The New Normal – designing with living materials

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Thank you to everyone who came along to the Bristol Specifi landscape event – it was great to meet so many people from the Landscape Architect sector, and to catch up with people I hadn’t seen since college.

My keynote speech prompted some really interesting discussions, including areas I’d not considered when putting together my talk. I claimed that landscape architects were the only profession, apart from perhaps transplant surgeons, who design with living material. Working with material that grows, have natural variation and need care to keep alive, is a dimension of landscape architecture that can be overlooked but it is an aspect that makes our work even more rewarding.

I was challenged on my claim with a fascinating thought – that as part of all design, the people we design for, and in particular their brains, counts as designing with living things. This lead to a thought provoking and involved discussion as to how landscape architecture, including ground modelling, paving and planting, could help support those with neurological challenges. We discussed the often mentioned and often simplified research looking at the impact on recovery of having a view of nature and how natural materials can impact on health, and where further research is needed. This is a topic I’m already exploring so would love to know of any research or case studies.

Other topics discussed included the need for a better understanding between suppliers and specifiers of each side’s needs, and an amazing example of collaboration with the supermarket sector to use empty space in returning lorries to transport materials. The range of the topics covered was a perfect reflection of the huge breadth of issues covered by the work of landscape architects.

I promised to share links to the items I mentioned

After setting the challenge I hope to hear how you have shared the value of our work …
Claire Thirlwall