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Yorkshire community landscapes transformed by Leeds Beckett students


Landscape Architecture and Design students at Leeds Beckett University are set to present their design proposals for public landscapes across Yorkshire this week.

New Wortley Community Centre

The Design and Community exhibitions will allow final year undergraduate and postgraduate Landscape Architecture students to present their design portfolios and discuss them with their community clients and guests: the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Gildersome Parish Council and the New Wortley Community Association. 

The public exhibitions will take place at Gildersome Village Hall on Tuesday 26 January at 1pm and at the Wortley Community Centre on Friday 29 January at 1pm.

The ‘Design and Community’ programme at Leeds Beckett University has provided more than 150 diverse design challenges for students to date, whilst making a real difference for real clients in local communities. The programme was awarded the ‘Best Community Involvement Scheme in the past 75 years’ by the Landscape Institute in 2004.

This year, students have worked on three innovative projects: the design of a masterplan for Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s African Plains and rhino exhibitions, including an immersive landscape environment; a green vision strategy for Gildersome Parish involving landscaping proposals and researching solutions for community issues including traffic management, crossing safety zones, protection of habitat and trees, and a school wildlife trail; and the renovation of the New Wortley Community Centre, working alongside Leeds Beckett architecture students and the University’s Live Project Office architectural consultancy to develop a community garden at the new Centre, which is currently under construction.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Yorkshire Wildlife Park project

Alex Cockayne, final year BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture and Design student working with the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, said: “The transition from small wildlife park to nationally important conservation hub has allowed large investment to be made in existing enclosures and the creation of new walkthrough exhibits attracting some 440,000 visitors in 2013. However, some areas of the park have seen little development since the park’s inception in 2008. One of these areas is the African Plains exhibit.  It was our task as a team to develop this area to accommodate new animal stock and create a more immersive exciting experience for the park’s users, more fitting of the park’s reputation as the ‘UKs number one walk-through attraction’.  

“Our clients asked our team to create a walk-through experience across the exhibit that would create a new connection across the paddock to the giraffe house as well as form new paddocks for black rhinos. The masterplans produced by the group each focused on the resolution issues with experience, connectivity, views and interaction in the exhibit and in some cases across the whole park.”

Steve Heywood, Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and project leader for the design and Community project studio commented: “The course at Leeds Beckett provides an experience that is about as close to professional practice the students will get before actually graduating. The projects are carefully chosen based on the interest and skill set of the student cohort and the research interests of the leading staff. Working with my local parish in Gildersome has been a great opportunity to help the parish council with their green vision statement and the results will be used as a catalyst to make changes and improvements within the community including dealing with key issues such as road safety, increased traffic, green infrastructure and wildflower planting.

Gildersome project

Gildersome project

“It’s been great collaborating with the architecture Project Office developing the landscape strategy for their new community centre which is currently being constructed and I hope this is the beginning of many more close collaborations. Working with The Yorkshire Wildlife Park has given us a real rare opportunity to work on such a niche landscape project designing an immersive and interactive African Plains exhibit which provides a great habitat for the animal residents, a fantastic experiential and education exhibit for visitors and a practical facility for staff.

“The outputs of this project will feed into the beginning of my PhD research. The students have all worked extremely hard in producing a fantastic final set of publications, models and exhibition material within a really strict time scale. The clients were all completely overwhelmed by the outputs presented to them just before Christmas and I have no doubt they will be equally overwhelmed by the final hand over. I continue to be extremely proud of my students, their skill set and professional conduct throughout this project which ultimately will help fuel their employability prospects.”

New Wortley group

New Wortley team

Projects in previous years have included a gateway garden for Bradford Royal Infirmary; a new public garden on the banks of the River Aire to reflect the story of David Oluwale, a Nigerian immigrant who came to Leeds in 1949, within the context of Leeds today; and a new outdoor space at Martin House Children’s Hospice. These projects have ensured that students in their final year experience the theory and practice of landscape design in live contexts with real clients, taking their designs beyond the drawing board, whilst benefiting the local community.

Top image: New Wortley Centre

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