2020 LIS ESALA Student Award Winners

Anna Reid (Best Student award winner and Best Portfolio award winner)

For too long humans have acted on the dominant Western premise that we are superior to our environment. This in turn has played a substantial part in the ecological devastation of our planet. As landscape architects we must ensure that to sustain the global biosphere, the intrinsic links between human and non-humans are questioned and challenged. This portfolio of work responds to this by considering ways in which human occupation and more-than-human action can be built into the landscape stewardship and design in the Scottish Highlands. The project applies this way of thinking to the crofting (small scale agriculture and land tenure) communities of Clachtoll and Stoer in the North West. Initial exploratory work considers the intrinsic links between humans and non-humans before imagining how a more-than-human relationship, which focuses on socio-ecological values, might manifest. This relationship evolves into a more-than-human stewardship and design model which is applied across the crofting township. Croft boundaries become green corridors and places for social exchange. Sheep become camera stewards who experiment with non-human storytelling as a form of public engagement, and overgrazed land diversifies to provided social and ecological benefits for all species. Together the portfolio highlights the importance of a community who socially and ecologically collaborate to sustain the land for future generations. 

I immensely enjoyed my time studying on the MLA programme with ESALA. The programme itself provided a firm platform to learn about the basic elements of landscape architecture, as well as providing students with the opportunity to creatively explore and engage with fields and mediums out-with their usual practice. The tutors were a great influence in shaping my practice and I can’t thank them enough for the support they provided throughout the course. 

Yanquin Pan (Best Student award winner)

This project seeks to embody a change in attitude towards future urban development by embracing the theme of ‘Degrowth’ and the implications of this term for the discipline of Landscape Architecture. The project seeks to redefine the relationship between landmarks and the urban environment by shifting impetus from the ‘landmark’ demonstrating power, wealth and status towards new forms of spatial and compositional typologies that can contribute more meaningfully to socio-environmental ecosystems in the city of Oslo.  

The project seeks to make a translation between the theory of the degrowth movement (which seeks to promote an active downscaling of the economy as a pathway to environmental sustainability) and what that might mean in terms of taking a landscape led approach to waterfront design. The project is sited in the Arkersnes Penninsula which advocates for a slowing down, seeking sunlight, water and wind to bring the site to life and breathe in new dynamic interactions and opportunities for urban life, environment and ecology co-exist. By breaking the original boundaries that exist on the site, the design seeks to engage a renewed experiential relationship with the physical elements of the site and allow dynamic environmental forces to intervene in the future shaping of this stretch of urban coastline. 

Studying at ESALA, I can always be inspired by this free, open,and creative atmosphere. Through the MLA program, I have developed a wide range of skills through a series of design projects, field trips, and lectures. Most importantly, I will always be encouraged by my tutor to explore my interests, what more, be reminded to think about the responsibilities of choosing as a landscape architect. 

Jennifer Fauster (Best Portfolio award winner)

Nora Nanov (Peter Daniels award for Site Analysis Skills award winner)

Our final year design course in the MA program focused on the catchment area of the Garnock Valley. Staring from a regional-strategic scale and then focusing on site-specific interventions, the design course encouraged us to consider spatial, historical, physical and emotional elements in the landscape. The complexity of the site and its history, inspired me to develop several site analysis methods – each for a different scale. 

The first method of site analysis focused on community engagement. 

The local’s input and aspirations for the place they live in is often more valuable than the spatial analysis a landscape architect can do in a place that is new to them. Therefore, I have developed a boardgame of the catchment area. By playing the game, the locals implemented their thoughts and ideas in a simplified way. Playfulness encouraged the participants to consider ‘controversial’ ideas and not restrict themselves to ‘reality’.  

The second method of site analysis focused on a scientific and physical overview. 

Focusing on the Nobel Explosives site on the Ardeer Peninsula, the scientific overview included thorough research on the chemical production activity of the site in its past, and its effects on the landscape surrounding it. As a result, specific decontamination typologies were matched to different areas of the site to ensure their rehabilitation. The physical overview of the site sharpened my understating of the significance of this landscape to its people, and therefor encouraged me to preserve any remains of the historic activity of the site.  

The main aim of my project was to revive the relationship between the landscape and its people, both spatially and sentimentally. 

