Green roofs, Great Dixter and a grand piano concerto: How third years are getting to grips with ecological design

Third year students have immersed themselves in creative techniques and cutting-edge concepts in ecological design, to develop proposals for the UK’s first post-industrial nature park.

Landscape Architecture students visit John Little's brownfield garden in Essex

The students, taking Professor Nigel Dunnett’s Green Infrastructure and Ecological Masterplanning module, have developed plans for a green tram-stop and park-and-ride site, for the landscape surrounding the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning Magna Science Adventure Centre and Blackburn Meadows, on the boundary between Sheffield and Rotherham.

The designs, which integrate biodiversity, surface water management and natural play, create new landscapes that are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.

Landscape Architecture students visiting their project site
The project site links Magna Science Adventure Centre with Blackburn Meadows biomass plant

Site visits and field trips formed an important part of this 12-week design studio, along with input from external contributors, who are leaders in the contemporary world of ecological design.

Students enjoyed a visit to Hilldrop, John Little’s Brownfield Garden in Essex — where they were able to experience and explore John’s innovative growing techniques — as well as urban safaris to brownfield sites in Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.

Landscape Architecture students visiting John Little's garden
The plants in John Little's experimental garden thrive in crushed chalk, brick, glass and concrete

Undergraduate Marko Yau said: “the field trips on our ecological materplanning module were a personal highlight. I learnt that ecological design can be both artistic and practical. Exploring the landscape physically allowed us to connect with nature, forming a dialogue with plants and surrounding wildlife habitats."

"These site visits have truly broadened my horizons and provided endless inspiration for me to produce new landscape designs.”

Marko Yau (left) with Nigel Dunnett, Fiona McQuaid and fellow third year students
Marko Yau (left) with fellow third year students, Nigel Dunnett and Fiona McQuaid.

Masterclasses were delivered by Fergus Garrett — renowned for his work at Great Dixter, including its acclaimed biodiversity audit  — Gary Grant, Consultant with Green Infrastructure Consultancy and Professor Emeritus James Hitchmough.

Creative Workshops

To help develop initial plans and tap into their creativity, students were led in ‘eco-flow workshops’ by Nigel and artist Fiona McQuaid, who is Department of Landscape Architecture Studio Tutor.

Students worked to classical music to develop their mass-space designs

Working to music, to encourage maximum looseness and flexibility, students created mass-space plans; where mass relates to anything a visitor cannot easily move through and space relates to open views and easy movement through.

By integrating scientific, ecological knowledge with creative design skills, students then developed their site proposals; creating biodiverse spaces that benefit nature and bolster people.

Student work gallery

 A selction of student work by Montagu Dooley and James Horne