This blog post was written by UWE architecture and planning student Audrey Kianjaya.

The May 2019 ‘Shape My City’ workshop focused on introducing landscape architecture to the young people to celebrate #LI90 – 90 years of the Landscape Institute.

The workshop encouraged the to group to generate initial design ideas for the upcoming Green Horizons live-build project that will take place as part of the 2019 Festival of Nature.

The professional ‘inspirer’ for this session was Sarah Jones-Morris, founder of Landsmith Associates and Chair of the Landscape Institute South West. The group was also joined by Hani and Cai, inspirational Shape My City alumni from the very first cohort in 2014.

Part One – Warm Up

As an introduction to the concept of landscape architecture and the spaces in between buildings, the young people were given a set of images of images of a diverse range of public spaces.

The participants were tasked with sorting the images into what they considered to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ spaces. Lots of discussion followed and the consensus with that ‘good spaces’ generally include greenery, lighting and colour, and the presence of people (of all ages) enjoying and interacting with the spaces.

Part Two – Influence and Inspiration

Next up it was time for visiting professional landscape architect Sarah to inspire the young people about landscape architecture and design. Sarah talked about her journey into the profession and some of the highs and lows. She talked about the importance of nature in cities and how it is critical this is in combating current issues of climate change and mental health/wellbeing.

She also shared some inspiring landscape projects from around the world that incorporate nature in their design such as the popular urban route the  Highline in New York and Gardens by the Bay in Singapore (Grant Associates) that encourages an increase in biodiversity.

Part Three – Introducing the Livebuild Design Challenge

After the inspirational and informative presentation by Sarah, the young people were introduced to the hands-on, live-build project for the Festival of Nature this coming June. Amy (Architecture Centre) shared the initial draft brief for the young people to respond to in small groups.

Exploring the key theme of people, place and nature, the young people were challenged to design a temporary structure (and landscape) from re-usable, recycled or living organic materials, for the Festival of Nature site on Queen Square. The structure itself must be easy to construct and easy to be taken down once the festival is over. Each group was then given a key word (based on natural forms of shelters) to ignite some additional design ideas.

The first group got ‘hive’ as their keyword. They interpreted this into the hexagonal shapes to replicate beehive patterns. To emphasise more on the keyword, they also proposed a collaborative ‘pollination’ activity for the festival visitors to experience whilst in the structure.

The second group got ‘burrow’ as their keyword. Their idea was based on creating an illusion of the live-build structure being underground. In terms of structure, they decided on using a lattice construction by weaving branches and thin bamboo strips together wrapped in vines for greenery. The structure will also have a light well at the centre as the only source of light in the structure, to emphasise the concept of being in underground and in complete darkness.

The third group got ‘nest’ as their keyword. They thought it would be interesting to incorporate bird sounds inside the structure, enhancing the (nature) sensory experiences on site. The idea was based on creating a protective shelter in the shape of a nest. The group decided to turn the concept of a nest being within a tree on its head, with the form of their structure being a tree within a next!

The final and fourth group that evening got ‘cocoon’ as their keyword and explored ideas of making a cosy, nurturing structure. They also played with the notion of metamorphosis from cocoon to butterfly, and developed the idea of butterfly kites (which the public could make and decorate) to animate the festival site.

Having explored some initial design ideas, the young people were then given the option to sign-up to be part of the live-build team (working alongside architects, landscape architects, engineers and university students) to create a real construction for the 2019 Festival site. More information to follow in our next blog post.

The Shape My City livebuild for the Festival of Nature 2019 is part of the Architecture Centre’s Green Horizons programme, celebrating #LI90 – 90 years of the Landscape Institute.