Landscape Architecture & Design Student Stories: Part 1
In this first of two special blog articles we take a look at the work and projects that some of our students who are graduating in 2021 have been working on in their final year. Read the second article here.
Prior to joining Leeds Beckett, I worked as a landscape contractor with a background working in bespoke garden design at a variety of settings and scales. Through this I have developed an appreciation for honest material expression, and sensitive response to surrounding vernacular. During my time at university, I have developed a keen interest in using landscape as a tool for enhancing user-connections to their surroundings, developing interventions based on a combination of ecological, contextual, and historic analysis.
Both my previous employment and university study have allowed me to develop strong team working skills, problem solving and the ability to work efficiently in deadline-driven environments. Throughout a design process I readily use a combination of digital and analogue techniques, from hand drafting and modelling alongside 2D and 3D software to fully explore and interrogate design solutions. My final year project is centred around the creation of a new inner-city park for Leeds Innovation District, that itself forms part of a larger scheme aiming establish permanent communities in areas devoid of accessible housing.
This has led on from previous research conducted in my dissertation – a critique of social and affordable housing implementation in Leeds; showing how landscape can be used as part of a multi-layered scheme that allows residents to have the opportunity to develop meaningful connections to where they live. All aspects of landscape design had to be considered and responded too; from existing physical and ecological conditions, urban legibility and connection to surroundings, and the transient qualities of a landscape – how spaces mature and change over time.
I knew I wanted to study Landscape Architecture since I was 15. I remember coming across the job title when deciding what I wanted to do for my GCSEs, and it had been my goal ever since. I have always been fascinated with nature, from reading the RSPB magazines with my grandad when I was a child, to redesigning gardens for family members. I have always enjoyed being outside, and the first field trip with university to Robin Hoods Bay stands out to me as the moment I first started to understand the landscape more, through sequential sketching. I viewed space in a whole new light and started to notice and appreciate the landscape in more detail. Studying this subject has fully changed my perspective of the landscape around me. I now look through design goggles, noticing the beauty of well-designed spaces and appreciating them, but also noticing all the flaws and poorly designed details too.
I have hugely developed my design skills since starting the course. Before joining university, I decided to design a courtyard garden as part of my A-level Product Design project. Looking back at my first attempt at making a model and designing a space, it was terrible and not to scale, but I can see how much my current work has developed since then, and how I have progressed as a designer to create well thought out and environmentally conscious designs that are creative and incorporate the nature that I love.
I also enjoyed writing my dissertation and exploring biodiversity in urban settings. I studied how biodiversity can reduce the negative impacts of climate change in cities and researched smart innovations such as green roofs and living walls, which could be implemented to reduce the urban heat island effect, create habitats, and increase species to create a well-balanced ecosystem. Researching this topic opened my eyes to new possibilities not only developing landscapes at ground level, but also on walls and roofs as well.
It helped me to understand that current urban infrastructure is adding to the climate crisis and making it worse, but smart innovations have been developed to reverse the damage already done and improve urban settings. Developing our urban settings with biodiversity in mind, will not only benefit species in decline and create sustainable habitats, but it will also benefit humans too as we are currently not only destroying the environment for other species, but our practices are damaging for ourselves and future generations to come.
My Landscape Architecture path began in Poland, graduating from Technical college with a Landscape Architecture profile. During this time, I gained knowledge about plants, designing gardens on a local and neighbourhood scale and demonstrated my ability to create planting compositions with seasonal attraction. Six years later, I continued my journey at Leeds Beckett University, where I developed my individual style and direction. I achieved great digital design and problem-solving skills and delivered imaginative landscape solutions appropriate to site conditions on every scale.
I am personally concerned about climate change and the growing deficit of human-nature relation. That is why I am passionate about restoring natural areas in developed places. My projects emphasise natural forms to discover innovative, sustainable solutions and achieve greater harmony with the surrounding environment and human wellbeing. I believe that regenerative biophilic and nature-inspired design will reveal the vital connection between people and nature and raise pro environmental behaviour as an example for young generations.
For more of my projects, please visit my portfolio.
VIDEO: PROCESS OF MAJOR DESIGN – Innovation District Leeds.
Before attending Leeds Beckett in a course for Landscape Architecture and Design I was part of a local landscape gardening team in my home county of Cumbria. Working on and off for 4 years in between volunteering in Nicaragua and traveling, in that time I realised I wanted to pursue the passion further by not just doing the hands on creating of gardens, but the designing and management of large-scale green spaces.
Studying at Leeds has benefited me in many ways, it was the first time for me living in a city a huge contrast to the rural country life of Cumbria, teaching by a diverse range of tutors with different specialisms allowing me to realise the wide range of opportunities out there once graduating, talks for a wide range of practices from Keith French who was part of the team that designed ‘Gardens by the Bay’ in Singapore to small-scale Yorkshire based firms in Leeds designing spaces for local communities. Meeting friends on the course who I have ended up living with for two years, attending a course mate’s wedding, creating a come dine with me group and making lifelong friends.
One of my most favourite memories of the course was our second year trip to Knaresborough, we had a packed few day which consisted of; visiting a site for a potential new visitors’ centre in Knaresborough, attending Dalby forest and hiking back to the hostel, going to Scampston Hall which features Capability Brown landscapes and Piet Oudolf contemporary walled garden design and having a laugh with the members of the course.
I found Landscape Architecture as a complete accident. I thought 4 years ago that I would end up doing Architecture but after a lot of research and accidentally finding the Leeds Beckett Landscape Architecture page I decided that this is the course I want to do.
Reflecting on my time as Landscape Architecture and Design student I realise that I have had many opportunities as a person to grow and opportunities to develop my skills. Because of Leeds Beckett and the brilliant tutors teaching this course I have had several opportunities I would not have easily gotten anywhere else.
Because of LBU I got the confidence to be course representative for 2 years, this allowed me to be involved with student meetings and raise issues that are extremely close to my heart. I got the opportunity to collaborate with Architecture students and Master of Planning Students for projects and multiple modules. I got the opportunity to work in live projects and gave me the responsibility of working with specific communities and clients.
While studying in my third year I have realised one of my biggest passions in Landscape Architecture and it has helped me design landscapes that are inclusive to the disabled community and individuals in the autistic spectrum.
Reflecting on the past three years now, I hardly recognise that nervous mess of an 18-year-old that turned up early on the first day. I am leaving Beckett confident than ever, sure that I will do well in whatever I encounter.
Trudi is a senior lecturer in Landscape Architecture. Currently she teaches mainly on the undergraduate programme, and is Level 4 coordinator. Her particular teaching interests lie in the exploration of place through art and spatial design, and the crossing of boundaries within landscape architecture through interdisciplinary teaching.