Three Minute Interview…Kristian Bowen

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Kris Bowen, Landscape Architect, Stansted Mountfitchet


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

When I was younger like many boys I wanted to follow my farther into the fire service as I spent a lot of my time there. As I grew older I grew a passion for architecture and engineering.


How did you get to be where you are today?

I got here by a stroke of luck to be honest. During my A levels I studied design but wasn’t sure I wanted to take it further, I found it tough going and was going to drop it. But for my design teacher Mr Cavanagh who basically told my parents and I that It would be stupid for me to drop the subject and that I was ‘quite good’. This spurred me on and I continued and re-ignited my passion for architecture and with my teacher’s guidance I discovered landscape architecture and that I could peruse a career in it and 5 years of study later I’m here and loving it.


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

What drives me and what enjoy the most, is designing places that people will inhabit and enjoy seeing your designs on plan being brought to life. Designing places that people will use for years to come.


What is your proudest achievement?

I think it would be gaining my Masters, it was something I never thought It would be something I could achieve. That and being able to work on some of the practices biggest projects.


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

Similar to what Mat previously said, never get stuck always look to diversify your skills and improve your knowledge in many areas.


What is your next adventure / goal?

I want to continue to develop my skills as a landscape and work on and run bigger projects within the practice and push us to achieve higher acclaim within the profession. Just continue to design places people will enjoy.

Kristian Bowen

You can email Kris directly:

The positive impact of Drones & UAV in the landscape

UAV’s or more commonly known as ‘drones’ have been considered a nuisance by many & have been featured in the news on various occasions for air traffic control violations. Also reports of strapping small dogs & cats to them has not done the reputation of drones & their operators any favours. If we cast aside the negative perceptions the public has on UAV’s we can really get down the the incredible possibilities they are capable of.

The DJI Inspire 1 pro: a very popular professional UAV

To use professional grade UAV commercially you will need to gain permissions for operations from the CAA. This process begins with a ground school where the big emphasis is on safety & Airspace awareness. The 2 class days are rounded up with an exam, reinforcing what has been covered throughout the intensive study. On completion you will be asked to create an ‘Operations Manual’. This outlines the flight procedures required for legal operations by the CAA and should be closely followed on every operation. The final step is a flight test conducted by a CAA approved trainer, this was in experience the toughest part of the process but once its passed paperwork pending you are ready to operate commercially.


The possible applications for aerial works are countless & the industry is really starting to pick up momentum. The sectors that relate to landscape that would greatly benefit from aerial works would be Landscape Planning by increasing the ‘imageability’ of our space, enabling a higher level of legibility in visual communication. For site survey the drone can be programmed to operate autonomously gathering multiple photographs to then produce a 3D model based on cloud point data. That can be used to analyse back in the office to get accurate measurements from the 3D model. Pretty revolutionary I think you will agree!

The uses continue with the forestry commission using drones to check forestry health & also agriculture where aerial data can help land owners pin point areas of under performing crops.

Most recently we saw the use of drones first hand, assessing the damage caused by the tragic fire at the Grenfell tower block in London.

To summarise, UAV technology is here to stay & the application possibilities are increasing all the time!

To find out more about these incredible machines and options available, contact Steve Woodhouse.

Bristol’s Community Eco Self-Build is gaining momentum – why not try something like this…

Anyone interested in eco self-build community housing projects, it may be worth while taking a look at some of the things happening in Bristol. On the back of the success of the well-known Ashley Vale project in St Werburghs Bristol, a company was set up by Dr Steffie Broer, one of the original self-build pioneers of The Yard at St Werburghs. Her company is called Bright Green Futures and their key aim is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to build their own eco home and community.  Her journey is just beginning.


St Werburghs The Yard Ashley Vale

My wife and I have been following their work for some time and have recently decided to give it a try ourselves. So, we have recently been selected as one of 14 pioneers driving forward a new self-build community in west Bristol called Water Lilies (why this name?… because it promises a natural swimming pool in the communal garden, YAY!). We are still very much in the initial stages of the project, working together as a group to put together a planning application for the site. It will be a fascinating journey of exploration and adventure over the next 2 or 3 years, and some tears I’m sure.  At the end of the journey, the community will comprise 24 new homes focused around a central communal garden with a community hub building, fire pit / BBQ area, orchard, natural swimming pool (!), bee hives, allotment gardens etc. The community backs on to an existing woodland that stretches for miles and allows direct access to nature.

This blog entry is really to share this experience and get the word out about the work being done by BGF, because I believe this can be an answer towards genuine sustainable living, in the context of the threats facing all of us within our lifetimes, i.e. mass population expansion, climate change and impacts on biodiversity, etc. This is the first project that BGF have initiated in its entirety from inception and therefore it is a prototype for how companies like BGF can make a difference and give ordinary people the chance to design and build their own low impact, high performance home, and form a community. How empowering is that!

