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BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture and Design

Frankie Smith-Morris

Frankie Smith-Morris Artwork 5

Winner of The Gillespies Fraser Teal Award 2021

My interest in landscape is something that has developed over my time spent as a landscape gardener, a career path I started at 15 just as a part-time laborer. The firm I worked for was a small, family run affair, however everyone there had a shared passion for bespoke design and delivered a number of high-end jobs in the landscape world. It would have been difficult not to pick up any kind of interest in landscape while working there, and I still enjoy the work we carry out today. I was always on the practical end of the company, gradually working up to more skilled tasks and taking on more responsibility with jobs before running smaller works and being included with client meetings. This was always what I assumed I would progress into following on from leaving school, I never really had an interest in design specifically, rather I enjoyed the process of on-site construction. It wasn’t until I saw some of the drawings and visualizations produced by one of the partners that I decided on a career in design.

I had grown up in a heavily art-based background, picking up work on-and-off as a fabricator in my parent’s workshop, who specialized in model making, art instillations and theatre. There was always a rather cynical balance of what constitutes “good work”, and everything was (sometimes brutally) scrutinized with the same unshifting ambiguity, from west-end theatre scenery to homemade birthday cards. The balance between artistic vision and sincere practicality you often get with an architect’s drawings therefore strike a personal note with me, and that was what caught my attention with my boss’s work before I knew what landscape architecture even was. The ability to visually communicate an idea and produce designs that were well justified and suited completely to their setting is something that I have pursued during my time at Leeds. I chose this course above any others because I think I saw the same ethos for design that we followed at work – that is to fully explore solutions, with a balance of creativity and analysis to create designs that are completely bespoke, original, and responsive.

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 centered 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 multilayered 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.