Landscape award success for Kingston tutor and student

Landscape Architect and Kingston University tutor Fenella Griffin and her partner architect Murray Smith of Untitled Practice have been awarded ‘Landscape of the Year’ by the prestigious AJ architecture awards for their ‘Lesnes to Crossness’ project. The project was also awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Design for a Medium-Scale Development category at this year’s Landscape Institute awards ceremony.

Lesnes to Crossness constitutes a section of south-east London’s Green Chain Walk, from Lesnes Abbey to Crossness pumping station through Thamesmead South and alongside Southmere Lake. It has improved an area that had suffered from years of poor upkeep and had become potentially dangerous to walk along after the local traveller community introduced free-roaming horses to the land.

Untitled Practice’s proposal involved careful negotiation with this community in order to create the new Southmere Square, moving the horses into nearby paddocks and providing a new public space for the estate and walkers containing seating, play areas and a stepped hill that becomes something of a makeshift amphitheatre.”

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Also, at the Landscape Institute Awards ceremony, hosted by Romy Rawlings CMLI and Bill Bryson, Kingston post-grad student Sigita Simona Paplauskaite was awarded ‘Highly Commended’ for her Student Portfolio – Cliffe Explosives Nature Reserve,

“An insightful analysis of the Cliffe Marshes area of the Thames Estuary, which considers whether the abandoned former military factory should be thought of as a heritage site, or be a place full of redevelopment potential.”

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Architecture & Landscape podcast series

In his text ‘Weak Architecture’ Ignasi de Sola Morales writes that,

“Contemporary Architecture, in conjunction with the other arts, is confronted with the need to build on air, to build in the void. The proposals of contemporary architecture are to be constructed not on the basis of any immovable reference, but under the obligation to posit for each step both the goal and its grounding”.

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We here in the Department of Architecture + Landscape, Kingston University, are interested in what it takes to make thoughtful work in architecture and landscape architecture today. Each week practitioners are invited to present to students and staff from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

In this series of 14 podcasts we speak with practitioners, planners, developers and others who visit our school about their motivations and methodologies. To listen to an audio podcast click here. Open iTunes to download and subscribe to podcasts here 

Traffic-free Oxford Street consultation

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Back in December 2015 12 post-graduate students from Kingston School of Art were invited to take part in a ‘Cities Alive Workshop’ in collaboration with members of the Landscape Architecture team at Arup in London devised to trial interdisciplinary graduate and practitioner outdoor learning. The focus of the one day workshop was to consider green infrastructure intervention for the Oxford Street/ Tottenham Court Rd areas of central London.

Issues to be considered included: movement and connectivity, increased footfall as a result of CrossRail, traffic and pedestrian congestion, climate change adaptation, air quality, waste management, traffic safety, increasing biodiversity, maximizing underused spaces and the design and provision of attractive public spaces.

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Now fast forward and the Mayor of London has published his views on the pedetrianisation of sections of Oxford Street. Tfl have now come up with detailed proposals for the transformation of the street and the entire surrounding district. The first stage of work to transform Oxford Street is intended to:

  • Prepare Oxford Street and the surrounding area for the significant increase in the number of pedestrians that will brought into central London with the arrival of the Elizabeth line by the end of 2018
  • Protect residents living in the wider area from the existing pressures of traffic and pollution
  • Begin to establish Oxford Street as a place for people rather than traffic, and more immediately address the existing issues which harm the area, including poor air quality, traffic congestion, traffic domination of streets and inadequate space for walking
  • Prepare the way for a second stage of transformation, both by making those changes to traffic access that would be necessary and by helping us to understand how a transformed Oxford Street and the areas surrounding it would function in future

Read about the proposals and have your say until 17 December.

These 2 films are outputs from the earlier ‘Cities Alive:Rethinking Green Infrastructure’ workshop focusing on London’s West End district.  Site visits investigated 2 separate routes; an east-west axis running along Oxford Street between Tottenham Court Rd and Oxford Circus and a north-south axis running from Fitzroy Square in the north to Soho Square located just south of Oxford Street.

The first video, Cities Alive: Rethinking Green Infrastructure is a brief discussion of the workshop topic and includes an interview with Tom Armour, Global Leader Landscape Architecture Arup and co-author of the ‘Cities Alive, Rethinking Green Infrastructure’ research report, 2014.  The second video, Cities Alive: Rethinking Green Infrastructure Workshop is a record of the day-long workshop with interviews with participating students, Kingston University staff and members of Arup’s Landscape Architecture team.

You may also be interested in reading Cities Alive: Towards a walking world

Linking public health with spatial planning

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The recently published review, ‘Healthy Planning and Regeneration: innovations in community engagement, policy and monitoring’ states that, ‘There is a growing desire to integrate design and planning measures which are known to support health and wellbeing into policies and projects. Planners want to know what has worked elsewhere and what evidence can be used to support local policies.’

The review, authored by Helen Pineo, Associate Director – Cities, BRE, was commissioned by the Planning Department at Southwark Council for a healthy planning project run jointly with Lambeth Council. The Councils received funding from Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Charity to carry out intensive social research in two regeneration areas.

The review investigates the relationship between place, planning policy and three locally identified health themes of interest: social isolation, obesity and access to health services. The “healthy planning” project led by Southwark and Lambeth combines local knowledge with scientific evidence – this review allows other planning authorities to access evidence and examples of community engagement and policy.

A range of innovative community engagement and planning activities were identified.  The review takes into account the importance of local context and that solutions may not always be transferable; however the overarching message is to recognise the value in engaging local communities to help policies and design respond to local problems and assets.

The review is split into sections:

  • Overview of urban environment health impacts, focused on the health issues outlined in Southwark and Lambeth.
  • Quick reference guide of health impacts and policy/design responses.
  • Summary of the health impact of regeneration projects with some lessons learned from previous large-scale regeneration programmes and a case study example.
  • Innovative ways to engage local communities on place and health. This is organised by types of engagement activities, but there are many examples which mix methods (such as participatory mapping and photography). Readers can pick and choose methods which may work in their area, devising new combinations and hybrid approaches.
  • Overview of local urban health indicator tools which can be used to inform policy development and monitor impact.
  • Further guidance to complement the information reported here.

 

Principal findings about healthy built environments are: 

Social interaction – The built environment features which affect social isolation and engagement include: residential density; mixed land use; street layout and design; transition between public/private space; environmental cues for crime and safety; greenspace; public transport; and local facilities for leisure and recreation (including cafés, pubs, religious facilities, etc.). Older residents and young mothers may be more socially isolated than other groups. Special efforts may be required to include these groups in consultation activities. Community asset mapping is a useful method for understanding the places and spaces that are important for social engagement.

Physical inactivity – The factors influencing physical inactivity are very similar to those which impact social isolation. There is a positive association between physical activity and net residential density, intersection density, public transport density, and number of parks for adults. Increased urban sprawl and decreased land use mix are positively associated with obesity in some environments. Street design, street lighting, green infrastructure and environmental cues of crime/safety impact physical activity in adults and children. Access to recreational facilities and schools is important for physical activity in children. Traffic density and speed negatively impacts physical activity (especially for children) and leads to greater injuries and fatalities.

Healthy food – Local food habits are influenced by a complex system of social, economic and environmental factors. Children’s diets may be more affected by local convenience stores and fast food outlets than adults’ diets. People living in deprived communities may have a greater number of fast food outlets than more affluent neighbours. Simply providing healthy foods (through grocery stores, farmers’ markets or green grocers) may not change behaviours. Strong engagement with the local community to understand current attitudes and requirements can help make any investments in healthy food access more successful.

Health services – Combining health services and social care services is referred to as ‘integrated care’ but does not always result in the co-location of multiple services. A systematic review found multiple benefits to integrated care including reductions in: non-emergency cases using A&E, average hospital stays, and costs per patient per site visit. A Big Lottery Fund evaluation of Healthy Living Centres found that these facilities had a range of positive benefits in the community including improved health outcomes and attracting target communities.

Key findings about healthy planning practice: 

Building trust – Multiple research and community projects highlighted the importance of building trust when working with local communities, especially on regeneration projects. The methods chosen for gathering local perceptions can impact trust. Particularly in relation to sensitive issues about social isolation and health, consideration should be taken to ensure communities feel comfortable providing their time and knowledge and that they are happy with the way the information will be used. If there is a lack of trust, the appropriate information may not be uncovered in the engagement activity.

Monitoring impact – Evaluating the impact of local policies is a key part of planning practice. Understanding where policies have succeeded or failed allows for continual improvements through planning policy and development management. A number of indicators and assessment tools have been created to support ongoing review of policies. These tools can also inform the creation of new policies, help uncover health/spatial inequalities and demonstrate performance to local communities.

Going beyond business as usual – This review found a range of innovative community engagement and planning practice activities being carried out by health and built environment professionals and academics. However these examples often related to specific major developments or funded projects and do not yet appear to be part of normal planning processes. The healthy planning project led by Southwark and Lambeth represents an innovative approach to planning healthy communities that seeks to combine extensive local knowledge with scientific evidence. Sharing the findings from this review can help other planning authorities’ access up-to-date research evidence and pick and choose from community engagement and policy examples which may work in their area.

 

The evidence behind natural flood management

The Environment Agency (EA) has published a variety of documents, ‘The evidence behind natural flood management’ which contain data, case studies and evidence about the role of natural flood management in reducing flood risk. This is the first time all the evidence has been brought together, with the intention of enabling more uptake.

The report contains more than 60 case studies from across England and explores how successful the approach is, how it could be used elsewhere and what research may still be needed.

Natural flood management is when natural processes are used to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Examples include: restoring bends in rivers, changing the way land is managed so soil can absorb more water and creating saltmarshes on the coast to absorb wave energy.

The Environment Agency has developed a Working with Natural Processes (WWNP) Evidence Directory which looks in detail at the effectiveness of different measures at reducing flood risk. This is supported by maps which help practitioners think about the types of measure that may work in a catchment.

To view a presentation to give you an overview of the Working with Natural Processes – the evidence behind Natural Flood Management project click on image below.

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The data is presented across 3 areas –

• Evidence Directory that summarises the effectiveness of Working with Natural Processes measures from a flood and coastal erosion risk (FCRM) perspective as well as the wider ecosystem service benefits they may deliver.
• mapping the potential for WWNP which is intended to be used alongside the Evidence Directory to help practitioners think about the types of measure that may work in a catchment and the best places in which to locate them.
• research gaps that need to be addressed to move this form of FCRM into the mainstream are identified in the Evidence Directory

The report highlights examples of different forms of natural flood management, describes the level of confidence in the flood management examples, areas and actions the EA feels still need to be actioned or explored, benefits accrued from using the management scheme plus further reading, case studies and maps. The report also comments on the degree of scientific confidence for each topic i.e. the level of confidence in the science that underpins the individual measures is given a confidence level (high, medium or low) based on the potential effectiveness of each measure at reducing flood risk.

The report looks at the following key areas:

River Restoration – River restoration reintroduces meanders to rivers and restores physical process. Making a river more sinuous can reduce flood peaks, water velocities and attenuate flow by slowing and storing flood water. The extent of this flood risk effect depends on the length of river restored relative to the overall size of the river catchment.

Floodplain Restoration – River floodplain restoration restores the hydrological connectivity between the river and floodplain, which encourages more regular floodplain inundation and flood water storage. This can decreases the magnitude of the flood peak and reduce downstream flood depths especially for high frequency, low return period floods. The extent of this flood risk effect depends on the length of river restored relative to the overall size of the river catchment.

Leaky Barriers – Leaky barriers are usually formed of wood and they are either formed naturally or are installed across watercourses and floodplains. They reduce flood risk by intercepting the flow of water in a river, this can can help restore river-floodplain connectivity which can reduce flood peaks, slow water velocities and attenuate flow by storing water on the floodplain.

Offline Storage Areas – Offline storage areas, are areas of floodplain which have been adapted (with a containment bund, inlet, outlet and spillway) to store and then release flood waters in a controlled manner. They provide temporary flood storage which can reduce peak flow. The extent of their flood risk effect depends on the number of storage areas provided throughout a catchment and their total storage volume.

Catchment Woodland – Catchment woodland can intercept, slow, store and filter water. This can help reduce flood peaks, flood flows (from 3 to 70%) and flood frequency. Largest reductions in flood risk have been seen for small events in small catchments, the extent of this reduction decreases as flood magnitude increases.

Cross-slope Woodland – A cross-slope woodland is a woodland which is planted across a hill slopes. It intercepts the flow of water as it runs down the hill reducing rapid runoff and encouraging infiltration and storage of water in the soil. There is an absence of measured data to show the flood risk impact of cross-slope woodland at the catchment scale.

Floodplain Woodland – Woodlands in floodplains can slow floodwaters and increase water depth on the floodplain. This can help reduce flood peaks (0-6%), delay peak timing (2 hours or more), desynchronise flood peak and reduce peak height. It can also enhance sediment deposition on the floodplain. Floodplain woodlands have greatest flood risk effect in the middle and lower river reaches of medium to large catchments.

Riparian Woodland – Riparian woodlands are planted on land immediately adjoining a watercourse, they can slow flood flows and can help reduce sediment delivery to the watercourse and reduce bankside erosion. They also have high evaporation losses and can create below ground water storage. Largest reductions in flood risk have been seen at the reach scale, in middle and upper catchments

Soil and Land Management – Soil and land management techniques can reduce peak flow by slowing and storing surface water runoff and encouraging infiltration with the soil. They can include a wide range of different measures as shown in the following flow chart.

Headwater Management – Headwater drainage management techniques can delay and flatten the hydrograph and reduce peak flow locally for small flood events by intercepting, slowing and filtering surface water runoff and encouraging attenuation and infiltration with the soil.

Runoff Management – Run-off pathway management techniques can delay and flatten the hydrograph and reduce peak flow locally for small flood events by intercepting, slowing and filtering surface water runoff. They can include a wide range of different measures as shown in the following flow chart. They usually work best as a cluster of features working as a network throughout the landscape.

Saltmarsh and Mudflats – Saltmarsh and mudflats reduce and dissipate wave and tidal energy in front of flood defences and can extend their design life. They can reduce the forces impacting on flood defences, and also reduce tidal surge propagation and lead to slightly lower water levels at defences.

Sand Dunes – Beach-dune systems form a natural barrier that reduce the risk of tidal inundation landward of the dune, they also act as reservoirs of sand to nourish beaches during storms. They act as a buffer protecting flood defence structures or cliffs behind from direct wave attack and erosion, this in turn enhances the design-life of other flood risk management infrastructure. They can also protect estuaries and lagoons through restricting the passage of storm surges and waves (Pye et al., 2007).

Beach Nourishment – Beaches provide an effective form of coastal defence, but only if they are of sufficient width and level. Where beach systems become depleted this affects their flood risk management value. Beach nourishment is the process of adding material to the shoreline. It is undertaken to improve or restore beach and their coastal defence function, it helps retain the standard of flood protection to the section of coast where implemented. To be effective it is a long-term maintenance activity usually repeated annually.

All the ‘Working with natural processes to reduce flood risk’ documents, maps and case studies can be read here