The realisation of design ideas in physical form through site construction is a fundamental tool in learning and understanding landscape and architectural design. Issues of materiality, structure, scale, cost, performance and design sustainability are best understood through the physical expression of theoretical ideas. The value of practical research / design / physical construction (action research) exercises in developing students understanding is becoming widely recognised, and situated conceptually within the wider field of design as research (Armstrong, 1999 and Bowring, 1997).
In this seminar, Matthew Pryor, reflects on the experience gained from running the new Landscape Practicum course in the BA(LS) curriculum. Students were asked to research, design, fabricate and install a prototype green roof garden on the Runme Shaw Building, under the guidance of outside professional practitioners and using commercial landscape contractors. The course was successful in helping to strengthen students’ understanding of landscape materials, structural systems and fabrication techniques, and providing them with opportunities to become familiar with the critical site processes involved in constructing and operating greening infrastructure elements. The practical and logistical issues in using real sites, the involvement of outside practitioners and commercial parties, and the unfamiliarity of students to the various learning activities and forms of assessment, however, all posed particular teaching challenges which needed to be overcome to achieve positive experiential learning outcomes.