Community spaces brought to life at Leeds Met
One project that a team of students are working on is the Moor Allerton Hall Primary School's early years' playground. The students are designing a new Key Stage one playground area, including the woodland area adjoining the playground and spaces adjoining the classrooms as well as the main entrance to the school. Working alongside second year Playwork students, the team are also taking into account the pupils' learning, play and development which will feed into the designs. The children, who are aged between five and seven years old, are getting involved in the process as much as possible.
Catherine Phillips, Deputy Head Teacher at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School, said: "We are looking to have the Key Stage One children use parts of the playground as an outdoor classroom, even if it is raining, so we have asked the students to revamp the area including canopies. The main entrance is our main point of contact for parents so we also asked them to make it more welcoming. The students have met with parents to get their viewpoints and hired equipment for the children to play on, making videos so that they can see how they play and interact with each other.
"I've been really impressed with the level of commitment they have shown to making the best possible solution for us and I'm looking forward to seeing their plans. We are now busy applying for funding so that we can implement the students' ideas."
Student, Rebecca Watts, added: "The design and community project is fantastic, a real insight into the 'real world'. It's a brilliant opportunity and if the school can go ahead with our designs it will be very rewarding."
Emma Oldroyd, Module Leader, commented: "Working with real communities and clients on projects that influence genuine change is an invaluable experience for students and helps them stand out from the crowd when looking for work in design practices. The programme provides an experience that is about as close to professional practice as you can get while still being a student. Throughout the course, they manage the client relationship, plan and deliver a community consultation programme and finally present a design package that meets their client's needs and I'm proud to say that our students put their heart and soul into it."
Steve Heywood, Senior Lecturer and supervisor of several of theprojects, including Moor Allerton, added: "The students have been researching the realms and theories of play and the design of children's play environments in order to hatch out a range of exciting and alternative conceptual designs for the existing spaces and landscapes around the school. It's so exciting watching the ideas emerge and the design possibilities unfold. The students have really been pushing the boundaries with their design experimentation and,through close consultation with our clients, challenging the conventional perception of what a school playground should be."
Other design projects include a new wallaby enclosure within the Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre in Heckmondwike, a new reflection garden at St Gemma's Hospice incorporating a feature to help raise funds, the Gotts Park walled garden's conversion into a new centre for the Conservation Volunteers and their work, a setting and garden for a new community centre in New Fryston, Castleford, the regeneration of Castleford Flour Mill into a community hub, 'A Taste of Saltaire' - maximising the use of space in Saltaire for growing food; and a re-design of the Bexley Wing Entrance courtyard at St James's Hospital to give it a 'wow factor'.
The students are meeting with clients and users of the facilities to engage them in the design processes and develop a good understanding of the clients' needs. They will be delivering the final designs at an exhibition at Broadcasting Place in Leeds on Thursday 31 January.
The study and practice of Landscape Architecture within a community context has been part of the academic programme at Leeds Metropolitan since the 1970s, totalling more than 100 Design and Community projects. These projects have ensured that students in their final year experience the theory and practice of landscape design in live contexts, taking their designs beyond the drawing board, whilst benefiting the local community.