World Landscape Architecture recently had the chance to interview Andrew Grant, the Founding Director of Grant Associates, landscape architecture and urban design practice who are reknown for their various landscape architecture projects including The Hive and Gardens by the Bay. Andrew led the design team on the £500 million Gardens by the Bay project at Bay South in Singapore.
WLA | What made you want to be a Landscape Architect?
Andrew Grant (AG) I grew up on a farm, liked art and science and thought I would be a scientist who might doodle. At ‘A’ level I set out with Chemistry, Biology, Physics and advanced Maths but quickly dropped the Physics and Maths to take Art and General Studies. When it came to finding a University I was torn between plant science, environmental psychology and, at the time, a very rare course in the UK, called landscape architecture.
Through my 6th form art teacher, Malcolm Sharman, I became familiar with architecture and especially the work of Oscar Niemeyer and the engineer Nervi in Brazil. At the same time I found biology and ecology absolutely fascinating. Landscape architecture seemed a good fit. An interview at Edinburgh College of Art totally convinced me that was the course for me. The remarkable David Skinner had set the course up just a couple of years earlier and had set out to create a course of creativity, professionalism and excellence. Looking back, David (pioneer)and his team including Colin McKercher(discipline), Leonard Lynch(imagination) and Colin Pope (ecology)sowed the seeds of my approach and gave me the confidence to push boundaries. I was also immensely fortunate to be there with amazingly talented students who went on to make a big impact on the world of Landscape architecture. Bridget Baines, Lynn Kinnear, Jo Gibbons, Luke Engleback, Kevin Johnson are just a few. They all continue to inspire.
WLA | Describe your approach to Landscape Architecture
AG | I take it seriously but try not to make it serious. I am interested in creating places and spaces that allow a moment of escape from the conventional world into a more natural, primitive, childlike space. Ideally this should have a strong and disciplined response to ecology and environment but sometimes is just about the joy of the experience.
Being brought up on farm I was totally immersed in the cycles of the weather and lifecycles of crops and livestock. Blood and guts and mud alongside beautiful skies, wild animals, and just a great sense of life and abundance. Today, I see a huge disconnect between the majority of urban dwellers and the experience and joy of nature. At Grant Associates we place this connection between People and Nature as our principal reason to be landscape architects.
WLA | Where do you start with a new project?
AG | Our best projects are those that have a simple core idea inspired by some natural element or phenomenon (that defines the aesthetic and experiential qualities of the project) twinned with an equally strong environmental narrative (that defines the technical response to the challenge).
Where these ideas come from varies from project to project but in most instances they come from a strong reaction to a place and a client. It can also be immensely influenced by the collaborators in the design team especially architects, engineers. This leads to a real diversity of design responses and we try never to be constrained by a house style or language other than the core principle of creative idea linked with environmental logic.
Personally, I find the way into projects through frantic sketching and discovering a phrase or literary reference. It is always hard to get to the solution.
WLA would like to thank Andrew Grant for taking the time to answer a few questions that reveal his thoughts on landscape architecture. Look out for more to come at WLA from Andrew Grant in the future.
Sketches & Images Credit | Andrew Grant