It’s really nice that knowing your designs will make a real difference, and that’s the driving force for me.
Julia is in her second year, studying BA Landscape Architecture at Manchester Metropolitan University
A levels: English Language, Psychology and Government & Politics, City & Guilds Floristry Level 3
I heard about landscape architecture through a friend who was an architect. After being a florist for a few years, I wanted a new challenge so after looking on the Landscape Institute’s website, I contacted the course leader at Man Met who invited me to come and look around. It was a really big help, the course leader is very supportive so that swayed me to go for it and apply.
There is a lot of variety in the course structure; we learn a variety of things at different times of the year. We are mainly in the studio on a daily basis where we discuss new briefs, our current projects, and review our own an each others work. If it is a review day for example, we will pin up our work in the morning and present it to classmates and tutors. We will discuss what is good with the work, what is bad with the work, where changes need to be made and then we will spend the afternoon working on the feedback and having 1 to 1 sessions with the tutor which is great. There are 10 of us at the moment on the course in my year; it works really well as we know each other, support each other and we get a lot of time with the tutors which is helpful so we can really refine our work. The small class size makes the lesson quite informal so we are free to ask questions and interact and I really like that. Sometimes we do have the traditional sort of lectures.
In first year, we were given a lot of flexibility with the project briefs; we were allowed to let our imaginations go wild. This allowed us to get used to the idea of designing plans, elevations, drawings, and basic concepts. In the second year the briefs get larger and more detailed. This year we have been looking at a specific area of Manchester called Levenshulme. We analysed the site in groups of 2-3 thinking about what the public space is like, the perceptions, the safety of the area, learning how to diagram and present this information, and how to develop it. On our own, we then created a design idea; I decided to design a community orchard. While there we a lot of public areas, there were no spaces where people could go and take part in group activities. It was really enjoyable and I got really passionate about it. As our technical base has been developed during the course, I had to think a lot about the construction side to my orchard, and the practicalities of what the trees will grow in and establish themselves.
I have been happy to find out the profession covers things like conservation of woodlands, flooding, public spaces, even how adding a few trees can make communities happier.
At the beginning of my first year the design projects were hand drawn. I struggle with this the most as I came to university with no drawing skills so I pushed myself to learn how to hand draw plan sections. For the construction side I have been using AutoCAD which is a computer software programme which makes things look neater. I have picked it up quite easily with support from my tutors and other class members. Being a florist previously taught me about balance, use of colour, proportion and plant names which has been useful for this course but my skills have definitely improved over the past couple of years. If anything, the most important thing is to be able to be open minded. I had no design qualifications when I started and I was willing to change this and take criticism. Attitude, willingness to learn, and having a genuine interest in the course massively helps. When I compare my work from first year to second year it has been really satisfying.
We have a field trip every year. The first year we went to Barcelona which was such an interesting city as its layout is so different to English cities where the roads are windy. There were a lot of geometric spaces so that was really interesting. Last year we went to Budapest which was beautiful. One of our tutors is from Budapest so she gave us a lot of inside information and took us on tours. We leant how the city was navigated, how it works, how large areas are re-designed to incorporate the needs of the city so that was fascinating. The whole class goes on these trips with 1 or 2 tutors. It bonds the group which is lovely and we have a lot of fun.