Landscape Architects Declare

Landscape architects declare

Environment, community and sustainability (including financial sustainability) are at the heart of Gelling Landscape Studio’s ethos.

For more than 30 years, Art’s motivation has been to change the culture of landscape architecture from within – working for established, industry-leading practices on major developments. As a new, independent practice, Gelling Landscape Studio can be wholly focussed on developing this ethos, on all projects, irrespective of size or scope.

We have, of course, signed up to the pledges of #LandscapeArchitectsDeclare… the climate emergency declaration, part of the wider #BuiltEnvironmentDeclares movement.

These pledges are not mere words:



Raise awareness of the climate and biodiversity emergencies and the urgent need for practical action amongst our clients and supply chains.”

Since the 1990s, Art has approached suppliers to provide embodied Carbon and other environmental data, and ethical sourcing… an approach which is finally becoming more widespread. Work is still needed – especially around the potential for further imports of plant diseases via the nursery industry, and peat use.

“Advocate for faster change in our profession towards resilient and regenerative design practices and a higher Governmental funding priority to support this.”

Art actively engages with local politicians to provoke and encourage local change, and campaigning organisations nationally and internationally. Ongoing pro-bono campaigning includes: promoting cycle and pedestrian-friendly streets with Borough Councillors; a High Street streetscape and planting initiative; leading the establishment of an ambitious greenspace Friends Group aimed at grassland and habitat management; working with a local community growing group.

“Establish climate and biodiversity mitigation, adaptation and resilience principles as the key measure of our industry’s success: demonstrated through awards, prizes and listings.”

Through many years of working alongside ecologists and following the success rates of past projects, Art has tried and trusted methodologies for increasing local biodiversity through considered soil conservation strategies and species-dense planting techniques – an approach now finding greater prominence through the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki and others. Art has long advocated the low-cost, low-input regenerative management techniques researched after the UK’s Great Storm of 1987 using locally collected seed and management of grazing – as advocated in his projects in North Africa.

“Share knowledge and research to that end on an open source basis.”

Gelling Landscape Studio is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other consultancies within landscape architecture and across disciplines. One target is establishing a carbon calculator applicable to landscape architecture. Our species records are shared via the open-source I-naturalist platform, and have been shared with Borough Ecologists for SINC Review.

“Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.”

The benefits of landscape architectural projects are complex and hard to quantify.  Gelling Landscape Studio is looking to trial, and where needed develop, a range of measurement techniques – where possible, working collaboratively with others.

“Preserve and protect existing irreplaceable landscapes and habitats whilst protecting and optimising areas of functional and biodiverse landscape in all developments.”

Evaluating, retaining (wherever possible), protecting and connecting existing habitat and other assets is fundamental to our work. It can take decades or even centuries for new habitats to establish, so it makes sense to retain what we have. The approach is also fundamental to ‘place-making’ – providing maturity, character and life to new development.

“Adopt a whole systems approach to landscape design recognising that soils, bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi are key factors for ecosystem survival and carbon sequestration.”

Soils are the foundations of the landscape and our health depends upon theirs. A strategy for soil condition and building should pre-empt any planting strategy on almost any project. Art has collaborated directly with some of the UK’s top experts in the fields of soil science and ecology since the early 1990s.

“Work to provide assessment tools for life cycle costing, carbon usage, biodiversity gains. Develop and promote post occupancy tools and measures to assist in the management of landscapes.”

Gelling Studio is looking to collaborate directly with specialists to develop tools for quantifying the environmental impacts, both positive and negative, of landscape design and implementation.

“In addition to working with mitigation, adaptation and resilience as primary tools, look to using regenerative design principles in the design of landscapes.”

Resilience and regenerative design have been fundamental parts of Art’s approach to soft landscape design since the 1990s. Current work includes species reintroduction and management of open grassland mosaic habitats within public open space; restoration of a natural river corridor within a town centre; and proposals to implement “leaky dam” systems to slow surface-water run-off in an urban water course.

“Collaborate with architects, engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.”

Art’s experience leading landscape projects such as the London Olympic Stadium demonstrates his commitment to reduction of construction waste – incorporating granite dock edgings (which were due to be crushed), promoting buildability and safety on site (keeping site workers safe from contamination) and designing out waste (tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated fill). His sustainable approach saved Balfour Beatty hundreds of thousands of pounds during the Legacy transformation of the Stadium.

