Laurie Chetwood was recently interviewed by Pro Landscaper Magazine about the importance and value that the landscape can add to the built environment. Laurie shared his experience of how closer collaboration between architects and landscape architects from the outset can enhance design and how a holistic approach leads to a more successful scheme:

The relationship between architecture, art and landscape architecture – and before it, landscape gardening – has not always been clear-cut but has undoubtedly been key to the successful design of virtually any project in the built environment.

We know from experience that the best-designed projects are invariably those which have successfully integrated their buildings into the spaces between and around them from the outset.

Rather than treating landscape and artistic elements as ‘add-ons’ or self-contained parts within the overall design of a built scheme, we seek to engage from the earliest stages with our partners to explore ways of ensuring that each component of a design approach is not only integrated but also complementary. Closer collaboration represents a significant opportunity for landscape architects as much as it does for architects, particularly given the fundamental importance of the environment and sustainability issues to the global agenda. In practice, too few architects consciously think about ‘art’ in the design process and the impact that powerful, well-positioned sculptures, murals, installations, and other artworks can have.

Ideally, buildings should be designed as pieces of art in their own right; art should not be an attractive afterthought but rather integrated into the overall design from the outset. Shapes and colours should inform our buildings and the spaces around them and demonstrate an understanding of science as much as of art. Our buildings should appeal to people’s wider sensibilities and encourage strong, positive associations.

The Pandemic has given millions of people a new awareness of the significance of their immediate surroundings. Long periods of enforced confinement in our homes have highlighted the importance of being able to spend time in our gardens or in other external communal areas.

At Chetwoods, we recognise the growing importance of the link between nature and our working environment through the more sensitive incorporation of biodiversity – and particularly biophilic – measures in our design approach, including the balance of natural light and colour.  The effective use of biophilic design is not just about the introduction of a few plants here and a green wall there. It is just as much about the ‘texture’ of the materials which are used: even the finishes of the surfaces of man-made materials such as concrete can be patinated to resemble surfaces found in nature.  Adopting a ‘holistic’ approach which links the building and landscape designs is fundamentally about making users feel positive towards – and comfortable with – the environment they occupy.

We should recognise that architects are often designing installations that move biophilic and nature-based elements away from the periphery of building designs and put them at the centre of schemes.

Laurie Chetwood Future City Garden UN COP15

This has certainly been the case with our project for the United Nation’s 2021 COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China where a Chetwoods-designed entrance plaza (above) encouraged delegates to reconnect with the pleasures of nature while experiencing the latest technology (including the use of a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered Sun at its centre) that will help to protect and save the environment.  The scheme communicates COP15’s key themes of food, sleep, shelter, air, and water, basic needs linking humans and other creatures and themes which have informed and guided our design approach.

And our design for a conceptual show garden for the Chelsea Flower Show (below) demonstrates how art, architecture and landscape can combine to support the environment, delivering new local and sustainable food growing spaces.

Laurie Chetwood Chelsea Flower Show B&Q Vertical Farm Show Garden

Responding to the dependence of cities on a food supply chain which is highly vulnerable to disruption by major events such as civil unrest and pandemics, the design explores how elements of a traditional allotment can be located in a wide range of urban settings.  It offers a way in which cities can adopt new approaches to greater self-reliance as primary producers of food – the scheme was delivered in partnership with landscape architect Patrick Collins and with the support of B&Q.

Laurie Chetwood Chelsea Flower Show B&Q Vertical Farm Show Garden

We should continually seek to improve the ways in which we approach our designs.  Increasingly, we find – as an architectural firm – that we are including landscape and art in with our architecture approach; the three are intrinsic and need to be considered together.  We anticipate that this will be a requirement going forward with a mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain of at least 10 per cent. 

With over 5,000 monthly subscribers, Pro Landscaper Magazine is the UK’s leading business to business publication within the landscaping sector. Click here to view the original interview in their March edition.

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