For anyone who would like to support the cause and help to get the word out, BGF would like to create a film that will showcase the project and tell the story to others once it is complete. They are trying to raise funds for the film.

Please follow this link to the crowdfunder site.  All you need to do is donate £1 as it is more about the volume of support we get rather than the overall amount. There are some potential rewards for those who would like to donate a bit more, but no need (only 20 days left to show your support).

Three Minute Interview…Philippa Heath, Landscape Architect.

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

My name is Philippa Heath and I’m one of the Landscape Architects at the Stansted Office.

When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

When I was at school I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do. I always had an interest in Geography and Art and did a lot of music as well.

How did you get to be where you are today?

I came into Landscape Architecture in a more roundabout way than most. I took a gap year after school where I travelled around Europe and down the West Coast of Canada and the US. I then went onto study Geography at Lancaster University. I also studied for a year at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, which was what really inspired me to study Landscape Architecture as my Masters because of the huge variety of landscapes around Vancouver. I then went onto do my Masters at University of Sheffield. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In the middle of my Masters I worked at Liz Lake as a summer intern and when I finished my Masters last summer I came back to Liz Lake and have now been here full-time for about 6 months.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

I really enjoy the fact that you’re never doing the same thing. Every project is different and once each project is complete its really satisfying to see how our input can really make a difference to a place.

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement to date is probably when I won the Landscape Institute Yorkshire and the Humber Award for Design Excellence for my final project for my Masters. It was a proposal for the design and planning of the Limehouse Cut in East London. I never thought I’d win anything and it was a massive shock on the day the exhibition opened.

What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

Never to limit yourself to what you think you can do, because usually you are far more capable than you imagine.

What is your next adventure / goal?

My next work goal is to become chartered. Outside of work the next goal is to travel to every continent.

phillipa heath

You can contact Philippa directly:



Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

Over the bank holiday weekend I took the opportunity to venture out of Essex up to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. Surrounded by the busy urban setting of Cambridge the gardens provides a welcome green space.

As soon as you enter the garden you are transported to a different world, the busy streets and noise from traffic becomes dull and is no longer visible, planting beds full to the brim with Alliums greet you and draw you further into the landscape. With a choice of direction we chose to take the walk through the more wooded area where there were less people headed, it also provided a nice cool walk and a break from the sun which was beating down on us. The path led us to the back of the lake where we were able to get glimpses of what was to come on our journey through the rest of the botanic gardens.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Exploring the dry gardens next to the lake was by far my favourite part of the garden, not only because they are one of my favourite planting styles but because the way these were designed allowed for the highest user interaction, gravel paths denoted by larger rocks and boulders meandered through the area changing direction every few footsteps and changing in levels. It created so many different views across the gardens and paths lead you out of the dry garden into a totally different style of planting.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Changes in topography it utilised to the its full potential through out the garden creating vantage points indicating destinations to head to in the gardens. As well as this, planting schemes have carefully been designed to entice users of the garden into different areas, for instance the large leaves of a Gunnera draw users to the waters edge where large stepping stones appear creating an informal bridge across the lake. A bonus to this is that large koi carp swim in and out the lily pads, their bright colours draw attention, inevitably stopping users and allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the space which surrounds them.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

Tucked away from the most popular features of the garden is a beautiful arboretum with mown paths through a sea of daisies. It provides an area to stop and just relax in the area, it also introduces some much needed shade to the garden.

Cambridge Botanic Garden

It was really interesting to see that different people attracted to the Botanic Gardens. There were families with both younger and older children, couples for all ages, tourists and professionals. Overall the botanic gardens are really well designed with open spaces, shade, shelter and calming and active spaces. The garden caters for everyone.

Public realm landscapes, cradle to grave.

If you are under 30 it is not often you may remember schemes being implemented and removed. Particularly giving the increased recognition of the landscape architecture profession and the increase of policy, both good practice and statutory in which we work to.

Maintenance of landscape schemes and choosing the correct plant type is essential to the performance and longevity, particularly with regards to visual amenity. With Secure By Design compliancy often seen as a challenge unless you are a firm believer in its values and statistics, it makes you wonder what happened before this guidance was brought into play in 1989 and landscaping was brought to the forefront in the early 2000’s in public realm by local authorities, landowners and house builders.

Although in the Capital we hear of site specific planting to reduce the chances of assisting crime, be it high density groundcover to prevent hiding objects and increase surveillance. Or the obligatory housing development ‘privacy strip/defensible space’ a firm favourite with developers. We rarely see it make the headlines elsewhere.

A headline article in Northern Ireland broke from trend recently highlighted the importance of this. An embankment to the front of a Belfast Train Station has recently been clear felled after it was assisting in the local drugs trade concealing deals from public view. The pictures beneath speak for themselves but it does raise the question for the designer, where to go from here?




