Tree Warden and ‘general foot soldier for London National Park City campaign.

So, what inspires Ben? Who are his influences?

“My influences range tremendously and I am acutely aware of how much of a ball of contradictions I am”

Ben cites one of his early sources of inspiration as Roberto Burle Marx.

“His approach was more akin to land art but what he had was a great sensibility towards plants (he’s got over 50 that bear his name). [He also showed great] concern over the mismanagement of his native Brazilian rainforests.”

Other influences range from garden designer James Basson to academics Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough.

“Those who are pushing low input, ecological planting design and broader themes of green infrastructure up the agenda”

And include Landscape Architects such as Ken Smith, J&L Gibbons and Smout & Allen as well as “the formidable Sara Venn of Incredible Edible, Bristol. A true force of nature.”

For us at Studio 31, Ben is unique. The diversity of his background, his influences and his relationships make him quite distinctive in the industry. Never content to stand still, his real strengths are in both building connections and the acquisition of knowledge. Our goal with this series has always been to demonstrate the true diversity of the landscape industry and to attempt to unify many of those aspects. Ben is the personification of this goal and is testament to what can be achieved if all the branches of our landscape tree can work together.

 

 

Grand Designs

Re-used, Re-cycled and Sustainable; Our Stand at Grand Designs

Come and Join Us at Grand Designs  

In just a few days, we are off to Grand Designs Live at the Excel in London. As a studio, our values are simple; inventive design, client centred processes and a practice with a conscience. So, what we want with our stand at grand designs is to retain the heart in what we do; no small task in only a 3 x 4 space.

What better way then, than to take our studio (or a corner of it) to grand designs. This idea works for us on many levels; it represents the transparency we have in our process by giving a sneak peek into our studio and working life as a design team and more than this, it reflects our sustainable ethos.

Our stand reuses materials and furniture directly from our studio meaning we are not buying new or creating waste; all our furniture will have a life beyond our exhibition stand and where we do need to build or buy we are using recycled, sustainable and/or recyclable material. Our marketing materials will be printed on recycled paper with sustainable printing processes meaning we are considering the impact of not just our business but the suppliers we use too. Even our water and coffee cups are reusable and because no healthy working environment is complete without some greenery, our office plants are enjoying a well-earned “holiday” to the show.

We also recognise that for many of our clients, family can be one of the central reasons to embark on a project. If you are bringing your children with you to the show and you want to have a chat with us about your garden or landscape scheme, there will even be some diggers (albeit toy ones) to entertain the miniature self-builders whilst we catch up about your project.

And if all that doesn’t persuade you to come join us at Grand Designs Live, we want to see you there so much that we are currently running a competition on Instagram to win a night in a 4* London hotel and 2 tickets to grand designs on Saturday 12th May. To enter head to our Instagram and other social media platforms or click here.

We look forward to seeing you there and as a thank you for joining us head to stand G2 close to the entrance of the Grand Gardens section of the show for a free consultation or if you’d like to book a specific time to see us, head to our Ask the Expert page here. We would love to hear more about your project.

Natural Swimming Pools

Natural Swimming Pools

Natural Swimming Pools: simple, sustainable and good for you. 

Over the past few months here at Studio 31, we have seen an increasing trend towards specification of natural pools in our residential projects, so we thought we would take the opportunity to tell you a bit about them.

Natural pools are not a new concept. Consider for example the onsen’s of Japan and the hot springs of Scandinavia. We will concede that these are more associated with bathing than swimming but none the less illustrate human’s affinity with naturally occurring water. Varieties of natural swimming pools became popular in Austria in the 1980s and over the intervening decades have been used on quite a wide-ranging scale as part of both private and public realm schemes across Europe.

Aesthetics

Natural pools can be designed in a whole variety of styles, shapes and sizes. They can have a plant filtration system which is ideal for cooler climates like the UK or, for those who prefer a more traditional pool look, a gravel filtration system can be used. Fewer people swim during the winter months than the summer so a natural pool means that when you are not using it for its primary function, you aren’t left looking at a pool cover but instead an unusual and interesting natural feature in the landscape. Natural pools are so diverse in design, that they can be carefully integrated into most schemes and to meet most clients needs .

Cost Effectiveness and Maintenance

Contrary to popular belief, these pools have a very similar installation cost to a traditional swimming pool. More than this though, they actually serve to save you money in the long-term maintenance of them. Traditional swimming pools require regular Ph checks and chlorine addition to keep them clean and safe to use. Natural pools let nature do the hard work for you and their maintenance costs (in both time and monetary terms) are substantially lower than their traditional counterparts.

Sustainability

Natural pools increase biodiversity, use less energy and eliminate the need for use of chemicals. Don’t worry though, you won’t be swimming among weeds or tadpoles, all the plant and associated animal life tends to stay in the separate section of the pool designed for plants and they filter the water from there.

Our design team are busy working on several current projects incorporating natural pools, all at various stages of design and build. They are not only a joy to design but have the potential to positively impact wellbeing through not only the health benefits of exercise but also the associated wellbeing benefits of being immersed (in this case literally) in nature.

