Posts Tagged ‘Resources’

Finding specialist contractors via and the External Works directory


Adam White is a director of the landscape architecture practice, Davies White. In our latest video, he talks to Su Butcher about finding products and services for a public park development, centring on retaining the banks of a pond island. Adam explains how he used the new tools on and the familiar form of the printed External Works directory hand in hand.

ESI.infoTV Episode 3 (more…)


Guest post: Localising playgrounds


Paige Johnson is the author of the Playscapes blog, which at 80,000 page views per month is the most widely read source of playground design on the web.

Playgrounds can be one of the worst offenders in the struggle to make public spaces locally relevant. Following a standard recipe of ‘kit, fence and carpet’ ensures that a play space could be in Milton Keynes or Madagascar, Swindon or South LA. Without context, who’s to tell?

Adding local context to a playground installation increases community commitment to the space, involves local providers, and is just plain more fun. Localised elements can form the basis for new playground installations, or be added to improve existing ones. Here, examples from my four years of writing about playgrounds at Playscapes illustrate strategies for localising the playground.

1.  Consider topography

Whenever possible, playgrounds should make the ground plane itself part of the play, preserving or reflecting local topographies.

Retaining an existing pile of rubble at a reclaimed industrial site in France allowed this playground by Agence TER to fit into a familiar local site AND be more exciting by hanging off its steep side.

Topographies can be simpler constructions as well: this spiral mound in London, made of turf by Mortar and Pestle Studio, recalls similar Elizabethan garden features. (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…)

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:

The problem with tidiness: the Kindle and urban design


Summary: Scandalously breaking the rules of blog-writing best practice (make one point), this is a meandering post that touches on e-books, urbanism, lego, ESI product development and the poetry of Les Murray. An untidy post on tidiness and over-tidiness.

I’ve recently joined the ranks of Kindle users, and I was very excited to do so too.

I had run out of room for bookshelves, and never really got to grips with note-taking and ‘processing’ books. I like traveling light. I’ve been navigating the shift from print to digital content in construction information publishing at work. I was in the mood for a panacea.

I was looking forward to a simpler, more streamlined life.


Book review: Digital Culture in Architecture


Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Professions, by Antoine Picon

There is something odd about a hard-copy book devoted to emergent technologies. It feels old before its time. Aren’t practicing architects’ methods more likely to be shaped on the job, or by the real-time peer reviews that social networks are starting to provide?

Either way, Antoine Picon is aware of the tension. As an historian, he charts a course between long-view philosophical musings on the one hand and the over-excitement of early-adopters on the other.

Digital Culture in Architecture does well in placing recent developments in their historical context, while still arguing that there is something unique about digitisation in society and culture.

Picon alternates slices of theory and practice, and clusters examples in three areas: the influence of digital technologies on architectural form, on the sensory experience of architecture, and on the relationship of individuals to urban environments.

This is not a crossover title. It makes few concessions to the non-academic reader. Nor does it go out of its way to be particularly fluent, and in this it’s not helped by laissez-faire copyediting. But it avoids obscurity thanks to the good measure of well-appointed illustrated examples that signpost the essays.

Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Professions
Author: Antoine Picon
Format: Book
Pages: 225
Publisher: Birkhauser
Date Published: Apr 2010
Stock Code: 71709
ISBN: 9783034602594
Binding: Paperback

ConLib coalition and public space


Given our new coalition government in the UK, what are the implications for public space? Planning isn’t mentioned in the draft agreement document, except for the nuclear power station variety.

Our recently reviewed book, Ground Control by Anna Milton, positions the Liberal Democrats historically as sometime defenders of the public realm and community life.

During a controversial run-in between political protesters and Marks & Spencer in 2004, Peter Rothery of Manchester City Council’s Lib Dem opposition is credited with saying, ‘Anyone has a right to protest in a free society’. And, again in 2004, the incoming Lib Dem administration at Newcastle City Council played its part in stopping the heavy-handed ‘Going for Growth’ programme. The demolition of hundreds of homes had been proposed to make way for more desirable properties to kick-start the local housing market.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are cast as the misguided champions of planning reforms that ultimately led to a private-sector land-grab.

Out-of-town shopping centres proliferated in the eighties thanks to the Thatcherite attempt at non-planning, until the damage to cities was so apparent that John Gummer, Conservative sectretary of state in the nineties, changed tack. At the same time, their knitting together of private sector development and social housing provision didn’t prevent insufficient supply or vulnerability to bad economic conditions.

The same kind of polarisation hasn’t necessarily come to the surface in the recent election campaign.

The Conservative Manifesto talks about reforming planning, not only by abolishing the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and making Ministers responsible for final permissions on infrastructure projects, but also by ‘giving neighbourhoods greater control of the planning system’. This is all presented as part of the party’s community empowerment and Big Society policies.

Supposedly, neighbourhood plans will be able to be drawn up and will be brought together to form local plans. Immediate neighbours will be given more influence in planning housing developments and other local projects. Local housing trusts will be charged with granting planning permission for new housing.

The Lib Dems Manifesto is thinner on detail. Again, there’s the promise to abolish the IPC and ‘return decision-making, including housing targets, to local people’. There was to be a closing of loopholes on playing field development, a new designation to protect green areas of value to communities, and ‘landscape-scale’ water resource management policies.

But does the urgency of dealing with the deficit mean that public space decisions will only be addressed in economic terms?

