ASA working from home

By Veronica Flemming, Senior Landscape Architect

In the first of a series, we talk to our Assistant Landscape Architects to understand how they find remote working, what they miss about the office, and their thoughts on the future of Landscape Architecture.

Kim Walney Dean
Kim Walney Dean
Maria Lara-Mijancos
Maria Lara-Mijancos

K – I previously worked in South Africa with a firm that specialised in the Master Planning of Eco-Tourism developments across Africa, South Asia and the UAE. Many of these projects focused on multi-use public attractions to support the local tourism and heritage sectors in collaborated with multi-disciplinary teams from around the world.

M – Like Kim, I had worked abroad prior to ASA, in a Spanish architectural firm providing construction support. After that, I moved to Birmingham, where I worked in an architectural practice. In this office, I participated in architectural and urban design projects, but it was here where I had my first professional contact with landscape architecture.

K – I am an Assistant Landscape Architect at ASA. I provide technical support from planning through to construction, on a range of Business and Science Park developments, and I love seeing what I designed getting built!

M – I am also an Assistant Landscape Architect at ASA. Although a lot of my work at the moment is focused on Landscape Design, from business parks to private residence, which I really enjoy.

K – I agree with Maria; ASA places a high emphasis on client relations and communication. This business model is also evident internally. This supportive environment promotes both personal development and professional growth and working at ASA has allowed me to further my career goals and encouraged me to follow aspects of the profession that personally interest me.

M – At ASA there is a remarkably close relationship with clients. Not just that; all clients (big corporations or small private clients) are equally important. Every project is treated with the same dedication and detail. With regards to my personal development; I find being involved in meetings with different professionals and being part of the whole process of a project very rewarding.

K – I find that working remotely is challenging in terms of team connections. In a profession that relies on collaborative ideas it is always advantageous to have a studio environment and to get a feel of the company working as a whole.

K – I can definitely see how that can help. In addition, working remotely has had the advantage of being able to join meetings that I might not have had the opportunity to do previously, due to the ease of virtual meetings. This has significantly increased my interactions with project team members outside of the firm and observing the roles and responsibilities of the broader teams’ roles.

M – Yes, but although I miss that environment and the feeling of being in a team, I have discovered that I can be more efficient and concentrate better for some tasks, when I am alone in my home office. Moreover, sometimes you just need some paper, pens and a relaxed environment to put ideas down!

K – I really miss the interactions between staff and the psychological support that you feel when working on deadlines. And three o’clock tea time of course!

M – I would like to return and see everybody working as we used to, not being worried about distances, ventilation or touching something and, of course, have or tea/coffee breaks with my colleagues! I miss the interactions between the staff too and being connected with all projects and processes.

K – My favourite plant is the Jacaranda mimosifoli. Although this is an invasive species in South Africa (and planting new trees is prohibited) the streets of Pretoria are home to over 70 000 Jacaranda trees (nicknamed Jacaranda City) and for eight weeks from September they explode into colour and the city is covered in a vivid purple hue.

These trees have a long history in South Africa and are heavily rooted in South African culture, with the first two trees planted in Pretoria in 1888 by the poet JD Cilliers. Subsequently, this tree holds a special space in my heart and connection to the city and people.

M – I don’t think I have a favourite plant, at the end, you think about what is best for each space and what works better with the context. But as well as Kim, I have a special place for trees and plants that make me think about my home. I love olive trees and almond trees, as well as the Mediterranean cypress. Lavender, thyme, and rosemary are also very special to me.

K – I believe that the future is development of landscape-led mixed-use urbanism, with an emphasis on green spaces that are rooted in sound ecological processes and social cohesion, to reduce urban sprawl and inherently promote connections to nature. This approach will instil a sense of appreciation for the environment and subsequently a drive to protect it.

M – I am not sure if this is a utopia, but like Kim, I would like to think that the connections to nature will continue to be promoted. There are already some Landscape Architects and Architects working on projects with nature at their heart. This means that sometimes the limits between nature and built form are being blurred. Both at the building and city scale, as reflected in the ‘Urban Forest Manifesto’ and its implementation by Stefano Boeri.

K – I agree with Maria, I believe that Landscape Architecture as a profession will move towards having a stronger understanding of ecological processes; to produce landscapes, in collaboration with other professionals, that are genuinely sustainable.

M – I hope that during this pandemic people have realised the importance of our relationship with nature and access to good public spaces; and the difference that makes for our mental health. I am confident that during the next decade, people will try to change the dynamic of the last century and we will transform the urban environment to a greener and more sustainable model.

K – It’s got to be a dark chocolate digestive biscuit.

M – For me it is custard creams, every time!