For more information on designing a natural pool, get in touch or do feel free to follow the progress of our natural pool projects as they come to life.

Spring Update

Spring Office Update: Planning Permission, Student Exhibitions and Office Allotments.

A Spring Office Update for Studio 31 

The beasts from the east have, for a moment, relented and with the clocks having changed, we have decided it is officially Spring (whether or not the weather this weekend agrees). Here are just a few of the things we are working on, that are really reinforcing why we love what we do.

We are preparing to submit for planning permission on some particularly breath-taking projects at the moment. This means we can’t say too much but they include a brand-new hospice and a contemporary residential project with a difference.

The hospice will provide much needed services for people living with a life limiting illnesses and the landscape element is an essential part of their holistic approach to care. The gardens and wider landscape areas will be driven by existing and emerging research linking landscape to health and this approach aims to promote wellbeing as well as aesthetic value.

The landscape design for the contemporary residential project makes the most of the countryside views stretching all the way to the shard in central London. It has more than a few exciting features, not least a remarkable subterranean swimming pool and this is one we can’t wait to share with you.

The students at Writtle University College are hunkering down in preparation for their final year exhibition under the watchful tutorship of one of our directors Edward. It’s looking to be an exhibition worth visiting so if you’re looking to recruit a new designer or just want to see what the landscape designers of the future are producing, why not pop along from 17th to 20th May.

We are busily planning our stand for the Grand Designs Exhibiton in May this year. Watch this space for exciting news on this including how to book a free consultation with us.

Equally importantly, we have been busy at the office allotment and so determined are we to get something growing after the late winter snow, we have decided to plant our spring potatoes a little later than planned. With the weather reducing our green fingers to just “forcing the rhubarb” and propagating office plants, it’s feeling urgent that we take our gardening efforts to the allotment before we go from studio to jungle.

Wishing one and all a great Easter weekend and do watch for more updates as we lead into April.

Grand Designs Live

Studio 31 at Grand Designs Live 2018

Studio 31 are heading to Grand Designs Live 2018

Studio 31 are excited to announce that we will be exhibiting at Grand Designs Live later this spring. Whether you have a new project in the pipeline, want to breathe life back into your existing garden or just want to get to know more about us and meet the team, come and see us at the Excel Centre from 5th-13th May.

More exciting announcements are on their way in relation to Grand Designs (so watch this space) but until then feel free to get in touch to book a consultation.

 

Landscape Research

Our new monthly landscape research blog; Nature connection, shaping the design of our cities

 Landscape Research; The link between availability of nature people’s interaction with it.

Those that know Studio 31 will be all too aware of our passion for the connection between nature and wellbeing. It is of course, a subject hot on the government agenda right now but for us it stems right back to our very first project and even beyond that. One of our directors, Katie, is not, as you may assume, a landscape architect, but instead has a background working and lecturing in mental health and is passionate about the importance of nurturing health and wellbeing through every aspect of our work at Studio 31. In becoming a director of Studio 31, her worlds collided, and she was finally set loose on interweaving her two great passions for wellness and for landscape. She is fuelling our fire to get people to understand that landscape is more than just aesthetic, it’s a necessary and intrinsic part of feeling well and being well.

So, she’s decided to share some of her knowledge and understanding on the subject through a monthly blog which discusses one piece of research linking health or wellbeing to landscape and the natural world. Read on for month one.

 

Landscape Research

Research. Love it or loathe it, it’s essential. It helps us to understand the world around us, drives medical advances, keeps our food safe and informs almost every part of our lives. Having said that, if you aren’t an academic (or sometimes even if you are), navigating research can be a time consuming, confusing and at times even baffling pastime. That said, it is also necessary, informative and interesting, so here goes my attempt at sharing with you some of the papers I have come across in my search for the latest theory that relates to landscape and health. I will, where possible, attempt relate it back projects or concepts in the public eye and of course to our work as a landscape architecture practice but sometimes, I may just link to our global experiences of being human. My aim is to select just one paper to summarise in each blog so for more detailed references and sourcing you will need to head to that paper directly. Where it’s possible to get free access, I’ll try to give a link and where it isn’t ill just give you all the information you need to find it and borrow/buy it elsewhere.

Do remember also that these blogs are an interweave of both my and the papers ideas. In many cases, they are my attempt to apply theory to practice and in some purely my opinion. Please do refer to the paper itself for clarity.

 

This month’s paper is entitled:

“Variation in experiences of nature across gradients of tree cover in compact and sprawling cities” by D.F. Shanahan et al. It is a 2017 paper published in Landscape and Urban Planning Journal. (157 (2017) 231-238).

Nearly “70% of the global population is predicted to live in cities by 2050” and as such there is growing concern that urbanisation is driving a disconnect between people and nature. Why is this important? Because the there is a growing body of evidence that interactions with nature have a “positive impact on physical, psychological and social wellbeing outcomes”.

This disconnect is thought to be two-fold; firstly, due to the reduction in “quality or quantity of nature in cities” and secondly related to the changes in “human behaviour linked with urban life-styles”. In short, there is less nature in cities and what is there either doesn’t appeal to us or our lifestyles don’t lend themselves to connecting with it.