Clearly bringing Secure by Design to the forefront and the public’s interest, how do you go about rectifying a landscape that probably looked like a typecast of every other station in its implementation in 1992. It raises questions such as has it fulfilled its original purpose and purposeful life cycle? Would better maintenance have helped control this? Is this just a normal landscape problem that has been brought to the limelight owing to a problem that today would have been considered from outset?

The answer, probably yes to all. Secure by Design is more prevalent than ever, CDM regulations ensure we actively design safer schemes for cradle to grave, particularly evident on these steep banks and planting styles and attitudes have changed, thankfully. It does highlight, particularly to younger members of the profession the importance of good design and consideration of every plausible aspect. Although styles and maintenance budgets/allocations change, your scheme should consider the long haul.

Whilst we could come up with options and alternatives, redesigns and retrofits. We will wait with baited breathe to see what happens in this space.

Three Minute Interview…Felicity Gannicott, Graduate Landscape Architect

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Felicity Gannicott, Graduate Landscape Architect, Stansted


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

Aged 8, I wanted to be an astronaut discovering planets, finding out how it all worked, reality brought me back down to earth and I decided I wanted to do something where I could make a difference to the lives of people, I recognised that I was creative so decided to pursue a career that would let me explore my creativity and make a difference, Landscape Architecture seemed a perfect fit.


How did you get to be where you are today?

Through a lot of hard work at school and university, and the determination to keep going when the work became difficult. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome especially as university was the first time I was coming across some of the software used in the profession.


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

I enjoy the research that goes into planning applications and probably most of all creating figures and landscape masterplans. I get to present conceptual ideas graphically ensuring they can be interpreted by everyone. Having worked predominantly in the landscape planning side of Landscape Architecture, it is always a great bonus when I am able to get out on Site and can imagine where the proposals will be and from the viewpoints they will be seen from.


What is your proudest achievement?

Professionally, coming out of the undergraduate degree and building knowledge and skills required to write LVIA’s, Green Belt Assessments, Capacity Studies and there associated reports.

Personally, my proudest achievement was organising a Fashion Show for Cancer Research at 17, raising £1800 for the charity. It was a challenge but I discovered I was good at time and people management.


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

To work as hard as you can at everything and never give up and try not to put yourself in one bracket where you could get stuck in a position, to be an all rounded.

Show them what you’re made of, go be amazing.


What is your next adventure / goal?

Professionally, to complete my Masters in Landscape Architecture with a view to becoming a Chartered Landscape Architect.

Personally, to complete the Half MoonWalk, walking 15.2 miles around London, in the middle of the night raising money for the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk.


You can contact Felicity directly:

Berlins rich open spaces.

March saw me travelling to Berlin, to celebrate my latest birthday. I’d heard great things about Berlin’s culture, nightlife, ability to think differently and of course its rich, rich heritage.


On my way into Berlin via the U-Bahn (subway) system I noticed a lot of churches (most impressive in terms of architecture and grandeur) and many green areas and public open spaces. Working with Landscape Architects on a daily basis has made me see just how important good, well designed public open space is, especially to a large capital city, offering space and sanctuary in the busy hustle and bustle of day to day life.


Making my way around inner Berlin on the S-Bahn to our stop at Tiergarten (and the Zoologischer Garten) I notice a plethora of Public Open Space (POS) dotted around the urban sprawl of the ever developing Berlin, some impressive modern design alongside some older but more historically rich parks.


The first journey from the hotel saw us arriving at Potsdamer Platz (theres a unique history to the Platz as it was totally laid to waste during World War II and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. Nowadays its a modern and bustling place, full of shops, places of work and some very interesting architecture and public open spaces, nothing more so than the Memorial to the Murdered jews of Europe. The memorial consists of 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. Its an eery and very powerful memorial. The memorial is also located near Berlin’s foreign embassies, allowing political diplomats and leaders from around the world to observe how Germany acknowledges its past while continuing to move forward.


Catching the U-Bahn once more we head down towards the River in search of yet more open space and perhaps the most poignant reminder of Germanys past, The Berlin Wall, the wall stood from 1961 until 1989, a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin. Today only a small selection of the wall still stands, the east side gallery is an 1316m long section of the wall and is famed for its wonderful, rich graffiti, produced by various local and international artists after the fall of the wall, currently undergoing refurbishment, the wall had at the time of our visit a 6ft high metal fence along various section to stop people writing remarks in regards to its famous history, very apt I thought. Running along the River Spree there are more areas of open space that end up at the waters edge. Small sections of hard and soft landscaping give the area a very easy going feel considering its salubrious history. Building around the east side gallery is immense, architectures cuts a swathe through the air with modern hi-res living dominating the horizon. Berlin really is a city under construction.




