Professor Clare Rishbeth

Department of Landscape Architecture

Professor of Inclusive Landscapes

Professor Clare Rishbeth
Profile picture of Professor Clare Rishbeth
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Professor Clare Rishbeth
Department of Landscape Architecture
Arts Tower
Western Bank
S10 2TN

My research focuses on migration histories and the experiential qualities of place, developing a landscape specific contribution within a broad field of literature encompassing belonging and isolation, conviviality and racism, transnational connections and the shaping of cultures of use of public open space. I firmly believe in producing research in collaboration with others and I am committed to working with the professional and voluntary sector in all my research projects. I welcome PhD applications relevant to either of the two themes below, especially if including use of participatory methods.

Through a number of research projects, these themes have been developed within two more specific strands: 1) Inclusive Public Open Spaces and 2) Diverse nature connections.

Inclusive Public Outdoor Spaces

My current research project relating to this strand is ESRC funded, Just Turn Up: informal sport and social participation in the superdiverse city and will run 2022-24. I make a spatial and landscape specific contribution within an interdisciplinary team: Sarah Neal - (P.I., sociology) Keith Parry (sport) and Bonnie Pang (health). The project explores the potential of informal sport participation to contribute to urban inclusion, health and wellbeing in cities characterised by high levels of social inequality, ethnic difference and new migration patterns, with ethnographic fieldwork in Sheffield and London.

I have recently been awarded by the AHRC a one year industry secondment to ‘We Made That’ to undertake practice based research and collaboration on ‘atmospheres of inclusion’ starting in July 2023.

Previous research

This strand of my work has developed primarily through leading two AHRC (Connected Communities) research projects. The first, The Bench Project (2015, P.I.) included ethnographic work in two London sites, with NGO and a filmmaker in CI positions. Key outputs included an 18 minute film Alone Together (showcased by the prestigious ARGOS centre in Brussels), a practice focused report co-authored by The Young Foundation, and paper Sitting outside: Conviviality, self-care and the design of benches in urban public space.

Post The Bench Project I was awarded ‘Follow-on Funding’ for #RefugeesWelcome in Parks (2017, P.I.) to inform stakeholder knowledge and skills across the greenspace and refugee support sectors to address barriers to park use by refugees and asylum seekers. This was a two country (UK, Germany), cross-discipline/sector investigation and knowledge exchange, including promotion of good practice and innovation stories across northern Europe. Outputs included a resource book, conversation card pack, policy report in German and paper  Participation and wellbeing in urban greenspace: ‘curating sociability’ for refugees and asylum seekers. Working on refugee inclusion continues in various ways, most recently through collaborating in Hala Ghanam’s research funded by CBRL on participatory and inter-sector work in Amman, Jordan.

In addition to funded research, I have co-authored on inclusive spaces with doctoral colleagues: ​Ethnographic​ ​understandings​ ​of ethnically​ ​diverse​ neighbourhoods​ ​to​ ​inform​ ​urban​ ​design​ ​practice. and have a chapter included in Vikas and Palazzo’s 2020 Routledge handbook Companion to Public Space on ‘The collective outdoors: memories, desires and becoming local in an era of mobility’.

Diverse Nature Connections

My current research within this strand is a CI role in Voices for the Future: Collaborating with children and young people to re-imagine treescapes (NERC, 2021-24). I am leading a small team mapping and understanding contexts in which young people’s take leadership and shape activism on climate change and biodiversity.

Previous research

My various research projects on intercultural spaces gave insights into the value and varied experiences of nature for people from migrant backgrounds, and this developed in more detail within the Improving Wellbeing through Urban Natureresearch (NERC, 1.3mil, 2016-19). I led Work-package 2 ‘Cultures and values of nature and wellbeing: reflecting a diverse society’, in which we conducted 55 qualitative interviews with Sheffield residents of all ages about meanings and values of nature connections, and 4 series of participatory arts workshops for people with mental health challenges. Our findings highlighted the importance of everyday nature connections for first generation migrants ‘Urban nature and transnational livesand young people Nature doesn't judge you - how urban nature supports young people's mental health and wellbeing in a diverse UK city, with exploration of nuances of what supports and what hinders these connections, also explored in a series of three project briefings: (e.g. Supporting people’s mental wellbeing through urban nature – challenging inequalities. In 2022 I led as PI research commissioned by Natural England Included outside: Evidence synthesis for engaging under-represented groups in nature, a series of four briefing notes and delivering a stakeholder event (2022), and I also serve on the Natural England Social Science Expert Panel (2021-23).


