22 March 2021

Open letter highlights Landscape Architecture’s role in designing safer cities for women

A student and senior academic have written an open letter to the Guardian newspaper highlighting the importance of the Landscape Architecture profession in helping to design and create safer cities for women.

Emma Beaumont's project will look at women's safety in outdoor spaces
Emma Beaumont's project work addresses women's safety in and access to green spaces in Burnley, Lancashire

The letter — by Dr Clare Rishbeth, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture and MLA student Emma Beaumont — comes in response to the Guardian’s editorial on urban insecurity, which argued that a chronic gender imbalance in urban planning means that aspects of city design which negatively impact on women’s safety often go unseen.

The pair argue that Landscape Architecture — which has a more equal gender balance than other design professions — deals intrinsically with the social implications of design decisions and point to Emma’s recent project on improving experiences of outdoor spaces for women in Burnley — Chin Up Lass! — as an example of this work.

Their full letter is copied below.

As women, and as academic and student members of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield, we agree wholeheartedly with your recent editorial (published 16 March) which stated ‘women must also play an equal part in designing the infrastructure that shapes everyday life’.

We’re delighted to report that Landscape Architecture is one of the few disciplines in the planning, design and development industry that does not have a ‘chronic gender imbalance’, (although we acknowledge work is still needed) and, happily, is also the profession most fundamentally involved in shaping the urban public realm – parks, squares, playgrounds and streetscapes.

The social implications of design decisions are intrinsic to our educational curriculum and professional practice. One excellent example is Emma’s final year report looking at the challenge of improving experiences of the outdoor spaces for women living in Burnley, entitled Chin Up Lass!.

Landscape Architects have a unique combination of skills from green infrastructure planning scale down to design details, and are certainly not limited to the ‘pretty planting’ at the end - hence we suggest moving away from the rather dated term of ‘landscaping’ used in the editorial.

Making appropriate design decisions at all of these scales can support inclusive use of different types of open spaces. This happens most effectively when Landscape Architects are fully included within cross-disciplinary teams alongside genuine community involvement, with women’s voices present and heard throughout.

Ms Emma Beaumont, student and Dr Clare Rishbeth, Senior Lecturer.
Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Sheffield

Chin Up Lass! Female wellbeing and safe access to green space in Burnley, Lancashire