“Promote low embodied carbon, and look to maximise carbon sequestering, responsible and sustainable use of water and biodiversity net gains in all projects.”

Soil strategy, planting selection and planting techniques to minimise the use of water (in construction and thereafter) and promote biodiversity are fundamentals of Gelling Landscape Studio’s ethos. In his own garden, Art is evaluating domestic-scale, natural soil conditioning techniques, with the aim of developing methodologies appropriate to commercial scale application.

“Minimise wasteful use of resources in landscape architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.”

In all the approaches outlined above, the principle is to reduce the consumption of resources. Demolition, energy and materials all cost money – and demand new resources to be mined, manufactured, transported and constructed. We support the  “retro-fit first” approach and always consider retention, reuse and recycling of existing structures and materials in construction, maintenance and end-of-life phases. We find this approach helps developers establish unique places with undeniable character, saves them money, and works best for the wider environment.

5 - Construction

4 – Technical Design

5 - Construction

4 - Technical Design

We use industry standard CAD and BIM to collaborate and coordinate design data with architects, engineers, cost consultants, ecologists and others, to deliver on the vision and narrative with consistency and rigour. 

Typical deliverables include: 

  • “Full” or “design intent” drawings and specification packages
  • Materials and planting schedules
  • Specialist designer / fabricator briefing
  • 2D (dwg) drawing and/or
  • 3D (rvt) model data
  • Establishment period maintenance specifications
  • Long-term management and maintenance specifications
We undertake Construction Design and Management (CDM) Designer’s Risk Assessments, and all our design data is fully geo-located and coordinated.
7 - Use

0 – Strategic Definition

0 - Strategic Definition

0 - Strategic Definition

We think and work strategically at every scale. Our ‘net-positive’ and regenerative approach to landscape and public realm responds directly to every individual site and every unique location. We think of our role in developing landscape, public realm and environment in terms of designing systems to achieve healthy, fully functioning and robust places.

We can advise how landscape opportunities and constraints might impact on your development strategy depending on your:

  • Your physical context
  • Your policy environment
  • Your development vision
  • Your heritage assets
  • Your stakeholders

In conversation with you, we’ll identify:

  • Environmental opportunities
  • Social opportunities
  • Options for future management
  • A balance of cost, quality and programme
1 - Preparation and Briefing

1 – Preparation and Briefing

1 - Preparation and Briefing

1 - Preparation and Briefing

We can prepare a landscape and public realm briefing to determine project outcomes, for quality, sustainability, management and place-making. These agreed goals will help fix the “essential” project requirements, and the “nice-to-haves”.

We will always align your project outcomes closely to Planning Policy, to promote smooth passage through the Planning system. Our regenerative approach to landscape will establish optimal outcomes for Urban Greening Factor, Biodiversity Net Gain and other planning requirements.

We will identify the landscape requirements specific to your project, covering aspects such as Play Strategy, Sports provision, access to nature, Lifetime Neighbourhoods, equitable access and safe routes to schools.

We will review the available site information, and advise on surveys, and further information required. We can write specifications for topographic and arboricultural surveys, and help determine the need for ecologists and other consultants.

We will agree the landscape “deliverables” you need to achieve the outcomes we identify, to suit your budget and programme.


2 - Concept Design

2 – Concept Design

2 - Concept Design

2 - Concept Design

Aligned to the agreed Project Brief, we can develop the Concept Design to incorporate the strategic opportunities and constraints, to consider:

Place-making and narrative:

  • We search for the unique qualities inherent in every ‘site’ we turn into a ‘place’.
  • We analyse your vision (and ours) to see how far they can be realised, and how to go about it.
  • We establish place-making narrative through research and dialogue.
  • We retain this narrative to guide consistency from start to finish.
  • We draw, we illustrate and we visualise.

Conceptual Design:

  • Our design concepts makes places function more holistically, and make communities happier.
  • We are regenerative and creative… and dedicated to pragmatism.
  • Our approach brings consistency, richness, life and meaning to place-making.
We will work closely with you, your masterplanners, architects, engineers, cost consultants and others to develop the shape of development, prepare the project Cost Plan and, where appropriate, engage in pre-planning consultations and/or Outline Planning submissions.
4 - Technical Design

5 – Construction

4 - Technical Design

5 - Manufacturing and Construction

Our aim is to get our work built. We work with contractors, architects and developers to oversee works progress, monitor quality, assist with procurement and review sub-contractors’ and fabricators’ design elements.