My professional identity is still firmly set within the profession of Landscape Architecture and I love teaching design projects in our studios (and with as many site visits as I can fit in). I gained my undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture at Leeds Metropolitan University, followed by the diploma level at the University of Sheffield. My professional background includes working as a Landscape Architect for a Groundwork Trust near Slough, a district council in Somerset and as a guest tutor at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. I have held an academic position at Department of Landscape Architecture at Sheffield for over twenty years, and am a senior lecturer and Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. I lead the ‘Transcultural Urban Outdoors’ research group, forged mostly through creative ideas shared between myself and my doctoral students.

I firmly believe in producing research in collaboration with others and I am committed to working with the professional and voluntary sector in all my research projects. I am a regular contributor to professional debates and training with the Landscape Institute.

Research interests

As outlined above, my research is concerned with how our experience of place is shaped by personal and community histories of migration.

There is a professional remit here: how does the broad ambition and practice of landscape architecture respond to contexts of superdiveristy, plurality of values and the different ways that these places may be used? Are we culturally competent in identifying, reflecting and responding to issues of equity, justice and inclusion in public places?

I have gradually moved from research methods which have aimed to `share benefit´ with participants to ones where the objectives, methods and analysis is co-produced with non-academic organisations.

Research projects

Included Outside: interventions for a more inclusive public realm in conflict settings (starting 2021)

This project is based in Beirut, in collaboration with Lebanese academics (University of Notre Dame, American University of Beirut) and third sector/NGOs (Public Works and Collective for Research and Training-Action), and builds on the findings and methods of #Refugeeswelcome in Parks. I am the PI and it is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

For most people across the world, spending time in public spaces improves quality of life: different types of open spaces (formal parks to street corners) offer opportunities to informally socialise, exercise, gain respite from work or home pressures, feel part of a local neighbourhood and enjoy contact with nature. However, these opportunities can be constrained in many ways, reflecting wider patterns of individual and community marginalisation. This project addresses how histories of conflict shape experiences of public space exclusions for local residents whose life experiences include forced displacement and/or sectarian divides (focusing on the experience of women, a double marginalisation) and through the diminishing of the public realm in Beirut through historic destructions and severe under-investment.

The aim of the project is to engage with organisational stakeholders as allies-in-practice who have the ability to initiate change within their activities well beyond the timeframe of this research project. We will do this in three steps:

  • Interviews to understand and learn from stakeholders' values, priorities and experience of initiating effective change,
  • Undertake participatory pilot fieldwork to improve understanding of inclusions and exclusions of being outside by residents most impacted by conflict histories,
  • Through discussion and networking, share with stakeholders the findings of our pilot fieldwork, and support them in connecting their existing activities with improving access to local public open space.

#Refugeeswelcome in Parks (2018)

Though the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers are complex and varied, circumstances of under-employment, poor living conditions, limited social opportunities and mental health pressures are commonly reported. Can the use of parks support social networks, improve local awareness and give a sense of belonging or a peaceful moment?

In the #refugeeswelcome in parks (link: project we looked at how using outdoor places in cities and towns, in particular visiting parks, has the opportunity to improve the wellbeing of these new residents and support integration on the local scale. Our project methods were founded on three principles: careful listening, learning from different contexts, and giving back so as to support change. We interviewed refugees and asylum seekers (16 interviews and many informal conversations), and a range of stakeholder groups (35 interviews) from both the refugee sector (support and orientation services, conversation clubs, mental health services) and the greenspace sector (management, design, advocacy, community support). We worked in three places, Sheffield, London and Berlin in collaboration with The Young Foundation (London) and Minor (Berlin). I was PI on this project which was funded by the AHRC as a follow on to ‘The Bench Project’.

Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (2016-2019)

‘Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature’ (IWUN) was a significant three year project based in the Department of Landscape Architecture, with PI Anna Jorgensen (funding from NERC). It sought to explore questions around urban nature and urban residents’ mental health and wellbeing in Sheffield, a northern British city. Within the IWUN study, I led on a qualitative strand exploring cultures and values of nature, health and wellbeing in a diverse city. 90 people aged 17–86 years were involved with in-depth life-course interviews in order to understand a general population experience of nature and mental wellbeing. Additionally, we used arts-based workshops to understand more deeply the experience of urban nature for wellbeing in the context of lived experience of mental health difficulty. Resulting publications (co-authored with Dr Jo Birch) focus on the nature connections and greenspace benefits for young people and for first generation migrants, and include practical guides for supporting nature connections and wellbeing (young people, people with mental health difficulties, challenging inequalities) (link

The Bench Project (2015)

I was the Principal Investigator for The Bench Project, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council within their Connected Communities programme. The focus of this research is on locations where people often 'hang out', the act of everyday sitting on a bench or low wall, near a takeaway, a park entrance or in an urban square.

The project has explored the stories, memories and activities of people using benches in these places and questions how they provide places for social interaction. We were keen to find out how different aspects of people’s identity (age, ethnicity, gender, life situation) shape how people see and are seen when they sit outside.

The project team included documentary filmmaker Esther Johnson who made a short film with bench-users in the two fieldwork locations (a Gustafson Porter-designed square in Woolwich and an urban green space in Sutton).

Though the urban bench is often seen as a delightful, sometimes even romantic place, the research also investigated aspects of confrontation and control.

In particular, we noted a context of increasing concern about gathering in public places (such as use of dispersal orders) and how places are often made cleaner but also more boring. This can include removing of benches, with the aim of deterring longer-stay use of the public realm.

The findings show that policies and actions that respond to certain groups of public space users as problematic (for example, young people) is at odds with understandings of mental, physical and social wellbeing, which often show many benefits to being outdoors and spending time with friends.

Walking Voices (2006-2007)

This ESRC funded project aims to investigate perceptions and values of neighbourhoods as described by first generation migrants. Focusing on the spatial, temporal and sensory context of the local environment, the research addresses how experience of place contributes to settlement processes and cultural identity.

Deepening understandings of both motivations and barriers towards engagement in the public realm will help inform initiatives regarding cohesive communities and healthy lifestyles.

The research uses qualitative and reflective methodology working intensively with a small group. Ten participants from a range of home countries and currently living in north Sheffield, are loaned mini-disk recorders and asked to make real-time commentaries of walks or journeys in their daily lives.

Supported by training from BBC Radio Sheffield, each makes weekly recordings over a three month period. Individual interviews and participant guided tours will help contextualize the immediate accounts, and will inform an ethnographic and social mapping of the neighbourhood.

The research scope includes interviews with environmental and community organizations to relate findings to policy and practice. Outputs include academic papers, a radio programme and interactive website.

Viewfinder (2004 – 2005)

This ESRC-funded project aimed to investigate migrants´ perceptions and experiences of exploring urban open spaces; to explore the role of homeland memory in this; and to test innovative participatory and visual methods.

The research was developed in close partnership with a voluntary sector media training organisation. `Fieldwork´ was conducted during a 12 week accredited photography programme, the subject of which was urban open spaces.

A variety of qualitative and visually focused methods were used. In total there were six participants, all asylum seekers and refugees, and ten sites in Sheffield were visited.

The key themes of the research findings are: the importance of memory and nostalgia in participants´ experiences; the significance of plants; the novelty of visiting British `parks´; the role of urban open space in quality of life of refugees, factors of engagement and detachment.

The findings provide an insight into how designers and managers can encourage greater use of urban parks, woodlands and public gardens by these communities.


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Rishbeth C (2000) A multi-cultural perspective on urban green space. URBAN LIFESTYLES: SPACES - PLACES - PEOPLE (pp 287-288) RIS download Bibtex download


Theses / Dissertations

  • Rishbeth C (2016) Landscape Experience and Migration: Superdiversity and the Significance of Urban Public Open Space.. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Rishbeth C, Neal S, French M & Snaith B (2022) Included outside: Evidence synthesis for engaging under-represented groups in nature(NECR427). View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
Research group


I am interested in supervising PhDs especially on themes connected to urban spaces, migration and inclusion, and on diverse nature connections. 

