Professor of Urban Landscape and Environmental Interaction
Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
Richard is Professor of Urban Landscape and Environmental Interaction, having a strong interest in the environment both from biological perspectives and the ways that individuals use and perceive it. His original discipline is forestry but, working within an architectural school and within an art and design faculty, he is in a unique position to consider environmental interaction combining scientific knowledge with arts-based practice.
His research embraces such aspects as community and urban forestry, undertaking work for the original community forests and urban greening where he has developed tools and concepts, such as social criteria, which explore how individuals react with the environment.
Emphasis is on a user-centred approach to consider the nature of environmental interaction, where more recent work focuses on the wellbeing agenda, embracing, in particular, qualitative methodologies which explore such facets as 'being in nature', and the connections and flows that occur, or can be induced by various interventions. He supervises a range of PhD students in associated subject areas.
- Member of Birmingham City Council Green Infrastructure Advisory Group
- Advisor to Forestry Commission (UK) on Forestry Research.
- Member of the Midlands Forestry advisory Group.
- Advisor to The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Inside Out Project.
- Advisor to Birmingham Botanical Gardens
- Member of the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust Local Nature Partnership.
- Member of Editorial panels for:
- Landscape Research (Routledge)
- Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (Elsevier)
- Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics (Elsevier Science)
- Landscape & Urban Planning (Elsevier)
- International Journal of Sustainable Development (Inderscience Enterprises Ltd)
- Local Environment (Routledge)
- Sociology Compass (Wiley)
- Book proposal reviewer (landscape) for Routledge Publishers
Richard is highly experienced in the management of research contracts, and in working within multidisciplinary teams, including pan-European collaboration in the delivery of UK Research Council grants.
He has developed a range of techniques and tools for examining interaction with the environment which focus on user-based methodologies including the use of self-narrated walking, link mapping and computer-based applications which identify the parameters associated with individual wellbeing. He has also undertaken extensive work into user-based perceptions of the landscape, environmental strategies and open space/built form scenarios, working within multidisciplinary academic and professional contexts.
Richard has developed social criteria regarding user/environment interaction, including tools for the assessment of policies and actions, user-based spatial models and definitions, underpinning perception of the landscape modelling the dynamics of user interaction, the critical pathways that need to be followed to gain positive feedback and the restorative impact of the natural elements of the built environment.
These include the key determining factors for successful green-space/environmental strategies, the identification of interacting factors within the system, the parameters which form barriers and pathways in that system, the collation use and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data which emphasise social and user defined aspects of green space, especially regarding sustainable urban regeneration, quality of life, user-based performance indicators and criteria.
Richard's current work is focused on the connections between environment and identity, memory and wellbeing, and is extended by current work regarding ecosystem assessment, sustainable urban regeneration. He supervises a range of research students which examine various facets regarding interaction with the environment, collaborating with local, national and international organisations.
Recent work emphasises well-being where he has explored the multi-dimensions of well-being holding the first international conference Well-being 2011. A second international conference Well-being 2013 is in development as is further work to be funded under the AHRC Connected Communities Programme.
Current funded projects
- Urban Flows (CI)– Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities February 2012 – August 2012 (£40,000).
- Ecosystem Futures (HEIF) April 2012 – July 2012.
- EU COST ACTION Urban Allotments June 2012 – May 2016
- User Defined Well-being Experiences of the Landscape - The Analysis of Birmingham Botanical Gardens as a Restorative Environment (PI), October 2010 – September 2014, FCT- Fundacao Para a Cienta e Tecnologia (£80,000).
- Managing Environmental Change at the Fringe; reconnecting science and policy with the rural urban fringe (CI). – funder ESRC/RELU (July 2011 - February 2012).
- Well-being 2011 – Exploring the Multi-dimensions of Well-being, Higher Education Initiative Fund, BCU, (PI) August 2010 – July 2011 (£15,000).
- Sustainable Regeneration: From Evidence Based Urban Futures to Implementation - funder EPSRC, Sustainable Urban environments (CI), Second Call, May 2008-April 2012 (£3.4m)
- AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award – Landscape Image and Reconstruction, the Response of a Culturally Diverse Society to the Evolving and Regenerated Canal Landscape in the UK (PI), October 2007- September 2010 (£60,000).
- The Analysis of Well-being Parameters Operating in the Environment of Castle Vale – a Systems Approach(PI) - funder EPSRC Systems Approaches to Well-Being, December 2008, April 2011 (£290,000).
- An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Urban Redevelopment (CI) : Birmingham Eastside as a National and International Demonstrator - funder EPSRC, Sustainable Urban Environments First Call (completed April 2008).
- Eastside Phase Two: An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Urban Redevelopment: Birmingham Eastside as a National Demonstrator Sustainable Urban Regeneration (CI), funder EPSRC SUE 1, completed December 2006, (£90,000).
- Eastside Phase One: SUE Scoping Study: Feasibility Study toward Adopting Birmingham Eastside as a Regional Demonstrator of Sustainable Urban Redevelopment (CI), funder EPSRC SUE 1 programme, completed December 2004, (£45,000).
- Project URGE (CI). Funded by the European Commission Framework V, collaboration with European partners into improving the value of urban green spaces, completed April 2004), (£120,000).
- GREENCLUSTER (CI), Collaboration of European Research Projects into Urban Green Spaces; Funder EC (completed 2004, (£2,000)
- EUROPARK (CI). Development of training modules for identifying best practice in managing the environment and open spaces; funder EC Leonardo (completed 2004, (£14,000).
Research students supervised
- Zoe Millman (PHD AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award) Landscape Narratives and the Construction of Meaning in Contemporary Urban UK Canalscapes.
- Shelagh Bussey (PhD) Public Use, Preferences and Perception, of Urban Woodland in Redditch.
- Stephan Bodnar (PhD) Small Mammal Populations of Woodland Rides and Glades.
- Keren Jones(PhD) Children’s Participation in Landscape Design- Exploring Approaches to Children’s Participation in School Grounds and Neighbourhood Park Improvement in the UK.
- Maria Caserio (PhD) The Structure Dynamics and Perception of the Landscape of the Val Fontanabuona, Northern Italy.
- Alana Dixon (PhD) The Evaluation of Short Rotation Coppice as an Holistic System for Energy Production on Restored Land-fill Sites.
- Michael Wood (MPhil) Multi-purpose Forestry- Achieving its Objectives Through Stand Structure.
- Rachel Curzon (PhD) Processes and Characteristics of Land Use Change: Stakeholders, Decision Making, Conflict and Compromise in the Restoration of Former Mineral Sites in the UK
- John Flannigan (PhD) Residents’ Perceptions of Street Trees
- Ruchika Arora (PhD) Indian Architectural Identity and Trends within a Global Society.
- Alex Albans (PhD) Resurrecting Footprints, Professional Attitudes to the Definition of ‘Site’
- Laura Council (PhD) AHRC Block Grant Doctoral Award) Sustainable Policy Implementation versus designer Driven Responses and Needs
- Sandra Costa (PhD) FCT (Fundacao para a Cienta e a Tecnologia funded student). The Restorative Impact of Designed Vegetation and Experiences (with Gulliver Birmingham Botanical Gardens)
- Khizar Choudhry (PhD) A multimodal measurement approach using Narratives and Eye tracking to investigate visual behaviour in perceiving naturalistic and urban environments
- Sharon Watson (PhD) Being in the Landscape - The Impact of Environmental Interventions on Children
- Colette Jeffery (PhD) Wayfinding and Landmarks in the Navigation and Experience of Spaces and Places
Coles, Richard and Millman, Zoe (2013) Landscape, Well-being and Environment. Routledge. ISBN 9780415829984
Caputo S., Caserio M., Coles R., Gatarell M., Jankovic L. (2012) 'Testing Energy Efficiency in Urban Regeneration', ICE proceedings, Institute of Civil Engineers, Engineering Sustainability, vol. 165, no. ES1, ICE Publishing, ISSN 1478-4629.
Watson, S. and Coles, R. (2012) 'The stars follow the moon' Imagining and being in children's interactions with nature and natural processes. In: 49th World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects, IFLA 2012, 5 September 2012 through 7 September 2012, Cape Town; South Africa
Coles R W., Millman Z., Flannigan J. (2012) 'Urban Landscapes - Everyday Environmental Encounters, their Meaning and Importance for the Individual', Special Edition Urban Ecosystems (forthcoming).
Urban Futures Team (2012) Designing Resilient Cities, BRE Press, Watford.
Coles R W. (2012) 'Environmental Interaction and Engagement - Supporting Well-being: in Burton E., Davies-Cooper R. and Cooper C (eds)', Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide Oxford, Wiley Blackwell.
Hunt, D.; Lombardi, R.; Atkinson, S.; Barber, A.; Barnes, M.; Boyko, C.; Brown, J.; Bryson, J.; Butler, D.; Caputo, S.; Caserio, M.; Coles, R.; Farmani, R.; Gaterell, M.; Hale, J.; Hayes, C.; Hewitt, N.; Jankovic, L.; Jefferson, I.; Mackenzie, R.; Memon, F.; Pugh, T.; Rogers, C.; Whyatt, D.; Weingartner, C. (2011) 'Scenario Archetypes: Converging rather than Diverging Themes', Proceedings of the 1st World Sustain, Forum, 1-30 November 2011; Sciforum Electronic Conferences Series.
Coles R. W. (2011) 'Exploring the Multi-dimensions of Well-being, opening address', Well-being 2011, Birmingham city University, 18th – 19th July.
Millman Z., Coles R., Millar G., (2011) "‘Postcards from the Cut’: postcards as visual and performative research tools", The Second International Visual Research Methods Conference, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, 13-15 September.
Collins J., Ashford R., Coles R., Sparrow J., Jankovic L., Osman K. (2010), 'Modelling Well-being on the Castle Vale Estate', RESCON 22nd June, Birmingham City University, UK.
Qureshi S., Coles R., in prep. Towards Objective Versus Subjective Assessment of Landscape Change Using Spatially Explicit Indicators in the Megacity of Karachi, Pakistan.
Arora R., Coles R.W. (2009) 'Sustainability Through Tradition - The response of the Indian architectural community to global influences', ADGD Conference: The Multiple Faces of Identity, in The Designed Environment, Nottingham Trent University, 17th and 18th September.
Collins J., Ashford R., Coles R., Sparrow J., Jankovic L., Osman K. (2009) 'Castle Vale Community Well-being Project', RESCON 22 June, Birmingham City University, UK.
Millman, Z., Coles, R. and Millar, G. (2008) 'The Canal Environment Soundscape of Birmingham – A Pilot Study', Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics’ Spring Conference, ‘Widening Horizons in Acoustics’, Vol.30. Pt.2.