Dan Bowles

daniel-bowlesDan, 23, is an Assistant Landscape Architect at MHP Design. He gained a BA Hons, Landscape Architecture, a Postgraduate Diploma in Landscape Architecture and a Master of Arts (MA) in Landscape Architecture, all from the University of Gloucestershire.

My day starts around 7.30. I live in Cheltenham, and I’ve got a short 25 minute commute, by car, to the office. I’m normally one of the first in the office at 9am. At the office, I get on the computer, check my emails, and the company work from the day before to see what needs to be done. I get myself set up, and have a strong coffee, and get ready for the day.

My day is hugely varied. We’ve got so many different projects going on. I might get an email about an interesting query over a project we’ve got about to go on site, or one that is already on site, so I deal with those first of all. If the project is a recreational area, they might be ordering play equipment, or something like that. It might be finishing off work from the day before. Sometimes my boss will email me work that I can deal with, from clients, and others.

We’ve got quite a few projects at the moment. We just finished doing a Recreation Ground in Worcestershire and we’ve got another play area about to start in Leicester. For the play area about to be constructed, I’ve been finalising design drawings, getting the contract ready and working to select colours for play equipment. It’s quite exciting work and it’s creative as well.

We work with the clients, and with a range of contractors – aboriculturalists, small and large firms that build play areas, engineers. When we’re working with clients, they come first. We try to fulfil all of their aims. One of the things we do in my company is a lot of public consultation. In that context it’s very much about meeting the requirements and the desires of the community. Often I will be working within planning restrictions as well, so I have to meet planning requirements. Our overall big picture aims are to make places that improve people’s lives and are really beautiful spaces for the community. It’s about making the most of local spaces.

My afternoons are varied. If we have got a project on site, we have meetings and site inspections in the afternoons. You might spend an afternoon or a whole day on site. On a typical site inspection, it’s about making sure our designs are being built correctly, checking for any kind of hazards or dealing with any queries. We like to have a really good relationship with the contractor, and it might be talking about what’s our approach going to be here, what’s cost-effective, what’s minimising the impact on the overall scheme.

Also in the afternoon I’ll respond to any queries in the office. Often my boss might pass me some design work to do, public open space work, maybe we’ve got another play area coming up or some sort of pedestrian scheme. It might be design or urban design work, it might be editing drawing, it might be tweaks and CAD work. I work on other people’s drawings as well as doing stuff myself.

I’d say the project I’ve enjoyed the most was a play area that we’re about to build in Leicester. Although I didn’t do the design, I’ve worked from the consultation stage onwards. I went to three schools, and I chatted to kids and found out what play equipment they like. You think what is the play area like for kids, what do they want? It’s a creative process. I followed the project from consultation, through the design process, writing the contract, and now we’re about to go on site and build it.

It’s quite exciting seeing the whole thing come together, seeing how everything I’ve learnt at university actually happens in the real world. It was an interesting and big learning curve.

My office is small. Altogether there are five of us – four landscape architects (including myself) and an office manager, who does the admin side of things. We all sit together, we have a lot of fun. At the moment we’re doing a bake-off each week, which is testing my cooking skills!

This is my first job. What’s nice is that my boss is investing in a lot of things – I get training, and I’m learning a lot on the job. I’m going to start my Landscape Institute Chartership process with my boss as my mentor, so that’s really good.

I love my job because it’s so varied, and that’s why I chose landscape in the first place – for the broad nature of it. There are so many aspects to it. Working in a small practice like I do, you get to see everything that goes on, you get involved in lots of projects, even if it’s just a small input you have. I think landscape is so important. It can have a really positive in people’s lives and communities. You can transform space.