2016 celebrated my 20th year at the helm of terra firma and it came at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the Landscape Architecture course at Leeds which was the training ground for both my predecessor John Wigham (who founded the firm in 1985) and I, as well as for a fair few other senior members of our team; Robyn, Martin and Alice. We produced some display boards, as requested of all alumni by the University for their celebration, which deliberately coincided with their hosting the Landscape Institute’s AGM conference in November. These gave cause for reflection on the practice’s progress and just in time, we were able to mark our 31st birthday with the addition of our 31st country of operation, continuing our strapline from our 30th anniversary last year although we have now rather exceeded the 30/31 staff element on which it completed. Although we said goodbye to Tom and Lucie this year, we have welcomed Alex, Davon and Rosa and there have been similar small numbers of departures exceeded by new arrivals in Dubai and Vilnius. We are enormously pleased and grateful to report that all three offices have had record years and continue to keep extremely busy.
Projects continue to be well spread in terms of size, nature and location – just as we like it! Involvements with the public realm for what will be high profile projects at White City, Southampton and the i360 tower in Brighton are all underway as indeed is the Dubai Water Canal, EXPO 2020, and numerous top end hotels, villas, HQs, schools, hospitals and new settlements for Alshamsi terra firma (ASTF). terra firma LT carry on their extraordinary rise in Vilnius, working on some of the city’s most impressive projects varying from parks and plazas, through riverside and streetscapes, conservation areas and roof gardens, with further projects throughout the country.
We have continued our consultancy for the South Downs National Park and have worked for other local authorities with Housing Landscape Capacity Studies completed with Bettina Kirkham at Havant and, S.Oxon; Minerals and Waste for W.Berks; Neighbourhood Plan work at Twyford and Binfield; social housing nearing completion at Southwark (with Osborne) and a plethora of schools and colleges throughout the southeast.
In the commercial sector our largest project completing is the Origin site at Park Royal for Brixton. Our largest project currently underway has to be MIRA technology park in Leicestershire and longest running is our continuing maintenance consultancy for NATS at Prestwick. Other commercial sectors we are currently involved with include minerals extraction and their restoration/after use with projects near Peterborough and near Chichester; retirement/healthcare on our doorstep in Petersfield and many projects nationwide with both Renaissance and McCarthy & Stone; and by far the largest in number, projects for new housing. These include individual new builds (we are currently involved with three Para 55 applications), new settlements and estates ranging in size from half dozen dwellings to several hundred for all kinds of developer, some nationwide volume housebuilders and some specialist one-off clients.
One sector we have seen a distinct increase in with all our offices is hotels and hospitality. It has progressively been the case with ASTF in Dubai where it forms nearly half their current workload and the Vilnius office have 3 very high end, interesting hotel related projects in the city’s centre. In the UK we have continued on a prestigious country hotel south of Reading which is set to open next year and for no less than 5 hotels for the Old Thorns Group which range from Kent to County Cork. All being well, we are set to start on a large and prestigious hotel and villa complex for an international developer in a most spectacular Mediterranean location early in the new year.
Cultural heritage projects have included the HLF funded Stage 2 detailed scheme development of proposals to upgrade the visitor experience at Sutton Hoo, working with Nissen Richards Architects for the National Trust and the development of masterplan ideas with Butser Ancient Farm which we hope to bring to fruition with a funding document by spring next year, following consultation. The Conservation Management Plan for Broomfield House and Park was completed early in the year with Insalls and Final Completion and handover of the Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden in Woking took place in July. The car park expansion for The Gilbert White and Oates Collection Museum at Selborne is finally being realised as I write, some 8 years since the project’s inception.
On a personal note we are very pleased to report all three of our candidates for Chartership this year passed with flying colours; Darragh Bellew (ASTF) back in May and Keith Baker and William Johnson (from this office) last month. 100% success record since the ‘Pathway to Chartership’ was introduced and a fitting endorsement of both the process and quality of candidates and mentors within our firms.
We realise we have been very fortunate to have had such a good 2016. It has been a strange and, at times, awful year on the world stage and I am sure we all hope for a more settled future, yet let’s keep it optimistic – I would like to end with a big note of thanks to all clients, colleagues and friends who get to read this and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !
December 9th 2016