As we approach the year end it is good to report our 30th year is proceeding well and we look forward to some happy celebrations next May when the anniversary is reached. A lot has changed in three decades and though I only came in for the second two, the span is very much the same as the length of my own time in a profession that has vastly increased in size and standing.
We are still close to our Hampshire roots, only 20 minutes up the road from Portsmouth where we were founded by the ex-City Landscape Architect John Wigham in 1985 but, together with offshoot offices in London, Dubai and Vilnius, we may well achieve working in our 30th country of operation and welcoming our 30th member of staff during the course of next year. The workload is more extensive than it has ever been and there are some tremendous projects in the portfolio, both recent and current.
At one end of the scale we have been involved in strategic vision studies for a vast cultural heritage project in China and entire coastal frontage at Clacton-on-Sea, the commencement of the MIRA Technology Park infrastructure projects with the widening of the A5 and new access arrangements and completion of the West Yorks Police PFI HQ and training facility projects at Carr Gate, Wakefield and Leeds. Work for local authorities has involved Landscape Capacity Studies for new housing in South Oxfordshire, West Berkshire and Havant. We have also been engaged by West Sussex to assist in their review of planning applications.
The housing sector is proving to be our largest involvement with anything from new rural edge settlements to inner city infill; pleasingly at all levels from ‘low’ to ‘high’ end and at all stages, from early planning to delivery on site.
We have three individual bespoke houses in Hampshire with unusual and differing landscape opportunities; one in a disused chalk quarry which obtained permission in the summer and is now under construction; and two within the South Downs National Park currently on the drawing board and to hopefully head for planning early to mid next year. We are also working for private estates at Heckfield Place and Exton Park and have recently learned we were successful in a competition to undertake a Conservation and Management Plan for the upgrading of Broomfield Park in Enfield with specialist conservation architects Donald Insall Associates.
Education is another major sector and we have been busy in both public and private sector with anything from new masterplans, through building extensions and provision of new sportsfields.
All sectors are represented in our current workload though and industrial/commercial, energy, infrastructure and leisure.
We have not been averse to controversy where we believe there is a case to be heard and have been prepared to engage in the environmental assessment of exploratory well sites looking at the potential for shale gas extraction (with the possibility of ‘fracking’) and to take on the South Downs National Park on our doorstep with an appeal against their refusal for housing at Causeway Farm, Petersfield. We have always believed it is fundamental position of landscape architecture to engage with the important issues.
The London collaborative venture of tf-LAB did very well in firstly being shortlisted in the RIBA University of Lancaster Spine competition in the summer and then coming a very close second to the winning team. Enough to encourage future competition entries from our previously hesitant (perhaps overly modest?!) or ‘too busy’ team. Nigel Thorne once again travelled to China as a guest speaker at the China National Design Week events in Fuzhou and Haikou. This time Jamie Liversedge accompanied him, rather than I; they did very well in revisiting some of those we had met last year and have secured a wonderful commission for the Sanya Tianya Haijiao Tourism Development Company for who they travel out to China again early in the new year for a series of design workshops. Whilst out there Nigel was also made an honorary Professor at the University of Beijing. A huge honour which we should blog separately on another time.
Alshamsi terra firma are soon to embark on their 10 th year in Dubai and after a variable year of project stops and starts, Alistair Walby and his crew are on a very healthy trajectory with large projects in just about every sector but perhaps significantly, a very high number of hotels.
We started a Baltic office in May with ex-tf employee Ramune Sanderson. terra firma LT work out of the lovely old part of Lithuania’s beautiful capital city, Vilnius, and have made a great start in their first six months, securing projects as varied as private estates, hotels, public parks, a commercial plaza and input into a study of European City Green Plans for our long term colleagues at Grupa 93,who are currently preparing such for Riga.
2014 has seen us update our websites and marketing, widen our boundaries while at times turning down projects we were either unhappy to engage with or for whom we could not give adequate time; seen the comings and goings of a few (and a big welcome to Alice, Lucie, Dan, Darragh, Gintare and Simona) but generally a very stable, extremely competent and very happy team, of which I can be justly proud; continuing assistance from regular specialist subconsultants such as Bernie Harverson, Rob Craine, Paul Whitby, Tim O’Hare and his team; freelancers such as Nigel, Steve and Michelle; collaborations with Bettina Kirkham here in UK and West 8 out in Dubai; great social events such as Arblaster and Clarke’s winefair at Vinters hall, Bernie’s annual summer B-B-Q and the tf-LAB team in the Great Gorilla Run. Isla D-T got married (but resisted temptation of going triple barrelled), Henry D has got engaged and Tom J is expecting to be a dad for the second time next spring. In the wider profession, Martin has finally stood down after many years on various central Landscape Institute Committees to give more time with family but was still persuaded back to be a juror on the annual LI awards. Alison has been asked to represent the LI in reviewing performance at her old University of Gloucester. I gave a talk with Nigel Thorne on Green Infrastructure to the South East Branch (and a fair few members of public) in Winchester in March and aim to do similar next year overseas (as we had in China last year). We have six graduates (4 in UK, 2 in Dubai) currently on the pathway to chartership scheme and CPD is a regular part of all our calendars. Adapting to construction industry wide BIM requirements is a major part of this (and we have accordingly invested in appropriate IT) but we have also invested time in the more earthy subject of tree planting and following visits and differing advice received from various nurseries and growing medium suppliers over last few years, have embarked on some field trials with landscape contractor Kieron Beatty and soil scientist Tim O’Hare – results of which we shall eventually hope to learn some valuable evidence and then share.
A particularly good message as the year draws to an end came with the commencement blessing for the Muslim Peace Garden in Woking. An Imam, a Chaplain, an MP, a Mayor, a General and community leaders all united in speeches of conciliation and commemoration of the 400,000 Muslims who fought for the common cause 100 years ago… and the need to emphasise this over the publicity currently attained by the approximately 400 British subjects thought to be fighting with ISIS. The terra firma designed garden has begun construction in the capable hands of contractor LDC and should complete next spring.
As Christmas nears it has been fun to observe old projects in full festive use and, in the case of Petershill, with an interesting visitor from Peru.
The office Christmas lunch was a characteristically fun affair and a chance to acknowledge Robyn’s 20 years with the practice too – well done RB! Looks like the others had fun too..
We look forward to a good break after a particularly busy year and wish you all the same with very best wishes for Christmas and 2015.