Stop, Collaborate & Listen!

 As designers there are times when we become fully absorbed in our own work, and rightly so.  This happens frequently when projects are running at full tilt and we barely have time to sip that treasured early morning coffee, let alone pause for contemplation.


Whether you work in a small studio or large office it is important to take a step back to review work when the opportunities arise.  More often than not constructive criticism from our office colleagues encourages us to look again and consider alternatives available.  This often leads to better design development and the results are often more successful.   

Can we rely on our colleagues too much though?  There can be a danger that the criticism we receive becomes diluted or even too friendly if we are not careful.  This is where collaboration with other external professionals can be useful from time to time to refresh creativity. 

Elephant & Castle

Recently at Bowles & Wyer we were involved in a public realm design tender for an exciting regeneration project around the St Mary’s site at Elephant & Castle.  Lend Lease and Southwark council are working in partnership to transform this site as part of an overall £1.5bn, 55 acre development programme.  We were shortlisted down to the final two designers but sadly we were not awarded the final contract despite our best efforts.  The experience however proved beneficial.  

Jeremy Rye Studio were initially invited to tender by Lend Lease and approached us to work in collaboration with them.  Jeremy Rye worked previously for Kim Wilkie, recently setting up his own practice in 2011.  His key strengths lie in masterplanning and sustainable design and he felt this would complement  our own experience in detailed design of urban spaces, roof gardens and high quality residential developments. 

Brooks Drive Extension Concept

It quickly became apparent from our first meeting that we had similar ideas and values, helping us form a strong bond.  We made sure we communicated regularly and most importantly gave un-bias ‘outsider’ criticism of each other’s ideas.  The result was a robust response to the design brief and we were left convinced our ideas had the potential to be successful. 

Concept Masterplan

Criticism from fellow landscape practitioners is not something we all have the luxury of during design stages of projects but something that can prove useful with the right team of people.   Results can be surprising with exciting outcomes often different to those produced in isolation.  Maybe we should all consider the benefits of collaboration once and a while to challenge our thinking?  Certainly in tough economic times it is no bad thing to have allies closer to home.

James Smith

About John Wyer

This blog is mainly the thoughts and ramblings of John Wyer,with contributions from James Smith, Stuart Wallace, and others from the Bowles & Wyer team. John Wyer has been in the landscape and garden design sector for over 25 years. He was elected as a member of the Landscape Institute in 1990 and went on to establish the design partnership Bowles & Wyer with Chris Bowles in 1993. He was elected fellow of the Society of Garden Designers in 2011. His inspirational designs have won many awards including, most recently, Landscape Architect of the Year and Garden Designer of the Year from the New Homes Garden Awards. Outside of Bowles & Wyer, John is a founding member of the Triangle Community Garden in Hitchin, Hertfordshire which he formed with his wife fifteen years ago in a forgotten nettle covered corner of a public park. Today the award-winning garden runs regular hands-on gardening activities and several social and therapeutic horticultural projects for the local community all the while encouraging awareness and appreciation of environmental practices such as recycling, nature conservation and organic cultivation. His children have been known to say that he spends more time in his beloved vegetable garden than he does with them. Apart from gardening, he loves to cook (and eat) locally produced food. He is also a keen cyclist, and before having a family cycled from London to China.
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