A Cultural Melting Pot
Our team dynamic
As the nature of our profession changes in response to today’s complex challenges, Landscape Architecture as a discipline is becoming ever more encompassing, bridging art, science and engineering, mediating between technology, nature and culture.
“there is a lot of fluidity now between art, architecture – a lot more cross-pollination in the disciplines, but this isn’t about competition, it’s about collaboration and what these practices and processes can contribute to one another.” – Zaha Hadi
After many years of managing and building design teams and in order to keep up with this ever changing profession and an ever changing world, there is a deliberate strategy to recruit the best and the brightest talent from across a wide range of professional disciplines and cultural backgrounds.
The premise being that it is our culture that influences the way in which we see the world. A variety of viewpoints along with the wide-ranging personal and professional experience of a multinational team can offer new and fresh perspectives that can inspire colleagues to approach design in a totally different way.
Diversity of thought in my experience has been shown to breed creativity and drive innovation, helping to solve problems in new and exciting ways. Multiple voices, perspectives, and personalities bouncing off one another can give rise to out-of-the-box thinking as we constantly strive to challenge conventions and push the boundaries of creative design.
Collaborative working and an open exchange of ideas
Our creativity depends upon our team’s cultural diversity and we invest heavily in our collaborative process, offering a platform for an open exchange of ideas where everyone is expected to contribute. Whether it is a work experience student, intern, junior designer or director, everybody has a voice and the best ideas go forward, regardless of where they came from.
I asked members of my team to contribute and share their thoughts on how their cultural backgrounds influence the way in which they approach design:
Being an international designer with Persian background, I carry my own cultural dimensions which inspires my design approach and helps me to evaluate my designs through these lenses.
The region I grew up in, its climate, art, the literature and the writing & reading direction have formed the way I think, the way I perceive things and the way I approach design.
The idea of an earthly paradise that is spread through Persian literature and culture is always in the back of my mind when I’m designing. In my view, it is an art to create meaningful spaces that could form personal memories, emotions and sensory experiences as well as achieving a sustainable landscape for different climates as Persian gardens do.
The most fascinating aspect of Persian art and culture which influences me are the conceptual patterns and poetic literature that resonate with me and of which I am proud of.
An outdoor terrace for a redeveloped industrial building in London. An urban oasis.
When I think of how my cultural background and the place I come from shaped me as a designer and the way I approach and perceive design, few things come to my mind. Firstly, the country I come from has a very rich and impressive culture in terms of art and history. However, the difficult and challenging political situation in the past influenced the way people lived their lives and also restricted their opportunities.
There were times were there was no access to art supplies, many kinds of resources were limited and there was not much room for creativity. Nevertheless, it actually made people think outside of the box and I’m grateful for that. My parents knew ways of creating something from nothing. From making my own homemade modelling clay, painting murals on my bedroom walls to building a four storey doll house from recycling materials, coffee cans, decorated with framed postage stamps. I learnt a lot through my childhood and teenage years in Poland and I try to use that creative way of thinking to this day and look for opportunities in places where people see that nothing can be achieved or done.
The other thing that shaped me as a designer is my background in Set Design. Painting visual settings for motion pictures is one of my passions. Every project is a complex task that consists of storyboard drawings, costume design, set design and careful process of selecting relevant props and location. All this has to be in harmony with the given script and even music. This makes me think of each landscape project like working on a set. The script in this case would be the brief given by our client, our first sketches – storyboard, plans and visuals – set design and costumes and finally the planting as our carefully selected key props, that play a huge role in landscape design.
A theatrical and magical woodland garden.
As a Galician I am very nostalgic in general. In Spanish we call it ‘morriña’. It is a way of being that I suppose is also influenced by the weather. We have a nostalgic link, it seems to us that each stone, each tree and each element of tradition has value.
It is this nostalgic link that keeps me grounded and allows me to keep things simple and pure, with a balance that works well.
I wasn’t conscious of how much my cultural background affected my design approach until I left Spain. I think it was important to be able to get out of my environment to be able to analyse it from the outside and thus be able to understand it and take advantage of it in a deeper way.
My background as an engineer makes me look for solutions that apply to my designs. I also, in the development of my career try to be creative and original with my designs, that is why I always look for reference designs from which I learn and find inspiration.
A conceptual piece utilising simplistic, sculptural forms and restricted colour palette.
Having grown up in an old market town within the North Wessex downs AONB, I know first hand the benefits of the special scenic and natural qualities of the landscape.
I believe everyone should have access to the benefits of our countryside. Therefore, my approach to design begins with an in-depth understanding of a site’s context, to better integrate any existing natural qualities. This allows me to better integrate the surrounding ecological framework, making it accessible to people and wildlife. I also use my reverence of the English landscape as a tool for ideas and creativity.
Understanding a sites broader, character brings a greater opportunity to find a unique quality to celebrate, reference and carry through every stage of the design process.
Lastly, my appreciation for the English landscape has influenced the planting I use in my designs. I use native species to create a naturalistic aesthetic which boost net biodiversity, and creates a strong identity in any site, be it for an urban or rural setting.
Enhancement of an existing woodland area to reconnect with nature
The Romanian culture has been formed across the centuries, but I believe it is the most recent development in a culture that has the biggest influence on how my generation of designers have learned to design.
We had learned about our traditional villages and the rationale behind why our traditional craftsmen have done the things the way they had done it. From an early age I found fascination in our traditional gates, in our carpentry. From what I know our culture was based on simplicity, what is useful, using local materials, the passing of the seasons, the passing of life.
From early childhood, my grandparents fed me with examples of great people that have achieved great things. I was guided by a few quotes such as: “There is no ‘it’s impossible’, there is only I don’t want to do” or “all great artists started with copying the works of others, and repeated it until they became better than their masters”.
In my design process, I guide myself with a very simple question: what can I do with a square? This square is the symbol of hours and hours of exercises of shapes just using a few squares and lines and this only throws back the early childhood thoughts of if you can get the basics right, then you can build on those basics things that are more complicated. This is the core of which I design things. This is the mentality that makes me take up challenges, set mini-goals, and work towards achieving them.
Purity of form, a simple spiral shaped viewing deck and serpentine boardwalk.
The core of our design team today consists of landscape architects, architects, horticulturalists, interior set designers, site implementation specialists, and project managers, with backgrounds from the UK, Germany, Spain, Poland, Romania and Iran.
Our diversity in disciplines and backgrounds affords us the agility to work across all scales and cultures and allows our team to be highly adaptable in even the most challenging of settings.
We will continue to grow, adapt and evolve, attracting the best talent from around the world. Fostering and nurturing our core belief that our strength as a design team comes from our differences, which we try and celebrate through our unique designs and creative process.
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CGLA are an award winning team of Landscape Architects, Garden Designers Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here