Secondary interests with regard to research supervision are:

  • Public open space as a resource for integration and wellbeing of refugees
  • Experience of landscape by people from ethnic community backgrounds
  • Social experiences of landscape: walking, conversations, resting, sitting
  • Creative and inclusive practices in research methodology

Funding and awards

As Principal Investigator:

  • #Refugeeswelcome in Parks: Wellbeing and Inclusion in Public Open Space
    Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Connected Communities programme, 2017, £100,000
  • The Un-Sociable Bench, and other urban micro-territories of encounter and intimidation. 2015. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. £100,000.

  • Walking Voices: first generation migrants' experiential attachments to urban neighbourhoods. 2006. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. £100,000.

  • Urban Greenspace Re-visioned - Refugee Perspectives. 2004. £17,000.

  • ESRC Case Studentship 2002 – 2005. Secured and supervise PhD studentship entitled Longevity of public involvement in community landscapes. (Andrew Hinchley)

As Co-Investigator:

  • Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature: integrating green/blue infrastructure and health service valuation and delivery. (2016-2019) Joint UK Research Councils. £1.3 million. Work package lead on work package 2: “Understand the diversity of people's understandings of nature, natural environments, nature experience, natural beauty, connectedness to nature and H&W, together with the underlying values that influence these understandings”

  • Immigrants, Place and Cross-cultural Understanding. (2011) World Universities Network. $20,000

Teaching interests

My approach to design teaching is one where students are encouraged to set their own questions and challenges, learning through ongoing experimentation. The shared context of the studio allows us to analyse, collaborate and support each member’s ideas and skills.

I integrate peer and self review, self-directed research, private reflective writing and public exhibitions into each module to emphasise the importance of integrating making and thinking, and to give critical status to design craft.

I am a strong supporter of on-site work, direct engagement with the texture, seasons, peculiarities and potential of each site, and the need for ‘ongoing professional development’ in exploring as many places as possible in Sheffield and beyond.

Research and Teaching Interface

The interaction between research and teaching, and research ‘on’ teaching, is important to me. My research focus on cultural interpretations of place is equally relevant to a department with an international outlook and student cohort, tacking landscape sites in socially diverse contexts.

The innovation in methodological approaches to my research projects also stimulates new ideas for how students may investigate sites and communicate their own responses and values.

I also have conducted research on teaching practice through undertaking a two year M.Ed, and this has led to initiating a number of departmental and university projects which share a common emphasis in supporting students in independent research.

  • Masters in Teaching and Learning for University Lecturers (2007), including dissertation: ‘Field Trips: learning and teaching on the outside’.

  • University CILASS Academic Fellow 2008-9. Conducted research and project development for the Centre for Inquiry-Based Learning on a 20% contract. Involved in setting up the initial year of SURE (Sheffield University Undergraduate Research Experience).

  • Rishbeth, C. (2009) ‘Blurring the boundaries of the curriculum to shape professional identities’ in symposium: ‘Learning beside / outside / before the classroom’. Society for Research in Higher Education annual conference.

  • Initiated, recruited and co-ordinated a Student Volunteer project for Women’s Refuge (2011). The project involved 6 UG and PG students over a four month period who consulted, designed and implemented improvements to the outdoor spaces around the refuge. The project incorporated a research component as a 2nd year team member also took part in the SURE scheme.

Teaching activities

My two core module lead roles are for:

  • Undergraduate: Studio Design 4: Exploration and Intervention        
  • Postgraduate: Equity and Participation in Place Change

I also support students in a Final Project studio and supervise dissertation research

Professional activities and memberships
  • Place, Inclusion and Equity research cluster chair
  • Achieve More department champion
  • Post graduate personal tutor
  • Department Research Committee

I firmly believe in producing research in collaboration with others and I am committed to working with the professional and voluntary sector in all my research projects. I am a regular contributor to professional debates and training with the Landscape Institute.