There is some research available on the former which looks at a range of things like biodiversity and city design. What’s interesting though, is that very little research has been conducted into the behavioural component of “the extinction of experience with nature”. So, in short that’s what this paper is trying to find out. “How does the frequency or duration of experiences with nature vary with variation and availability of nature? Does this differ for cities with sprawling and compact designs?”

When exploring this behavioural component there are of course many hypothesise as to what could be driving the reduction of human experience with nature but much of this evidence conflicts. There are papers for example, which as you might expect, cite “spending more time indoors, “availability of nature” and engaging in “non-nature based recreational activities” as factors in the reduction of connection with nature. However, there is competing evidence which suggests that, in fact, as nature becomes less available, people actively seek it out (perhaps motivated by wellbeing benefits). In truth there are likely to be a whole host of “complex and interacting factors” here but, what’s important is this; If we can understand how and why people engage (or don’t) with nature in cities and whether they alter their behaviour based on its availability, we can then consider this in how our cities are designed.

Consider here the national park city campaign; the primary objective is to help urban populations to engage with nature. The whole scheme aims to drive connection so the many and varied proposals in relation to how to progress this revolutionary idea need to connect directly with the users themselves. As designers, we need to know what drives people’s motivations before we can design to help them connect. The team at NPC really seem to understand that and their community driven initiatives are testament to this.

This paper is also hinting that the reasons for connecting people and nature extend beyond wellbeing and into wider conservation and environmental issues. “People’s exposure to nature, may also affect their attitudes and behaviours towards nature itself”. “How can people value what they do not experience or understand?”

I recommend reading the detail of the results of this paper as there were interesting links between the type of nature environment (private garden or public green space) people engaged with and the type of city they lived in (sprawling or compact). But in the interests of keeping things simple, this paper showed that people’s tendency to engage with nature was lower in neighbourhoods with poorer physical availability of tree cover” (tree cover was used for many good reasons as the measure of nature availability) “Given the range of health and wellbeing benefits people can gain from living in nature, this [difference in level of engagement] could lead to long term health inequalities”. When considering health and wellbeing benefits here, the paper includes both “passive pathways such as temperature regulation and pollution reduction and benefits derived from direct interactions with nature e.g. reduced stress and improved cognitive function.”

What we learned in this paper was that despite having one sub-tropical area of study and one UK based, people accessed their gardens in a very similar way. There were a similar number of households in both types of city which actually had gardens and though the compact city gardens were smaller (and substantially less balmy), they were still used. This suggests that one way compact city design could maintain access to nature is through use of private gardens because even small ones are important in enabling interactions with nature.

What is unclear from the paper though, is whether a person’s connection to nature is shaped by the environment they live in or whether they move to a neighbourhood which reflects that trait. There are some studies which conclude that nature present within a neighbourhood creates an environment more conducive to spending time outdoors but other studies which now show that simply having green space available within a neighbourhood does not guarantee its use.

Interesting then that this paper concludes with a recommendation that “provision of tree cover should continue to be a key objective in city planning to ensure people continue to access nature”. It goes without saying that this should be high on the agenda, however I would say the ideas here, go well beyond provision of tree cover. The authors are talking about the fact that proximity to nature isn’t enough. We need to look at people’s “nature relatedness”; what drives this and where it comes from because the two things work in harmony.

One suggestion in the paper cites some correlation between experiences of nature as a child with environmental career pathways in adulthood. Just take a look at our landscape professionals blog; every single person built a love of nature as a child, every person in our office did, all our landscape friends have and heck, Peter Donegan of the Sod Show grew plants under his bed when he was kid.  Anecdotal evidence maybe, but look at the passions and enthusiasm of these people now.

Landscape architects then, architects and city builders, should we, in this case, also be considering designing cities for children? Could our designs now, shape their connection with nature well into the future? And thus, shape not only their wellbeing; their happiness but also their propensity to conserve nature beyond our time.

Landscape architects (and indeed architects) have a more difficult job then than just planting trees (though of course this is one important aspect). Design needs to be more than just available green space. It needs to be nature that drives connection. There needs to be strategy for not only the availability of nature itself but the quality and accessibility of this. Recognition should be given for the importance of education and the creation of opportunities for people to engage with nature. This might be nature that is already there or design which considers how people will use any future nature-based landscapes.

The type of research in this paper takes the ego away from designers and has the potential to put the design of cities back into the hands of the people they are designed for. “The maintenance and availability of nature close to home is a critical step to protect people’s experiences of nature and their desire to seek out those experiences.”

Read the paper here.

 

 

Terraced Garden Design Essex

Project Update: Planning Permission Granted

Great News for our Terraced Garden Design Project

Planning permission has been granted for this extensive property renovation in Essex. Working in collaboration with Clear Architects,  we have been commissioned to design a landscape which complements their bold, contemporary design whilst still maintaining the existing character of the site. The combination of complex topography and interesting architectural features such as subterranean swimming pool have made for an exceptional design canvas and we look forward to seeing the landscape come to life in the next stages of the project.

For more information and photos, see our portfolio page here.