Landscape architects: worth our weight in gold! by Alison Galbraith

Keith and I were fortunate enough to be invited to this year’s ICE South East England Engineering Excellence Awards 2017 as guests of Peter Brett Associates.  We collaborated with their Water Management Team on the diversion and restoration of a stretch of the Hermitage Stream in Havant, Hampshire, which was short-listed in the Sustainability and Resilience category.   See website for more details:

Dunsbury Park short-listed for ICE Sustainability and Resilience Award
Dunsbury Park short-listed for ICE Sustainability and Resilience Award

The project required close co-ordination between the civil engineering aspects of bank stabilisation and hydrological management, and ecological, soils and wider infrastructure aspects.  terra firma, as the project landscape architects, brought everything together with our design and specification work.

Hermitage Stream 'before' photo:  all concrete and steel!
Hermitage Stream ‘before’ photo: all concrete and steel!

Well, what a great project, and much deserving of recognition!  As is generally the case, working with other professionals to find solutions to complex issues and achieve high quality outcomes was challenging, sometimes frustrating, thought-provoking, rewarding, and ultimately enjoyable and successful.


Hermitage Stream soon after completion
Hermitage Stream soon after completion …

Sadly the judges gave the award to another project and ours missed out.  Unfortunately, from a landscape perspective, the winning project – a small hydro-electric power plant on the Thames – the project clearly missed out as well, in not having a landscape architect involved!  Whilst providing power to local homes in such a sustainable fashion is highly laudable, the design could have been so much better.  I cannot include a photograph, but it was all straight lines, hard edges, with concrete and steel dominating, and not in a good way!  In fact not dissimilar to Hermitage Stream ‘before’ photo above.  It was most definitely designed by engineers with clearly no input into the aesthetic impact of the design; how its character related to its setting.

Clearly, the awards were all about engineering, and in engineering terms, the winning project was presumably very deserving but it is just such a shame that there appears to have been no consideration beyond the utilitarian.  Was the problem perhaps that the engineering aspect of our project was less obvious, more natural, and was very soon clothed with new vegetation?  Ah well, we are very proud of the outcome and maybe we’ll enter the project for a different award!

... and with vegetation establishing well.
… and with vegetation establishing well.

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