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ADM and CEBE students came together to design a sustainable roof garden in central Birmingham as an extension of Birmingham Design Space. The project was one of the elective live briefs organised by the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design’s Collaborative Laboratory (Co.LAB)

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Landscape Architecture

Deputy Course Director for BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture Eccles Ng led a group of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, MA Architecture and CEBE students to collaborate with Marshalls, a longstanding landscape product manufacturer, on a roof garden project in central Birmingham.

Marshalls set up the Birmingham Design Space, a venue for construction industry professionals to come together to explore and experiment, and wanted to expand this space to the rooftop. The students took the challenge, with ADM’s Co.LAB students assessed on a number of factors, one of which was creating a robust proposal for the client, while CEBE students developed a multi-sensor to measure built environment factors.  

The roof garden was a 10-week collaboration, which involved weekly client meetings. Working in this professional environment certainly added to the learning experience for the students. The coronavirus pandemic only disrupted the final phase of the roof garden project, which was discouraging for some students.

MA Architecture student Jacky See said: “When the outbreak occurred, physical gatherings were no longer possible, so we had to come up with a method to not only communicate, but also to hold meetings and share work. Our client kindly provided us with a way of meeting online via WebEx. Although it wasn’t quite the same as a traditional physical meeting, it certainly kept all our projects running.”

Eccles Ng said: “it was a challenging project. Our client Marshalls’ Senior Project Consultant Mark Toole had a set of specific requirements. Students had to carefully consider the client’s vision, site constraints and a wider consideration of sustainability combining it with their own vision.”

Mark Toole said: “It was a fantastic opportunity for the young architects and landscape architects to develop their knowledge and work alongside industry professionals, as well as to see the benefits of working in a collaborative environment.”

The panel of critics who judged the students’ final virtual presentation was composed of Mark Toole, RIBA Regional Director Becki Smith, Director of FIRA Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Jeremy Parker, and Landscape Institute President (elected) Jane Findlay.

Becki Smith said: “It’s fantastic how they have all adapted to the new way of working so quickly and they should all be commended on that.”

Eccles added: “It was wonderful to see students seize the opportunity through this project, and I was delighted that students understood the importance of this collaboration, which will lead them to a professional path.”

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