Clare Rishbeth BA DipLA M.Ed PhD
Telephone: 0114 222 0606
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.
My research focuses on cultural diversity in landscape experience and design, specifically with regard to the urban environment. I am curious how our experience of place is shaped by personal and community histories of migration. These understandings inform an analysis of use of public space and streets, and the social potential of the public realm to support positive intercultural encounters. I firmly believe in producing research in collaboration with others and I am committed to working with the professional and voluntary sector; most recently with The Young Foundation and Greenwich Inclusion Project, and I have contributed to workshops and forums with the Black Environmental Network, Countryside Agency and Greenspace. I lead the Transcultural Urban Outdoors Research Group.
Modules which I lead:
Modules to which I contribute:
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.
Specific research projects have been instrumental in developing my research directions:
The Bench Project (2015)
I am 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)
Walking Voices Project WebsiteThis 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.
Click here for more details of Viewfinder Project: list of publications, downloads including executive summary and exhibition panels.
- Interviews and model making with Asian women to investigate personal engagement with place: in their home country, on arrival in Britain, and in their current situation.
- Case studies of multicultural community gardens in London. The project addressed issues of symbolism and stereotyping in designed landscapes, and the role of representation of ethnicity in welcoming a diverse community of garden visitors.
Areas of Potential Research Degree Supervision
See scope of my doctoral research group Transcultural Urban Outdoors, this is my primary area of research supervision.
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
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. I am committed to the field trip as a learning experience, and have enjoyed many excellent trips with students and colleagues to fascinating places over the years. I am a long serving member of the Teaching and Learning committee, and currently serve on the Landscape Institute PGR for Leeds Metropolitan University.
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 and managed ‘Place as Precedent’, CILASS funded project for the Department of Landscape (2009 – ongoing). This is a guide to sites of landscape significance in and around Sheffield, to support independent visits. It also includes information on landscape sites in some European cities. http://uspace.shef.ac.uk/community/place_as_precedent
- Initiated, recruited and co-ordinated a Student Volunteer project for Haven House 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.
- Director of External Relations, Engagement and Impact
- Place, Inclusion and Equity research cluster chair
- Department English Language Support Co-ordinator
- Achieve More department champion
- Post graduate personal tutor
- Department Research Committee
- External Examiner Leeds Beckett University
Funding and awards
As Principal Investigator:
- 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)
- 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
I have been a lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield since 1998. A west / south Yorkshire `hopper´, I gained my 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. This geographically chequered CV has helped shape an interest in the relationship between culture, ethnicity and social aspects of landscape; and the implications of designing for multicultural neighbourhoods. This forms the basis of my research enquiry, and, I hope, informs teaching practice in an ethnically diverse department.
- Rishbeth C, Blachnicka-Ciacek D & Darling J (2019) Participation and wellbeing in urban greenspace : ‘curating sociability’ for refugees and asylum seekers. Geoforum, 106, 125-134. View this article in WRRO
- Rishbeth C & Rogaly B (2018) Sitting outside: Conviviality, self‐care and the design of benches in urban public space. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 43(2), 284-298. View this article in WRRO
- Rishbeth C, Ganji F & Vodicka G (2018) Ethnographic understandings of ethnically diverse neighbourhoods to inform urban design practice. Local Environment, 23(1), 36-53. View this article in WRRO
- (2013) Transcultural Cities Routledge