The following day we take a trip to see the Fernsehturm tower, which dominates the skyline of Alexanderplatz. We then walk towards the DDR museum across yet more POS towards the river, we take in the wonderful Neptunbrunnen fountain and the Church of St. Marienkirche. The DDR museum is an interactive insight into East German life during pre-unified Germany, they have built an actual apartment just how it would have been to live in Germany during the 1960’s. Over the road is the Berlin Dom, with its gardens and POS, a truly wonderful attraction.


The final couple of days see us walk to other places of interest, taking in the typical tourist attractions, but also a few not necessarily that well know outside of the city. The Mauerpark is a grassland with trees, on the site of the former border between East & West Berlin, its a lovely open space with plenty to keep all ages occupied. Not to mention the huge flea market thats next door, if you like to take a little tat home with you. Sadly the weather was a little wet on this day to fully appreciate the park, further back near the U-Bahn station is another interesting homage to the Berlin Wall, a mix of public open space, play areas for children and informative graphics and 3D displays that give a history of just how important this area was during the Berlin Wall era.




Summing up, visit Berlin at anytime regardless of what it is you are looking for. There really is so much on offer, including great public spaces and parks to get away from it all and enjoy some moments of calmness!


The Three Minute Interview…Samantha Leathers, Chartered Landscape Architect

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Samantha Leathers, Senior Associate and Chartered Landscape Architect, Bristol


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

An interior designer or an architect because I loved creating schemes and drawing plans and diagrams… I did not know Landscape Architecture existed.


How did you get to be where you are today?

A careers advisor told me I could indeed be a designer, but with plants rather than just buildings or furniture, and I was fascinated… I also always loved being outside and exploring nature, so really it was a ‘no brainer’… to ‘design’ the ‘landscape’! Bingo!


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

Designing places…I love developing an idea, getting other people excited about it, and then seeing it become reality… I liken it to being ‘Alice in Wonderland’, walking into a dream; when you walk into the reality of your drawings once they are built on site!


What is your proudest achievement?

Difficult one! – perhaps pioneering a new path membrane in a Deer Park in Cornwall – it had never been used in the UK before and I convinced the Client to install it across a vast network of trails because low visual impact and durability was really important.. and now, years later, people have told me that they really enjoy using the path – on horses, bicycles and on foot – just as it was intended.


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

If you reach for the top of the tree you will probably find yourself the middle of the canopy, if you reach for the sky you will probably find yourself at the top of the tree.


What is your next adventure / goal?

Restoring the industries perspective of what a Landscape Architect can do – I think the recession had a really damaging impact on the profession – our services became too competitive and the allowance for inspiration, research and design development has been really parred down. I would really like to bring the space for ‘creativity’ back into every project.

Also – becoming a Fellow of the Landscape Institute.

Samantha Leathers

You can contact Samantha directly:

The Three Minute Interview…Mat Hull, Landscape Architect

In a new series we will be asking staff at Liz Lake Associates to give us a quick three minute interview.

First up is Landscape Architect and plant guru Mathew Hull…


Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Mat Hull, Landscape Architect, Stansted Mountfitchet.


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

When I was at Primary School I wanted to be a Policeman, in particular a river Policeman on the River Thames. My plans changed as I grew older and from the age of about 13, I knew I wanted to work with plants. At this time I was very lucky to have my Uncle’s garden to experiment with and I spent most weekends from the ages of 13 to 18 developing my plant knowledge and playing with plant combinations.


How did you get to be where you are today?

It was more by chance than judgement. I had always seen myself as more of a garden designer, but ended up as a landscape architect. To some people there isn’t much of a difference between the two, but I guess the main difference is your audience. As a garden designer you work closely with a person or a family, trying to create what they see in their minds eye. As a landscape architect you have to consider many landscape users at once and you are designing to please many people. I like the idea of working as both, so when I work I try to make spaces that are personal to people.

So in answer to the question, I guess I got here through hard work, but also because I know that as a landscape architect I have the freedom to work with landscapes at a number of different scales and that is what I enjoy.


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

I like going to see finished jobs where I played a part in the design process. At the end of the day, I think that is why we are all here, to see progress and to create beautiful outdoor environments.


What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement to date is my work on Peterhouse Technology Park. I am proud of my involvement in the project and pleased to see the designs being laid out on site.


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

In terms of my profession, the best advice I have been given is not to pigeonhole yourself. If you are very good at one thing, it is easy to be stuck doing that one skill for the rest of your life, whether you love or hate it. Try and diversify your skills and improve your knowledge in lots of areas.


What is your next adventure / goal?

I would love to work on a show garden at one of the RHS shows. It is certainly a goal in life to be able to do this and showcase my style as a planting designer on a public stage. I would love to be recognised as a planting designer, landscape architect and garden designer all in one go. All of these job roles are so close to one another, why be stuck in one compartment?


You can contact Mat directly: