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Landscape designer Noel Farrer picks his Ones to Watch

Landscape designer Noel Farrer picks his Ones to Watch

7 October 2014

We asked Noel Farrer, President of the Landscape Institute and award-winning landscape architect, to help us find three new up-and-coming designers to be part of our Ones to Watch 70th anniversary showcase. 

Noel joined us at Charles Darwin House, home of the Landscape Institute, to look through their previous awards and competition finalists that are eligible for Ones to Watch. We then picked the three most innovative, visionary and ambitious of the lot. Here's what he said about it:

Q. How was your day scouting at the Landscape Institute?

Impressive and interesting. All the work on display today has been of a really high standard - of course, they're all finalists of recent awards and competitions responding to different briefs set by the Landscape Institute. Today though, we're looking at them through a different lens - we're looking for movers and shakers. It was interesting to rate them against a different criteria set.  

The designers who stand out are the ones who go above and beyond the brief

Q. What made you go wow?

The bravery and the care that some of these designers instilled into their work was awe-inspiring. The passion with which they approached the brief is exactly what you hope you're going to find - and we really did find it.  

Q. How did it compare to your experience with awards as an up-and-coming designer?

One thing that definitely hasn't changed over the years is the designers who stand out are the ones who go above and beyond the brief. These are the designers who win the awards.  That was the case when I started out and will continue to be the case for years to come. 

Q. What drew you to your three Ones to Watch? 

Yue Rao

Tilting Beach

Yue's design takes the riverbank from Blackfriars Bridge to Lambeth Bridge and transforms it into a linear park. The road is moved underground and replaced with float-board gardens that change angle in response to the rise and fall of the river Thames. 

Yue’s design was incredibly interesting. We agonised over it as a team because the thought of taking the entire North bank from Lambeth all the way to Blackfriars, and proposing to create a monolithic, tilting landscape to run along the riverside is purely unbelievable. But it was, we must remember, an *ideas*  competition.

The competition didn’t ask for something that was immediately deliverable. And my hesitation comes from being someone with the experience trying to do work with the Port of London and is perhaps being a little bit scarred by that. But ultimately what Yue's done is create an idea that wraps green in parallel with the blue of the river all the way up the side of the Thames in a really dramatic fashion.

The fact that she’s brave enough to suggest the use of these often very constricted places to such effect shows incredible courage. In my mind it's definitely worthy of a mover-and-shaker award.

Chris Moss


Perhaps my favourite really. Soapbox uses re-conditioned old shipping containers to create modular showers, garden and seating hubs to be placed in public spaces.

It's environmentally sound- storage tanks collect rainwater that feed the shower units below while a storage tank below the shower collects grey water that feeds the garden container to irrigate the plants. Seating modules can be attached to either tank and solar panels heat the water. The modules can be arranged in a number of ways to fit a range of public spaces.

We have a public realm that, it seems to me, needs to work much harder for everybody in London. I think taking the green idea of the Creating Healthy Places competition and the use of harvested water and PV solar panels to power and heat water to provide hot showers in a modular public realm space – it seems bonkers! It’s one of those ideas that seems very far-fetched, but actually it also seems absolutely believable.  The idea that you learn from the complexities of the public realm  is an excellent one. 

I can imagine that in the future that we will be coming back to this, and looking at things just like this. I have an office which doesn’t have a shower and my staff complain about it. We also know that what puts people off cycling isn't just safety but the ability to be clean afterwards. The most important thing is that it could really revitalise the public realm and demonstrate the true value of the public realm. A great idea!

Christos Diplas

Narcissus project

Christos is one of a number of very strong entries that were looking at the Royal Docks competition. He has proposed a series of greenhouses, sunken walkways and floating islands to create a beautiful and sustainable landscape. The green houses maximise the natural potential of the surrounding landscape by using systems for efficient, integrated, food production techniques that the community can get involved in. Algal pods and transparent photovoltaic cells on the panes of glass provide energy for lighting and heating at night.  The "thermal flywheel" effect of water within the greenhouse retains and regulates temperature and the floating islands remove pollutants from the water.    

It isn’t necessarily his narrative about water or sustainable drainage systems, or biodiversity that made him a winner for me. What made him a winner is the fact that he has created something that is so beautiful and also a universal strength.

I can really see that green-thinking is the blood in Christos' veins here, yet he's also ensuring there is a wider narrative. It's about the experience. This is a place where people can go and sink and walk below the water level and actually look at the water from eye-level. The drama and the quality of the place-making is what really stood out for me.  

All of these ideas show that landscape architecture has a critical role to play in making our cities fit for the future. 

Who are our Ones to Watch?

Over the past few months we’ve be putting choosing 70 designers who we feel represent the future of British design, the Design Council’s Ones to Watch.

The search is now over and we have selected 70 amazing designers to be part of our 70th anniversary showcase. 

We're sure you're just as excited to find out who they are, as we are to announce them. So watch this space. All of our 70 Ones to Watch will be revealed in a brilliant showcase in the virtual  - and in the real - world... Stay tuned. 

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