James Hitchmough: Why Vegetation Is Important in Landscape Architecture
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
141 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
Organized by ASLA-CCNY
Introduced by Catherine Seavitt Nordenson
Discussion to follow.
James Hitchmough, PhD, has worked in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield since 1995 and as a Professor of Horticultural Ecology since 2004. He was the Head of Department from 2014 to 2018. Sheffield, with over 400 students and 35-40 PhD students, is the largest landscape architecture department in the UK and one of the international leaders in landscape architecture research, with funded research collaborations across the world.
James's research has centered around developing novel approaches to public planting design that allow for the creation of rich experiences for urban people and habitat opportunities for native biodiversity. At the same time, he established and managed at the lowest levels of finance, energy, and other diminishing resources. To achieve this goal he has integrated perspectives from contemporary ecological science with design and management processes, and developed understanding through environmental psychology research as to what people might think of the resulting designed landscapes. The application of these multi-disciplinary perspectives is intended to shift existing paradigms as to what urban planting might be in the 21st century, in a time of climate change, sustainability, and biodiversity. At the core of this is the need to create experiences with vegetation that are extraordinary, uplifting, and meaningful. A vital source of inspiration for how to design opportunity for these experiences has been to travel extensively to study the world’s most visually extraordinary temperate and Mediterranean vegetation.
He is also a practitioner, and has been involved in many of the major designed landscapes in the UK over the past twenty years. He was, for example, the planting design lead (with Nigel Dunnett) at the London Olympic Park, 2008-2013. Since 2010 James has worked extensively in China, where he has sought to develop more sustainable urban landscapes, in part through encouraging greater use of Chinese native and other “more sustainable” vegetation, but also through challenging design approaches that do not reflect on the culture and ecology of the places in question. In 2018 he designed one of the five “master” gardens, at the Beijing International Expo, plus the first multi-species native woodland parks in China at Lotus Lake in Central Beijing. He also works at much larger scales, leading the LDA Design and Grimshaw Architecture team, which in 2019 won the $2 million first prize in the International Design Competition to re-imagine Longquan Shan, a 1,275 square km mountain range that is being subsumed by the city of Chengdu, as a conceptually new model for a national park.
Currently, he is working with Hassell Architecture on imagining the planting for the Melbourne Arts Precinct Project. This is a $1 billion Australian regeneration project that connects 14 of the city’s premier arts and cultural institutions with a new public realm driven by rich, exciting planting, to parallel outside, the performance that takes place inside.