Will the kind of approach recommended by Anna Milton be seen as idealistic in a period of austerity?

Do the economic dire straits mean that these discussions, and even the RIBA priorities for the new Government, are in danger of falling a bit flat?

Trends in urban planning


Tangwhisky on Flickr

Summary: The annual Planetizen list of Top 10 Books works as a neat summary of recurring themes in the urban planning conversation: human-scale cities, reconciling public and private space, understanding and visualising continuous change.

The Planetizen post includes a complete set of reviews, together with information about and links to the books themselves.

Human-scale cities

Practical observations are more compelling than abstract concepts. The idea of designing urban spaces that are fit for people comes across in new ways.

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries makes leisurely comments on streets and buildings from the saddle of a bike, while Darrin Nordahl’s My Kind of Transit connects public space and public transport, noting the virtues of allowing people to shape their own environment.

David Owen’s Green Metropolis makes surprising links between tall buildings, dense cities, and sustainable development. Likewise, Léon Krier’s The Architecture of Community decouples the idea of human interaction with place from pure nostalgia.

In the same vein, The Smart Growth Manual sets out to encapsulate and apply the Charter for New Urbanism.

Reconciling public and private space

Eric Freyfogle’s On Private Property resists oversimplifying arguments and settling for easy answers. Actual situations, legal cases and historical examples are used to give a more precise framing of the question of ownership, public and private, governmental and commercial.

The same kind of tension comes across in Anthony Flint’s Wrestling with Moses. Jane Jacobs’ victory in subjecting Robert Moses’s building work to public scrutiny in 1960s NYC, can’t be altogether distanced from the emerging culture of NIMBYism.

Understanding and visualising continuous change

Paul Goldberg’s accumulated essays in Building Up and Tearing Down provide a record of the way that buildings have impacted upon their host cities. The essays provide, in Planetizen’s words, “documentation of city change”.

Similarly, Mark Ovenden’s photos in Paris Underground, and the documents and maps in Eric W. Sanderson’s Mannahatta, give, in different ways, visual depictions of urban development.

What actually works? Web info as a tool for practicing architects and designers


Speakers Corner - scarty on Flickr

Summary: the day-to-day work of designers and specifiers will benefit as much from better organised online technical information as it will from new social media. And, importantly, front-line specialists need to be involved as content creators as well as consumers.


Clearly valuable online information

Harnessing realtime online information and social media for business projects is an interesting idea for construction professionals. The subject is generating plenty of column inches and online buzz.

But networking is only one part of day-to-day work, virtual or otherwise.

Repositories of applicable, accessible technical information are at least as likely to make a meaningful impact on jobs in hand – on executing, completing and delivering projects.

Web 2.0 principles still apply though, especially the concept of many-to-many information sharing rather than top-down commissioning and centralised publication.

Call for papers: Knowledge Bank

For our part, we have set up the Knowledge Bank to help give some structure to the ongoing exchange of practical skills and experience in the construction industry. Our role is to host, categorise and index, then to share, link, circulate and distribute.

Some examples:

Who can contribute? The Knowledge Bank is open to contributions from any individual or organisation with experience or expertise in the construction marketplaces.

Where will the information appear? All ‘Expert’ pages are fully searchable via the Knowledge Bank on ESI editors will also classify your expert page and link it to the search results for relevant topics.

What exposure will you get? Company logo or a photograph; contact details (email/telephone); up to 12 captioned illustrations to support the article; PDF documents to download; link to any page on your website; link to additional product or service information published on

There is no charge for contributing to the Knowledge Bank. All we ask is that you add a link to from your own website.

Your expert opinion

To join in or to ask more questions:

How Twitter can benefit architects

Social media ROI  - Intersection Consulting on Flickr

Social media ROI - Intersection Consulting on Flickr

Jason Wagner of Oculus Inc has a good piece on The American Institute of Architects website on how architects can use Twitter to support their practice.

What’s good about it:

  • It talks directly to architects, rather than being general advice for all Twitter users.
  • Although it’s styled as 10 tips, each one is furnished with good, relevant examples.
  • It embraces the jargon, but doesn’t fail to explain what it all means.

For an architect, Twitter can be a potentially valuable tool in your arsenal if you know how to use it effectively. By now you are probably asking yourself, “What can I get out of Twitter to help me as an architect: A) Get more business, B) Be more visible in the design community, or C) Meet and network with people who need architectural services.”

Twitter will not automatically do these things for you. With anything, reward comes after work. No one can tell you why you or your company needs to be on Twitter. You need to determine whether Twitter is something you are interested in. If Twitter is something you think you might want to pursue, these tips will help you get the most out of your experience.

1. When selecting your profile, figure out if you are going to BE the company, or if you are going to be an employee IN the company.
2. If you tweet it, they will come.
3. Just because you follow someone, it doesn’t mean you are talking to them.
4. Fill out your bio. Provide an avatar photo.
5. Start getting noticed by providing value, not tweeting about your lunch.
6. Information is power- utilize search and set up RSS feeds.
7. Encourage others in your office (or offices if you have multiple locations) to use Twitter.
8. Get an application to manage your Twitter stream(s).
9. CEO’s of fortune 500 companies (and many other smaller companies for that matter) are not on Twitter.
10. Retweets, Followfridays and Tweetups oh my!

Here’s another of our posts on using LinkedIn, and here’s one on the benefits of social media for architects and designers.