During my 4 years in ESALA, I was trained to be a good landscape architect, that attempts to understand all the aspects that come with the profession. From basic principles and technical information, to perception and theoretical thinking, the course covered all the needed elements in order to prepare us to our professional future. The support and mentorship we received from our tutors and teachers have been constant and thoughtful, and for that I am thankful.   

Mena Shah (Peter Daniels award for Site Analysis Skills award winner)

In this project, I explored into how to give the non-human a voice in the way decisions are made about land use in the North-West of Scotland; and how to heal broken relationships to the landscape after centuries of intensive use and trauma, landownership issues, ecosystem imbalance and conservationist disputes. During our group fieldwork, I experimented with different methods to ‘get to know’ the landscape, and like I would a person, or myself, the first step was to slow down, empathise and listen. The result of this experience later became the design of an alternative community consultation in the form of a performance score applicable to any place. The score uses influences from dance, shamanism, and therapy to first engage silently with the non-human before any talk of design.  

Finally, through the design of a 7-day long-distance walking route, I etch in the landscape a union between conflicting land uses and a diverse range of habitats, and along this path create intensified nodes of co-habitation between the non-human, tourist and local community. The habitats are improved for specific endangered birds as a monitoring target, for which I research their migration routes, and the fascinating stories they carry across the world, with the aim to help broaden the human sense of time and space beyond territory and self. The act of long-distance walking and temporary nomadic living allows time for the wayfarer to observe and connect to one’s intuitive nature and spirit. On route, the wayfarer experiences not a wilderness ‘getaway’, but an example of an ecologically enhanced landscape, where people are not excluded, but act as an aid to reviving the land’s potential diversity, and rural communities across the Highlands work together to transform their habits from living in the landscape to living with the landscape. 

My experience at ESALA has been fantastic. I am incredibly grateful to my tutors this year for supporting, inspiring and pushing all of us into finding our own individual qualities to bring to Landscape Architecture, and cultivating the passion for this evolving subject which they bring to the context of today. I would also like to thank our tutors from last year for the wealth of experience and inspiration they bring to lessons in ecology, explorations of materiality and history in the landscape. The learning was intense and with the time pressures and design challenges we were faced with, I am very proud of how much I was able to achieve in a short period of time. 

Margaux le Quellec (Best Portfolio award finalist)

This year my design studio focused on the Garnock Valley in Scotland. My aim was to create a proposal that would use the existing socially declining landscape framework and foster anew dynamic place for the 21st century. The habitat spine proposes the reinvention of the existing NCN (National Cycle Network) into a multipurpose route for tourism, local communities and ecosystem. The habitat spine encourages creation of new woodland types aligning with the UK forestry commission’s aim to have a 21% increase in Scotland’s national woodlands by 2035 and flood prevention schemes in Ayrshire. This spine would create a new wildlife corridor helping the migration of important bird species as well as other living organisms. This spine also offers a new way to move between the towns of Kilbirnie, Dalry, Kilwinning and Irvine. The new river-walkway will bring new outdoor recreation helping more land well-being in these socially and economically deprived towns. Following a deep understanding of the site through photography, cartography and landscape scenography several sites were selected and smaller interventions were created highlighting the character of the valley.

It has been such a positive experience to have taken part in the MA program at ESALA. I wish to thank the supportive tutors and colleagues as they have provided a dynamic and creative work environment that has influenced my work and view as a designer.

Laura Esplin (Peter Daniels award for Site Analysis Skills award finalist)

Carbon Work and GEO-ACT: The focus of my masters project was an examination of the climate crisis through the lens of the North West Highlands UNESCO Geological park.The design proposes a new park model of full carbon re-sequestration both on land and at sea, using a keystone intervention of seagrass restoration at Achmelvich bay as a case study for further expansion along the coastline.

Throughout the studio, we were given full autonomy to develop our methods of field work,research and iterations which informed the final visions of our work. I used this opportunity to understand my site and it’s environmental issues, by researching in a pro-active way. It was important for me to seek out further expertise, but also to engage with issues first-hand; such as a site beach collection of marine plastic debris – which can only be experienced at human scale. This encouragement at ESALA of creative and reflective free-thought was fundamental to developing a design which I felt was relevant to it’s time and place

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