Dr James Simpson


Department of Landscape Architecture


Dr James Simpson
Profile picture of Dr James Simpson

Full contact details

Dr James Simpson
Department of Landscape Architecture
Floor 12
Arts Tower
Western Bank
S10 2TN

I am interested in understanding how people experience, interact with and adapt urban spaces and residential environments. This serves as a foundation for exploring how design actions can encourage positive connections between people and these places that they routinely inhabit and use.

I arrived in Sheffield in 2008 to study Landscape Architecture with Planning and graduated three years later with BA 1st Class (Hons), while also receiving the Wardell Armstrong and Y+H Landscape Institute Prizes. This provided the foundations for my time spent in practice, at Applied Landscape Design. I returned to Sheffield in 2012 to complete my Master of Landscape Architecture during which I time I explored the idea of pursuing research. I formulated a supervisory team comprising Dr. Kevin Thwaites (Landscape) and Dr. Megan Freeth (Psychology) with a focus towards using mobile eye-tracking to understand how people visually engage aspects of urban streets. I was successfully awarded Economic and Social Research Council funding to undertake a 1+3 Pathway Development Scholarship commencing with a MA in Landscape Research (Distinction), during which I received the IAPS Young Researchers Award. The following four years were spent undertaking my PhD (What you lookin’ at? Understanding visual engagement with urban street edges) and in 2018 I become a Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture. Today, I co-lead the Socio-spatial Urbanism Unit (SsUU), an interdisciplinary group of academic researchers, teachers and practitioners exploring new agendas of thinking and theoretical development focused on social understandings of urban open spaces. This unit acts as a foundation for my research and related teaching practice – Socio-spatial Urbanism Unit.


  • 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

Residential environments

  1. Encouraging pro-environmental behaviours through design interventions
  2. Balancing top-down and bottom-up decision making 
  3. Rethinking the role of private and communal spaces

Pedestrian experience

  1. Using real-world and virtual-reality eye-tracking to understand gaze behaviour
  2. Ground floor interfaces as semi-public landscapes

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Simpson J & Thwaites K (2016) Transitional Street Edges: an empirical investigation through eye tracking. The Human Being at Home.Leisure and Work RIS download Bibtex download
  • April 2013 Economic and Social Research Council 1+3 Pathway Development PhD Scholarship

Teaching activities

Modules that I co-ordinate / teach:

  • LSC304 – Site Planning for Housing (Landscape and Architecture Duel Module)
  • LSC330 – Site Planning for Sustainable Housing
  • LSC61002 – Planning Strategies to Urban Design Proposals
  • LSC6005 – Special Project (Rethinking Residential)
  • LSC6003 / 6140 – Masters Dissertations
Professional activities and memberships
  • Co-lead of Socio-Spatial Urbanism Unit
  • International Association of People-environment Studies (IAPS) Member
  • Department Ethics Lead
  • Department Well-being Coordinator
  • Department Yr 3 Lead
  • Department Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Coordinator