Interview with new LI Fellow Bob Branson
What first attracted you to landscape architecture?
Graduating in 1979 in Environmental Science, in an era of emerging environmental awareness, offered limited career openings (apart perhaps from active service for Greenpeace!). Landscape architecture provided a professional context in which to engage with the process of environmental change while satisfying a practical aspiration to work on large-scale construction projects.
Landscape architecture has allowed me to combine my interests in the social and physical environments and the opportunity to effect tangible environmental changes.
Can you give me a summary of your career?
In 2008, I was appointed to head up the SLR Landscape team with the brief to consolidate the design ethos from Insite with the SLR skill base and expertise in LVIA and Environmental Assessment.
The team – more than 40-strong, working from six offices – shares an aspiration to be acknowledged as one of the major landscape teams in the UK.
In 2007, after 15 years successfully developing Insite to an award-winning practice, we felt the company had come of age and began pursuing a broader geographical influence. We elected to merge with SLR Consulting, an international multidisciplinary environmental consultancy with more than 600 employees in the UK and North America.
In 2003, I was contracted by Scott Wilson to manage their landscape team in Tianjin, China. In 2004, I was seconded by the DTI to the Global Watch research project at the Department of Architecture, Tianjin University, where I was appointed as a visiting lecturer. In 2006, with Duncan Bernstein from Greenwich University, I organised an Anglo-Chinese master-planning symposium in Tianjin.
After graduating from Newcastle University, I worked for five years with Brian Clouston in Durham – it was a rapid learning curve working on a challenging range of exciting International projects. In 1989, I established my own practice and was joined in 1992 by Peter McGuckin and Chris Emmerson to form Insite Environments Ltd. Between 1992 and 1998 we were commissioned to work with Sir Terry Farrell to assist in transforming Newcastle Quayside from a collection of rundown scrapyards and sheds into a central business district and social destination for the city.
Why did you first become involved with the Institute?
I first worked closely with the Institute as a specialist advisor with Sue Wilson on the working party, helping to draw up the 2002 Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, promoting the use of Virtual Reality as a core tool for assessing, and masterplanning large-scale redevelopment.
Insite has always been closely associated with the graduate training programme, guiding students through their pathway qualifications. The programme provides a structure through which graduates can and do mature to become highly skilled professionals producing award-winning schemes.
Why is becoming a Fellow important to you?
As anyone working on large-scale complex projects knows, it is the dedication and commitment of fellow team members and colleagues that determines final build quality. Fellowship, for me, is much more than a personal achievement – it reflects the extensive support from the many skilled and hardworking professionals I have had the good fortune to share my career with.