What is landscape architecture? The discipline carries a broad range of expertise from high-level master planning and visual impact studies, to detailing a material interface or simply the correct species of plant for a particular setting. In all cases, the Axis Mason landscape team believes it is about the study and enrichment of space in between and beyond buildings. We are driven to respect the environment by protecting and enhancing its assets. This could mean expanding our access to green space or simply providing a better conceived road or footway network to ensure our journeys are safe and engaging.
How do we get there? Every project requires site analysis to identify constraints and opportunities. For an urban regeneration scheme this might manifest itself as an improved public realm that prioritises the safety of pedestrians, or the installation of a roof garden to maximise amenity space. For other clients the very orientation and position of their development will seek to realise an appreciation of the landscape. In the care sector we will ensure a ready connection to garden space knowing it promotes healing, in a setting for education we know that provision for play and sensory engagement is proven to promote learning.
Any favourite projects? We have had the pleasure of working on a variety of exciting landscape projects and, no matter the scale, believe investment in landscape has the power to transform our communities and sense of place.
Pitt Street is situated in the centre of Saint Helier. Once a little-used, dark and forgotten cut through our brief was to resurface and pedestrianise the lane. We applied bands of linear granite paving that zig-zag down the street. The stone contains text engraving referencing key moments in the Jersey’s history forming an engaging timeline. Recessed strip lighting has also been programmed to send a pulse of colour changing light down the street to represent the flowing brook culverted below. The fabric of the street has become a piece of public art, transforming footfall and pedestrian movement through this area of town.
Samares Nursery redeveloped a redundant site of horticultural glasshouses to create 200 new affordable homes. The development is broken into a series of courtyards where we sought to create distinct neighbourhoods using planting and contrasting colours and materials. The houses encircle small communal gardens containing areas for rest and play. In the open, public zones we created linear parks, wildlife corridor and 1km of new cycle track to tap into the wider cycling network. This scheme exemplifies efforts to promote sustainable travel. If the facility is there, we are all more inclined to spend more time outdoors and leave the car at home.
Currently underway, Ann Court is a mixed-use regeneration project providing 165 new homes in the north of Saint Helier. Car parking facility is hidden below ground and the roadway flanking the scheme’s principal facade will be pedestrianised. Demolitions have awarded a greater area to landscape allowing us to create an open square and landmark setting for the local community. This space will be populated with 40 trees, a sunken square and contemporary street furniture realising and responding to a wider government strategy to improve the public realm within the island’s capital. Internally, the apartment blocks will enclose a substantial podium garden for residents use with large trees and swathes of planting demonstrating the means are there to integrate green infrastructure into a seemingly concrete environment.
What challenges face a landscape architect? Ask the majority of developers or consultants working within the construction industry whether landscape has an assured priority in building developments and, with a wry smile, they may answer ‘no’.
The approach and surroundings to a building can seem a lesser priority when finalising architectural furnishes and finishes. All effort will be poured into making a building the best it can be on handover. Landscape however, can be perceived as an element that can be later evolved or later upgraded. If a project is to endure value engineering it can be difficult to protect budgetary allocation for landscape and so your stone paving may become concrete, your large trees reduced to small standards and contemporary street furniture becomes something more utilitarian.
The tide is changing though.
The projects we have discussed here are all examples of integrating landscape into a scheme from the outset. The designs formed an integral element to achieving Planning permission and increasingly, uncompromised allocation for landscape is conditioned on a Planning permit with a further demand for planning its maintenance for longevity. With a growing awareness to build and live more sustainably, planning policy is increasing its focus on our obligation to integrate green infrastructure, to protect and enrich ecology and to plan our settlements in such a way that we will be connected to the outdoors. Music to our ears and an exciting time to be a landscape architect.