Typically, our role can include:

  • Regular / ad-hoc site inspections and reporting
  • Review of contractor design packages
  • Design revisions
  • Advice on Value Engineering
  • Site inspections
  • Snagging schedules and defects review
  • Monitor planting establishment
We have experience of working with Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Careys, Willerby Landscapes, and many others.
6 - Handover

6 – Handover

6 - Handover

6 - Handover

On Handover, we can inspect, review, advise on completion of the Contract specification and quality of workmanship. We can also advise next steps for management and maintenance, looking ahead to the project in use – Workstage 7.

Typically, our role can include:

  • Independent completion inspections
  • Snagging schedules and defects review
  • Rectification recommendations
  • Monitoring and inspection through the planting establishment period
7 - Use

7 – Use

7 - Use

7 - Use

No landscape is never “finished”. Our environments are alive: They grow and evolve as the planting and ecology matures and use patterns change and adapt. We offer landscape management consultancy to:

  • Review ecological, aesthetic, economic outcomes
  • Review landscape condition, and assess repair, renewal or redesign
  • Prepare landscape management strategies – identify objectives and outcomes, and the process to achieving them
  • Landscape maintenance specifications – NBS clauses for landscape maintenance contractors
  • Landscape management programming – A calendar of annual, monthly, weekly or daily actions, or periodic reviews of the landscape.
  • Maintenance contract performance review
  • Landscape asset BIM or CAD modelling – to provide graphical mapping or features, habitats or assets
  • Infill and replacement planting schedules
  • Community landscape initiatives – advice on conservation volunteering, user  and community engagement.

London Olympic Stadium

London Olympic Stadium

In summer 2007, Art Gelling was called by a well-known recruitment agency. He was asked if he would like the opportunity to work on “an exciting new major sporting venue in east London… but I can’t tell you what it is…”

As London had just been announced as the host of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it seemed like an approach worth pursuing.

Working as project lead for Hyland Edgar Driver (HED) and embedded within the combined client / contractor / design team office in Canary Wharf, Art was soon rationalising the pre-award landscape strategy, developing the complex split-level access strategy, and managing the tight-nit landscape project team for the Main Stadium – to be the focal point of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.

As soon as the site clean-up was complete, the whole team moved to on-site offices for the “complete” embedded major project experience.

Art took the team through the complex, multi-staged landscape planning submissions on behalf of Tier One Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, architect Populous and engineer Buro Happold. The scale and complexity of the Stadium meant the project was run separately from the rest of the Olympic Park, and on an advanced programme.

The pace of the build (driven by the unmoveable 2012 deadline) demanded that groundworks Planning submissions were made before above-ground design was known; Above-ground submissions were made before detailed designs were developed: The strategy carefully built in flexibility to develop the next stage of detail.

Design innovations included the road-tests for the glamorous floral meadows (planted the following year across Olympic Park)and designing the precisely engineered, undulating planted embankments. Less glamorous, but every bit as important, we developed the creative solutions to safe working, eliminating worker contact with contaminated ground, and the grade separation of security.

Art presented the designs at packed Stakeholder Interest Group workshops, covering diverse topics from ecology to equitable access to security. His small team completed the hard and soft landscape Tender packages for all public-facing and back-of-house areas of the ‘Stadium Island’ and assisted through the procurement process.

While day-to-day site duties reverted to colleagues, Art continued the team-leader role and carried out regular site inspections throughout construction and maintenance until handover for Games Overlay.

The project was designed to world-class environmental, safety and new, best-practice standards for accessibility to front- and back-of-house areas.

We established new riverside meadow habitat. We re-claimed and re-purposed granite dock edgings for the edge of the River Lea. We procured and planted willow trees that could barely fit on the largest flat-bed lorry. We procured UK grown pollards to re-establish in the river valley, and we set-out the post-Games landscape strategy. We even sneaked in some edible plants (isolated from the contaminated substrata). We fulfilled the late (and visionary) John Hopkins’ dreams.

Thanks to Daf (HED), John and David (ex-HED), and the project team from SRM, Populous, CLM, Buro Happold, KLH Sustainability, Rick’s team at Willerby, and many others.

As a team we handed-over the completed site ahead of programme and to a tight budget… and were nominated for the 2012 Stirling Prize.

… and Art’s plan is the front cover of a book of Olympic Stadia!