Dr James Simpson
BA MLA MA PhD
Department of Landscape Architecture
Full contact details
Department of Landscape Architecture
I arrived in Sheffield in 2008 to study Landscape Architecture with Planning and graduated three years later with BA 1st Class (Hons), whilst also receiving the Wardell Armstrong Prize for best landscape and planning portfolio as well as Y+H Landscape Institute Prize for best design project.
This provided the foundations for my time spent in practice, at Applied Landscape Design, where I gained invaluable insight on the ground at some of the biggest development projects being undertaken in Europe at the time, notably – 2012 Olympic Athletes Village, London; 2012 Olympic Hospitality Centre, London; Kings Cross Redevelopment, London; Eastside City Park, Birmingham.
I returned to Sheffield in 2012/13 to complete my Master of Landscape Architecture during which I became attracted by the prospect of undertaking research.
Having become interested in urban experience, notably within the context of streets, I formulated a supervisory team comprising Dr. Kevin Thwaites (Landscape) and Dr. Megan Freeth (Psychology) with a focus towards using mobile eye-tracking outdoors to understand how people visually engage these multifaceted socio-spatial settings.
I was successfully awarded ESRC funding to undertake a 1+3 Pathway Development Scholarship commencing with a MA in Landscape Research, which I graduated from with Distinction whilst also receiving the IAPS Young Researchers Award in 2014. The following four years were spent undertaking a PhD and in 2018 I become a Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
When walking through urban environments our senses are continually stimulated by the multisensory assemblage of our surroundings. My research attempts to unpack such sensory experiences. This is whilst comprehending how these human-environment interactions are often impacted by a combination of everyday social actions and material considerations.
As a result, I am interested in understanding how urban places become physically established, at a human scale, through a combination of professional intervention and actions of territorial appropriation and personalisation. This is particularly within the context of streets and in relation to their indoor / outdoor edge interfaces, which when socially and experientially responsive, have the capability to provide vibrant and engaging urban settings for people to inhabit and use during their everyday lives.
Alongside this, I am interested in how peoples’ everyday tasks and mind-set influences the way in which they engage with the materiality of these settings. In order to gain insight into the experiential impact of such interconnected socio-spatial factors my work seeks to capture and analyse how human urban experience, which often evades verbal articulation or easy observation, is structured.
To do this I employ methods such as outdoor mobile eye-tracking, along with progressive data visualisation techniques, to understand and show how people visually engage urban contexts. Such insights subsequently inform not only academic output but also undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, which intersects landscape architecture and urban design.
During this, the focus is upon equipping students with evidence-based ideas and approaches that they can explore at university as well as take with them into professional practice in order to help deliver socially and experientially responsive design solutions.
- 2014 International Association of People Environment Studies Young Researcher Award
- 2011 Wardell Armstrong Prize for best landscape and planning portfolio
- 2011 Y+H Landscape Institute Prize for best final project
- MA (Distinction), Landscape Research, University of Sheffield
- MLA, Master of Landscape Architecture, University of Sheffield
- BA (1st Class Hons.) Landscape Architecture with Planning, University of Sheffield
- Research interests
My research interest broadly encompasses:
- Unpacking urban pedestrian experience and the embodied nature of mobile cognition.
- Understanding urban streets and their inside / outside edge interfaces in relation to socio-spatial influences.
- Assessing the impact of and relationship between top-down professionalised decision-making and bottom-up territorial appropriation and personalisation in urban environments.
- Philosophies of place and experience, notably relating to (post)phenomenology, assemblage and affordance.
- Wearable data collection methods, particularly mobile eye-tracking.
- Data visualisation techniques that enable rather than alienate.
- Three-dimensional gaze projection heat-mapping of outdoor mobile eye-tracking data. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, 5(1), 62-82.
- Transitional edges: a conceptual framework for socio-spatial understanding of urban street edges. URBAN DESIGN International. View this article in WRRO
- A conceptual framework for urban commoning in shared residential landscapes in the UK. Sustainability, 11(21). View this article in WRRO
- Understanding visual engagement with urban street edges along non-pedestrianised and pedestrianised streets using mobile eye-tracking. Sustainability, 11(15). View this article in WRRO
- Visual engagement with urban street edges: insights using mobile eye-tracking. Journal of Urbanism: international research on placemaking and urban sustainability, 12(3), 259-278. View this article in WRRO
- Street DNA: the who, where and what of visual engagement with the urban street. Journal of Landscape Architecture, 13(1), 50-57. View this article in WRRO
- Eye-Tracking in the Real World, Advances in Civil and Industrial Engineering (pp. 368-396). IGI Global
- Handbook of Research on Perception-Driven Approaches to Urban Assessment and Design IGI Global
Conference proceedings papers
- May 2016 Transitional Edge Anatomy, year 2 case study and evaluation contributor, The Leverhulme Trust (unsuccessful)
- April 2013 Economic and Social Research Council 1+3 Pathway Development Scholarship, ESRC (successful)
- Teaching activities
I lead and tutor on a number of modules specifically within the areas of landscape focused urban design, urban landscape planning at a human scale and graphic design for landscape architecture, notably –
- LSC117 Presentation, Communication and Research Skills
- LSC231 Planting Design (SketchUp and shadow analysis)
- LSC337 Landscape Planning – Urban Regeneration
- LSC5030 Urban Design Project
- LSC6005 Special Project (Planning / Design strand)
- LSC6026 Special Project Brief and Research (Planning / Design strand)
- LSC6003 / 6140 Masters Dissertations
- LSC6114 Landscape Urbanism and Design
- LSC6115 Introduction to Landscape Research (Place, Inclusion and Equity representative)
- Professional activities
- International Association of People-environment Studies (IAPS) Sensory Environments Network, lead librarian and member of dissemination team
- International Association of People-environment Studies (IAPS) Member