Author Archive

Designing town centres for walking and belonging


GUEST POST: Agata Szacilowska, Landscape Architect with the Greenspace Development Environmental Services team at North Lanarkshire Council (NLC), describes the design and regeneration of Motherwell’s historic town centre.

In Motherwell Town Centre, NLC aimed to improve the quality, function and appearance of the streets and public areas.

The design was developed through internal and external consultation, and was presented for comments during public displays, on hand delivered leaflets and on the council’s website.

The resulting project involved realigning and resurfacing footways and roads, and installing new street furniture, lighting, street trees and public art.

But its overarching themes were sensitivity to the town’s historic buildings and the movement of people around the public space. (more…)


Traffic management and reinventing wheels



At Ecobuild Michael Sorkin talked about designing new cities in the US and in China, where walking radiuses of 10 minutes were being used as a defining characteristic of a healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods.

Elsewhere, Will Self keeps up his ‘psychogeography’ campaign, extolling the benefits and radicalism of travelling by foot:

We understand that to walk the city and its environs is, in a very powerful sense, to use it. The contemporary flâneur is by nature and inclination a democratising force who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control.

Meanwhile, the economics of having to transport people and goods, and the small matter of pedestrian safety keep other discussions down to earth. (more…)

Ecobuild 2012 – External Works notes


As the dust settles after the 2012 Ecobuild event, here are few observations, in brief, from the External Works corner. (more…)

Natural stone surfacing: balancing acts


The palette of materials for hard surfacing spawns more and more options as construction technologies develop, not least with emerging concrete paving and bound surfacing products. Progress marches on.

But the appeal and effectiveness of natural stone in landscape architecture and construction – hardwearing Yorkstone, sympathetic limestone, fine-grained slate, solid granite – still stand, complemented as well by similar advances in stone manufacturing processes.

One reason for the persistent role of stone is the way that it allows designers, specifiers and contractors to balance competing priorities in projects: the authenticity of heritage styles versus the dynamism of contemporary accents; standing out in new build projects versus blending into restoration work; the civic benefits of pedestrianisation versus the commercial importance of traffic management. (more…)

Securing perimeters: 7 links on designing for security



  1. Free download from the Design Council: Designing out crime: a designers’ guide.
  2. Ecobuild conference, Architects, planners and the post riot city, Thu 22 March, 11:15–12:15.
  3. Secured by Design 3D toolkit including dwelling boundaries, landscape planting and street lighting scenarios.
  4. Landscape Institute urban green space case study: Angell Town Estate, Brixton.
  5. An article on The Dirt about bomb-sniffing borders and thorny hedges: ‘Plants Go on High Alert’.
  6. This Big City with a US perspective on residential security: Can Gated Communities be Considered Socially Sustainable?
  7. Related External Works blog post: “Designing out crime”, street furniture and soft landscaping.

Boundaries, fencing and connected landscapes


The relationship between fences, walls and barriers in public and private landscapes, and the need to design for ‘openness’, is not necessarily shot through with compromise.

Green infrastructure and crossing boundaries

The Landscape Institute’s Green Infrastructure position statement sets out a view on planning, design and management that takes into account ‘serious environmental, social and economical challenges’, and that recommends treating natural and built environments as ‘multifunctional’ and interconnected.


Shared spaces and smart surfacing


“Shared space” is an urban design concept championing multipurpose public areas that are safe, walkable, human-scale and economically vibrant, in which cars, buses, bikes, commuters, shoppers, residents and flaneurs co-exist in perfect harmony. Or at least in a kind of self-organising, flocking order. It throws up some interesting ideas and stimulating puzzles, not only for landscape architects but also for the manufacturers of construction products.

Shared roads and cycle tracks

The New York City based Urban Omnibus website features a rich and detailed article, “Cycle Tracks and the Evolving American Streetscape”. It’s written by David Vega-Barachowitz, Sustainable Initiatives Program Manager at the National Association of City Transportation Officials and coordinator for its Cities for Cycling project.

In the article he charts the history of designated bike lanes. They range from early experiments like the California Cycleway, an elevated toll road built in 1900 just for bikes, through to NYC’s 2007 Ninth Avenue protected bike lane, a figurehead pilot project.


Landscape architects: is Building Information Modelling (BIM) improving your business?


More than just a buzzword in 2011, Building Information Modelling or BIM took centre stage last year when Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Adviser, announced government plans to have all public projects operating under a BIM framework by 2016.

Following that announcement, BIM has rarely been out of the trade press as more and more companies quickly move to adopt it as a key strategy to win business and improve working practices.

What was noticeable, however, was a lack of coverage and contribution from the perspective of landscape architects.

So it’s good to hear that the BIM Academy at the University of Northumbria are looking to speak with landscape architects who have experience of integrating BIM into their own practice.

They are specifically looking to get a better understanding of the potential requirements of the profession to improve workflows and support greater efficiency and collaboration within the BIM framework.

If you are a landscape architect and would like to contribute to this research, please contact:

Nahim Iqbal, BIM Development Leader, BIM Academy
Tel: 0191 227 4533

The BIM Academy are leading the field in developing research, courses and guidance to support the construction industry in adopting BIM. For further details about the BIM Academy and their work, visit the website:

Getting it right: water management and landscape design


Guest post: Claire Thirlwall is the director of landscape architecture practice Thirlwall Associates. She specialises in river restoration and water management, and also works on more traditional landscape architecture projects. Here, Claire outlines the pitfalls and opportunities presented by water in landscape design and construction schemes.

Water, and more precisely how you manage that water, can be make or break on a construction project. From the water falling on the roof of each building to flood water rising up through the drainage network, dealing with water within your site can be a real challenge.


“Designing out crime”, street furniture and soft landscaping


Urban designers have the tricky task of balancing security with civic life. Creative product design can help. In the right hands, innovative products make public spaces safer by weighting them against antisocial behaviour and more serious crime. And they can do so without creating bristling, draconian, fortress towns.

Security versus liberty

In the process of reconciling urban planning theory with urban planning practice, “events” have a knack of interfering – a point made in our post looking at this summer’s riots in the UK.

Similarly, Vancouver’s Director of City Planning, Brett Toderian, recently explained how the events of 9/11 led at the time to a familiar urban planning dilemma, writ large: