There hasn’t been much added to the notepad over the past year but this is not for lack of activity- a lot has been going on and I hope that over the coming weeks I can start to share progress on the Magnolia research and our work at the Yorkshire Arboretum, as well as an update on the landscape assessments that were carried out of Sheffield highways and some commentary on the recently published 25 Year Environment Plan.
There’s an exciting movement that appears to be gaining critical mass: open source is changing architecture. Using parametric design, a CNC and an open mind, it’s so exciting to see what what groups like Architecture 00 are doing. Whilst open source has been a powerful movement for years, with organisations like Opendesk publishing designs for practical furniture that anyone can take to a workshop and build, projects like the Wikihouse are the next logical step. Lots of designers, builders and users coming together to share ideas and skills and approach challenges we come across every day from new perspectives.
A discussion with James Hitchmough today reminded me of an interesting article in the New Statesman a while ago which asked if we need a better term for ‘tree’. The author writes that our collective use of language to describe the natural world is so impoverished that this prevents us from connecting with it and thus appreciating its richness and our relation to it. The limits of our knowledge define our reality: if we only know one word for tree, the argument goes, we are only likely to see one type of tree, and so a cycle of environmental degradation is entrenched.
Whilst researching bat habitat design guidance for Citu’s Climate Innovation District, I came across an interesting observation made at a conference last year. The conference pointed out that in spite of fairly strong evidence that bat gantries don’t work (Altringham, 2012), 4 new gantries were installed as part of the A11 works in 2014.
Biosecurity and plant health is an awkward area for landscape architects to engage in: we tend to be generalists and biosecurity is a fast-changing and highly technical field with environmental, political and economic implications. Nevertheless, it’s an essential strand to what we do and understanding how our designs and actions affect biosecurity is a challenge.
We all know what a tree is, don’t we? But when does a tree stop being ‘a’ tree and start being something bigger, more complicated and perhaps even plural? Francis Hallé has approached the question from a morphological perspective by showing that through reiteration, trees can actually be forests, with branches functioning as individual trees or trees-in-waiting, and I was fascinated to read this paper which touches on this same question from a different perspective, showing that up to 40% of the carbon in a tree’s fine roots might actually have been produced by another tree.