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SRUC students involved in Seafield project with Here + Now

Gerard O’Brien is a lecturer at SRUC’s Edinburgh campus and teaches on the HND in Garden Design and degree in Garden and Greenspace Design. Gerard also has a studio where he is involved with a variety of landscape, visual art and pedagogic projects. The studio is shared with a former SRUC student Amie Routledge, and the landscape architect firm Here + Now. Though they all work independently, ideas get discussed and there is much exchange. One of the recent projects that has been discussed is the potential of the promenade at Seafield, on Edinburgh’s coast between Leith and Portobello. According to Here + Now’s website…”The Sea Field Project is an ongoing self-initiated project delivered on a voluntary basis by HERE+NOW.  The project aims to re-imagine the opportunity and potential of Edinburgh’s waterfront for people and for nature”. Gerard has long held an interest in that area, a strange ‘Edgeland’ between a rich past, industrial present and burgeoning potential.

For his part Gerard decided that this would be a good project for SRUC’s third year student’s Environmental Science for Garden and Greenspace module to look at. So on a very blustery, unforgiving day in February the group walked the stretch of promenade braving elements and perceptions.  To continue the story of Seafield and develop the project the Here + Now group bravely and generously set up a summer school for interested individuals to work on the Seafield promenade. Three SRUC students, Kathy Stevenson, Bronwyn Jones and Janet Woodburn, all graduates of the Garden and Greenspace Design degree, took up this tremendous opportunity and challenge.

Gerard was asked to give a brief talk to the students at the beginning of the month long school (which took place two days a week for the duration). Gerard’s introductory talk touched on the history of the site – which went from being a marsh, to a pleasure grounds/funfair (Edinburgh Marine Gardens) to a bus depot and home of the Edinburgh’s Cats and Dog home.

The main challenge for the summer school was to interact with the public – the users of the promenade and gather information and come up with design ideas and physical interventions. The process is known in design field as ‘co-design’ and is the process of developing and designing with those who use or will use a product or space.  The students will have touched on this idea in their classes on Environmental Psychology but this was very much the coal face – meeting, interviewing and observing in the ‘real’ world.

Photo credit: HERE + NOW

At the end of the project, the students presented their proposals and the temporary interventions that had been done on the promenade to again engage and inspire people. This took place at the Here + Now studio space to a panel of interested parties – members of SUSTRANS and the council.

Gerard O’Brian said “All the teams did incredibly well. It was fascinating to see and hear about the process they had gone through.  And of great pleasure to see how the projects had evolved from a pretty unknown state (what has been termed the ‘fuzzy’ beginning of co-design) to some very concrete and interesting ideas.  Of course it was a pleasure to see all the participants but of course knowing the SRUC students made it all the more special.  I have to say they did the college proud. I am already asking the students back to tell our next year cohort all about the adventure, challenges and how they became from students to practitioners!”

Photo credit: HERE + NOW


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