an approach to people, place and space

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About Us

Kevin Twaites photo Dr Kevin Thwaites BA, Dip LA (Dist), PhD

Senior Lecturer- University of Sheffield


Kevin completed his education in Landscape Architecture at Leeds in 1983 and has since worked in both private practice and higher education. Kevinís research interests and activities stem from PhD work completed in 1999 and relate primarily to the philosophy and theory of landscape design and spatial experience in urban and residential settings. Kevin is an active advocate of research led teaching and the potential this has for translating new thinking in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design for student and practitioner audiences. Research and teaching has a phenomenological emphasis, focusing on human experience and its expression in everyday urban outdoor environments. Kevin is a member of the Board of Trustees of IAPS (the International Association for People-environment Studies) and along with Terry Hartig (SLU), and Jenny Roe, co-convener of the Restorative Environments IAPS network.

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Ian Simkins photo Dr Ian Simkins BSc, Dip LA, PCHE, PhD, FHEA, MI Hort, CMLI

Chartered Landscape Architect
Experiential Landscape research stream
Associate tutor, the University of Sheffield

Managing Director: Experiemics Ltd.
consultancy of experiential landscape research


Since graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1999 Ianís professional career as a practicing Chartered Landscape Architect has been complimented by research and teaching in both Further Education (2004 - 2007), and in Higher Education (since 2000). Ianís PhD research developed methodology amenable to revealing spatial aspects of the place experience of primary school aged children in ways relevant to landscape design decision making. The research responded to the importance of encouraging an increase in young peopleís use of the outdoor environment, and in particular to promote positive behaviour in children through contact with experientially rich outdoor settings.

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Alice Mathers photo Dr Alice Mathers BA(Hons), Dip LA, PhD

Research Associate; Making Places Profitable (MP4),
Experiential Landscape research stream and
associate tutor, the University of Sheffield


Through combining experience in landscape architecture practice and participatory research, Aliceís PhD developed visual communication techniques to better facilitate the participation of people with learning disabilities in the design of urban greenspace. Aliceís work with people with learning disabilities highlights the continuing problems encountered by some of the most vulnerable members of society in finding voice as equal and valued collaborators. Through recent work, Alice has built local partnerships between academia, the disabled community, service providers and the local authority, which have resulted in change to policy, service provision and training.

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Beth Helleur photo Beth Helleur BA(Hons), DipLA(Dist), MA, MLI

During her Post Graduate year at University Beth researched extensively the potential of urban open spaces to deliver restorative benefit and psychological renewal. This work, later developed in her MA thesis, 'Restorative Public Urban Landscape', provided the ELP:RDU with the cornerstones from which to begin investigating more fully spatial and physical characteristics of centres significant for their restorative potential. Beth's work concluded by setting out a provisional model for the restorative urban landscape highlighting the importance of networks of small connected spaces woven into the fabric of the wider urban setting. This conception now features frequently in debate about the future of the urban park. Further developments of Beth's research have been prepared for publication and presentation to conference.

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Claire Dobson photo Claire Dobson BA(Hons), Dip LA, MA

After graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University with the Graduate Diploma in Landscape Architecture with Distinction, Claire combined working in landscape architecture private practice with providing support to the development of Experiential Landscape Place as a research assistant. During this period Claire specialised in exploring aspects of the emergent ELP concept as both an analytical and design tool, undertaking a number of field studies examining the experiential potential of, for example: New Earswick in York; the Rabygate district of Byker, Newcastle; and The Calls area in Leeds City. This work, later formalised in her MA thesis, established a new way of conceptualising urban places as integrations of centres, directions, transitions and areas, enabling the experiential characteristics of different places to be described in terms of their profile of these spatial characteristics. The graphical representation of these, subsequently known as 'Dobson Clusters', provides a diagrammatic means with which to communicate a wide diversity of place types, either as they are observed in real sites, or as conceived in design proposals. Claire subsequently developed the 'Dobson Cluster' concept through application to a new settlement project in the North West of England.

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The Experiential Landscape process ensures that the experiences people have when using the everyday environment are sought in appropriate ways and then valued and understood.  It helps planning and design agencies deliver environmental changes which can benefit psychological health, are people friendly and experientially rich.  In this way Experiential Landscape contributes to making places that communities have been involved in creating and that provide and sustain social cohesion.

The following core principles are central:

  • A person-centric empathic approach
  • Recognising the value of individuals
  • Empowerment of individuals by meaningful direct contact
  • Multiple and responsive modes of communication

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EL Mapping

Through research Experiential Landscape recognises three fundamental categories of experience important to a fulfilled life.

How people:

  1. Attach significance and value to preferred locations.
  2. Orientate themselves.
  3. Develop a sense of homeground or where they belong.

This concept of spatial experience is represented by Experiential Landscape as:

  • Centre: Here Ė location and proximity.
  • Direction: There Ė future possibility.
  • Transition: Change Ė transformation in mood, atmosphere.
  • Area: Realm Ė overall coordination.

These representations of experience allow the representation and analysis of people-place relations at specific locations by the method of Experiential mapping.

Each category is assigned symbols of representation which following participatory engagement can be located on a map to represent an individualís experience of a particular location. The maps can be aggregated to form a representation of combined people-place experiences or filtered to show individual characteristics.

This representation demonstrates the significance of experience or absence of experiences at specific locations in order to inform planning and design decisions for change. This considers people-place relationships rather than solely focussing on aesthetic or function resolution.

Combined Experiential Landscape map
Combined Experiential Landscape map
An Individualís Experiential Landscape map
An Individualís Experiential Landscape map

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