First-time LI award winner for Strategic Landscape Planning, Studio Engleback‚Äôs Director Luke Engleback CMLI, talks about the team’s project

Luke Engleback winning LI Award
Luke Engleback winning LI Award

What does winning the award mean to you?
Winning is very important – I am delighted that our peers have recognised that we have been able to show how a small practice can deliver an extremely thorough piece of work with some very big thinking, which has filtered into policy and been published abroad.

We have been quietly innovating since before we set up over a dozen years ago. This strategic thinking at simultaneous macro, meso and micro levels of intervention informed by multiple variables was first recognised in a winning entry for the Gallipoli Peace Park in 1998. With colleagues from New Zealand, Holland and Turkey, the judges were impressed by the sophistication of this approach.

How did you come up with the project?
We were asked by Kelvin Campbell at Urban Initiatives to join his bid for Ashford in 2003, having already worked with them on other schemes. We knew Ashford from having previously worked on a notorious sink estate there with HTA. We looked at the whole area for the GADF study with the late David Walton of Llewelyn Davies some years prior to this.

Much of my approach – primed by studies with the late David Skinner, a student of Ian McHarg, at Edinburgh College of Art in the late 70s and early 80s, was difficult for traditional urbanist/planning thinking at the time to accept, they simply could not see the relevance. In the end, having won the commission with UI, we took the view that it would be a great vehicle to push forward our thinking based on a combination of an intimate knowledge of the area and of a wide range of issues. These included the affects of climate change on planning (well before it was the norm to do so), water, energy and food as well as the, by then accepted issues of biodiversity and local distinctiveness.

We were not able to do everything we wanted to within the fee or commission, so went on to use our knowledge of this area under our own steam, to see how we could create a low or net zero carbon green infrastructure that might also deal with waste water from 32,000 new homes and surface water whilst simultaneously addressing the cultural heritage of this Saxon landscape. That study was presented in Rome at an International Climate Change and Urban Forestry Congress in 2007 and was published subsequently.

What your plans are for the future now you have an LI Award under your belt?
Well, we continue to refine the ideas researched and used in the GADF for subsequent schemes at all scales with further study. These include the largest net zero carbon energy housing project in Britain to date being developed by the HCA and Linden Downland LLP with John Thompson & Partners. This is happening in Chichester for around 750 dwellings that won the 2010 Sustainable Housing Award last month and is now starting on site.

We are also doing some interesting projects with an innovative client called Hanbury Properties and PPS7 houses with Richard Hawkes Architects. So again work at all scales of intervention, something that is very important to us.

Did you enjoy the LI Awards event?
For me, apart from seeing old friends and colleagues, it was great to have such a perceptive and amusing host in Ian McMillan, who seemed to enliven the proceedings no end.

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