Are You An Environmentally Responsible Designer?

Amazon Deforestation
I was recently involved in a discussion on LinkedIn regarding the specification of non locally sourced materials.

Is it just me? or does it strikes you as odd,  that some of us are specifying materials which have to be transported 1000’s miles across the globe,  just to satisfy a whim!

Ignoring the aesthetic argument of genius loci (spirit of place) for a moment, aren’t we as landscape architects, supposed to care about our environment and make responsible choices?

With oil prices again, heading towards the $100 a barrel and the kick starting of the global economy likely to drive prices to $200 within a few years, shouldn’t we setting an example?


Getting Started in Landscape Design

One of the first things students should be doing after graduating, is contact their local Architects.

They are a ready made source of work and because of new planning regulations, many applications now require a planting plan as part of the planning conditions.

Architect on the job

As qualified designers, you should be able to offer architects:

  1. A full planting service to include specification and 5 year maintenance schedule.
  2. A Arboriculture method statement
  3. A Tree survey to BS5837 (2005)
  4. A RPA plan and APN12 recommendations

In addition to this you can also offer a full 3D perspective and rendering service if you CAD skills are up to scratch

3D Rendering and computer modelling

All of the above should be laid out in a letter to the architect having first found out his/her name so you can address it to them personally.

You then follow up this letter with a call a few days later enquiring if they received the information and if you can be of any further help.

Think about it!  If a homeowner builds an extension they will change the footprint of the garden.  As a result the garden will need re-planning.  By offering to assist the architect they can provide a cheep and very lucrative source of work.


Could you do this in 8 Weeks?

“Remarkably this project was completed in only 8 weeks of starting the course.”

I’ve just finished marking, this years students first design project, and thought some of you might be interested in seeing what we do.

Your first project is based around a real client and site as are all the student projects, as I believe its important to give you as much real life experience as we can.

Your first assignment is a courtyard garden, approximate 100 square metres in size

This particular site is in Oxford and is part of a terrace of modern town houses with their garages on the ground floor and the living accommodation on the first and second floors.

The house has an existing balcony for entertaining, but the students have installed a flight of stairs giving access into the garden from the first floor.

The client brief was for no lawn, a substantial water feature and a secondary private sitting space for entertaining and eating out.

Remarkably this project was completed in only 8 weeks of starting the course.

The students have already covered 3 dimensional special design, they have been introduced to computer modelling, have been taught basic rendering techniques as well as studying garden history , art and planting design.

It’s no accident that our students are considered to be some of the best in the world.

I believe as a college we produce better designers in 8 week than many schools produce in one year.

This is down to 3 things

Our schools unique teaching style

The students hard work and dedication

And the fact that all are students are hand picked via a 4 day selection process so we only take the very best.

If you would like to know more about our courses, please visit our website or give me a call at my design office to arrange a personal chat about a possible career change.


Telephone Technique Pt II (Meeting the Client)

In the second part of this video tutorial on sales techniques for garden designers, I look at meeting the client. 

I discuss how to manage this meeting, what to say and when to say it and most important of all how to discussing budgets and design fees.

If you haven’t seen the first part,  click here and watch this  first.

In next months tutorial, we will look at design fees and how to calculate  fees based on both time and % based fee basis.

If you have any ideas on other tutorials you would find useful, please let me know!


How Art, the Devil and Gardens go Hand in Hand.

Once a year I take my students to the Tate Modern gallery in London. As part of their course they have to complete a pictorial timeline, comparing art , architecture, gardens, & Socio-economic influences, using thumbnail pictures to create visual links between each category.

This isn’t just another academic exercise. It has real world use for students, enabling them to understand what has gone on in the past and so allowing them to move into the future.

We teach contemporary design at the Oxford College of Garden Design, but it could be argued that a designer should be able to turn their hand to any style, in any period of history, provided they understand the principles of 3 dimensional special design.


Pergola or Sculpture or Both?

Yes, this exercise helps students put into context how each of the four categories influences the other, but it does more than this. It introduces us (some for the first time) to the concept of art as a major influencing factor in all aspects of our lives.

Initially, I get the students to attend under the pretext of seeing the art, not just as a photo in a book, but as it was supposed to be seen, in context, life size and in the flesh.

I get them to sketch, not to improve their drawing skills, but to improve their ability to see.

This week is the students last critique before they present their Project 1to the clients. It’s no accident that the Tate visit co-insides with this.

Having fulfilled the client brief, this is their last chance to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. This is where an average design can become a gold medal winning garden.

I mentions USP’s in an earlier blog but can’t stress enough how important detail is to successful design. It’s at this point in the course that I start to hammer in the mantra ‘the devils in the detail’


The drawings made at the Tate, now become the next design exercise. Weather they become garden floor plans like John Brookes penguin book garden, or landscape drawing or garden sculpture or even bespoke furniture . It doesn’t really matter what they do, so long as they start to think outside of the box. Even if they don’t all get it immediately, some way down the road I hope they all become free thinking, conceptual designers, able to see the potential in the mundane and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

The reason the Oxford College of Garden Design produces the UK’s top design students is because we see garden design, not as a horticultural subject but as art and I believe art and life go hand in hand.