New video to help promote landscape architecture
The film, which can be viewed at I want to be a landscape architect, provides an insight into the varied nature of projects undertaken by landscape architects.
We spoke to Matt Parker from Room60 about the value of animation and video in driving awareness of the landscape profession.
How did Room60 get started?
Leo [Parker’s business partner] and I were keen to continue to use animation in our work when we returned to Kingston University in 2007 to start postgraduate diplomas. So, outside of the brief, we started producing videos for our major projects in Whitby and London.
We entered a competition run by the Student Landscape Institute Council in 2008 with a submission called ‘Landscape in my Radiohead’ and won. The win was publicised in a couple of journals and through the Landscape Institute’s website, and we were contacted by Schoenaich Landscape Architects with a view to producing an animation for them that they could use in a competition. It was then that we thought of starting a business offering these services. We’d always been inspired by people like Squint/Opera and thought, well, if they can do it, why can’t we? We took the name Room60 from our studio at college.
What are your goals?
Our initial aim was for Room60 to help student landscape architects get equipped for practice in digital media but, thanks to our employment at Kingston University [Parker and Leo are part-time tutors], we were able to separate the teaching and the business, so Room60 could concentrate solely on offering animation, visualisation and web based services.
We certainly never started it to make buckets of money. I suspect there are easier ways! We started it because we really love bringing landscapes to life through moving image; something we almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to do had we gone back into practice. My favourite part of any project is always the start. When anything could happen, any spark of an idea can take a landscape proposal in any direction. I love that, and the videos we make are nearly always for that stage.
What work are you most proud of?
To date, we’re most proud of the work we recently completed for the Landscape Institute at I want to be a landscape architect. Although it will sound like I’m just saying that for the benefit of this interview, that video was a long time in the making. I attempted something with a friend in 2004 that was called ‘Landscape is…’ for the new Landscape Interface Studio at Kingston, and we spent a summer collating images and videos, animating bits and pieces; and finally producing a video that has never seen the light of the internet. So years later, Leo and I wrote to Paul Lincoln at the LI with an idea to produce a video that described what landscape architecture is. He loved the idea and it was a great journey getting it made. I never thought back in 2004 that it would be the video it turned out to be.
I’m most proud of it because defining ‘what a landscape architect is’ seems to be a question that landscape architects find very hard to answer. And, if we can’t answer it ourselves, how is anyone coming to the profession with no idea going to know or find out? We really liked the ‘I want to be a landscape architect’ initiative and having a video as the centrepiece, as a resource for all landscape architects, students, school leavers and career changers to turn to for a definition, I think is pretty sweet actually.
How can video help landscape architecture?
There are a lot of landscape animations out there – 99 per cent of them are 3D flythroughs of a virtual world with virtually no life except the perfectly rendered trees and a man walking his dog past his virtually perfect lawn. Flying through a virtual world doesn’t do it for us. It feels too complete and fixed, and has no room for imagination.
Landscape to me couldn’t be further removed from that. Landscape is all about context, time, change and life, and the videos we produce attempt to engage an audience in that idea. I’ve always loved the Einstein quote: “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” And that is always at the cornerstone of our work. I don’t see our videos being produced to convince planners or investors, I see them engaging communities.
By helping communities to understand a project, we are enabling them to take ownership of it. Often plans and sections aren’t readable by the layman. We bring those plans and sections to life so they can imagine what their neighbourhood, local park, school, playground may look and feel like. We try to do that in a rough, sketchy kind of way, something a bit more human than the high-gloss, finely rendered images and animations we’ve become used to.
What would you say to someone considering a career in landscape architecture?
I don’t know, because I never really meet anyone considering a career in it. Often people have never heard of it and it’s a case of looking at all of their talents and interests, and showing them that landscape architecture could be for them.
I met an A-Level student two weeks ago who wasn’t sure what course she wanted to study at university. She loves design and, being creative, didn’t want to be tied to an office all the time. She had recently finished runner-up in a competition run by the Design Museum for a temporary installation in Trafalgar Square. I told her to search ‘I want to be a landscape architect’. “What’s a landscape architect?” she said!
What’s the best way for people to keep up to speed with Room60?
We’re always posting new videos, clips and news through our Twitter and Facebook pages. Should anything come up, we’ll be sure to let people know if they follow us @Room60 on Twitter or on facebook.com/room60
Matt Parker will be a judge in the Communication & Presentation category at the Landscape Institute Awards 2010.