Dr. Kevin Thwaites - Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Kevin Thwaites

Dr. Kevin Thwaites BA, Dip LA (Dist), PhD
University of Sheffield , UK

Professional and Academic Background
I completed my education in Landscape Architecture at Leeds in 1983 and have since worked in both private practice and higher education. My research interests and activities stem from PhD work completed in 1999 and relate primarily to the philosophy and theory of landscape design and the spatial expression of experience in urban and residential settings. I am also active in exploring the relationship between research and teaching in landscape architecture higher education. My teaching experience is broadly based but focuses on the design of urban outdoor places, philosophy and theory of landscape design, design processes and spatial language, and the design of community and neighbourhood landscape settings.




1978-81 BA Degree Landscape Architecture: Leeds Polytechnic, School of Architecture and Landscape

1982-83 Graduate Diploma Landscape Architecture (Pass with Distinction): Leeds Polytechnic, School of Architecture and Landscape

1994-95 Post Graduate Certificate in Research Methodology: Leeds Metropolitan University

1994-99 Doctor of Philosophy: ‘Expressivist Landscape Architecture: the development of a new conceptual framework for landscape architecture’ Leeds Metropolitan University

1983-84 Assistant Landscape Architect: Landscape Design Associates, Leeds and Peterborough

1983-93 Co-owner and Managing Director: Thwaites and Pitt (Landscape Design) Ltd, Leeds and Halifax

1984-88 Lecturer: Leeds Polytechnic, Landscape Architecture Department

1988-2002 Senior Lecturer: Leeds Metropolitan University, Landscape Architecture Department

2003-date Lecturer and Director of Learning and Teaching, Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield

Research Areas
My research interests and activities focus on three main themes increasingly integrated in current work and future plans. These are:

• Philosophy and theory of landscape design and its impact on the intellectual underpinning and conceptual development of landscape design processes and spatial languages;

• Socially responsive approaches to planning and design in urban neighbourhood and other community settings, particularly how spatial and experiential dimensions converge to influence psychological health.

• Exploration of the relationship between teaching and research through innovations in the development and delivery of design studio projects involving undergraduate and postgraduate landscape architecture students.

These general areas of activity converge in the Experiential Landscape Place Research and Development Unit which I direct in association with colleague Ian Simkins. The elp:rdu was created to formalize a developing programme of research, publication and teaching concerned with the spatial expression of human experience in urban outdoor places.

Philosophy and Theory of Landscape Design
This aspect of research stems from earlier PhD work focused on a critical evaluation of landscape architecture’s intellectual underpinning and the development of a new conceptual framework based on expressivist thinking. Expressivism is a theory of the human self with origins in the philosophy of Herder, but developed more recently by Isaiah Berlin and Charles Taylor. It involves an aesthetic appreciation which stresses the quality of experience evoked over the intrinsic properties of objects and holds that the human self is defined in terms of its expressive activity. In landscape terms this means that when people make, or attach personal significance to new places they are expressing and communicating to others something about themselves; their values, aspirations, desires and needs. This philosophical position tightly integrates human psychological functioning with where it takes place and argues strongly for a holistic conception of the human-environment relationship to be at the core of landscape architectural theory and practice. There are implications in expressivist thought for the social and ecological dimensions of outdoor place making that shift the balance of what we deliver to clients and society away from technically functioning and aesthetically pleasing landscapes to the delivery of fulfilled human lives.

Experiential Landscape Place: an approach to people, place and space. (

Experiential landscape place research explores the relationship between human experience and spatial organisation in urban neighbourhood and other community settings. It is primarily concerned with developing an open space design vocabulary to inform processes of urban place making. A central tenet is that aspects of human experience and their spatial expression are important to achieving and sustaining fulfilled lives. The research aims to develop a means to read the experiential potential of urban neighbourhood and community settings, actual and proposed, from their spatial characteristics. Emphasis is placed on experiential features that collectively: encourage different types of place attachment in people; strengthen capability to aid and facilitate orientation; enhance or stimulate a sense of neighbourhood. These are translated into a spatial vocabulary that can be used to analyse the experiential potential of existing or proposed urban settings.

Integrating Teaching and Research
Research activity with the working title ‘refereed studio’ that contributes to a growing international debate about how studio based teaching practices in landscape architecture and architecture can contribute to the generation of peer reviewed research output. Pilot projects have been undertaken and published (Thwaites.K, 2003, 2002) with undergraduate and graduate students to investigate how teaching and research objectives can be met together. Work undertaken to date has led to the working definition of a refereed studio as one that:

• Informs part of the academic’s wider research agenda;

• Makes learning and teaching objectives and research objectives explicit in project briefing material;

• Involves students as participants in activities aimed at answering research questions;

• Has a clearly defined theoretical framework within which the project operates;

• Generates outputs amenable to peer review and dissemination.

Teaching Responsibilities
My current teaching activity includes both landscape architecture and urban environmental studies students. At undergraduate level this includes the level three modules: Integrated Urban Design Project (studio design project covering research and concept development, masterplanning and detail design); Advanced Landscape Design Construction (the physical and spatial components of place making, materials and construction techniques research, detail design with materials, working drawings); Urban Regeneration by Design (development of design vocabulary and analysis of urban settings). At post graduate levels: Urban Landscape Design (studio based urban design project) and Special Design (studio design project covering design process report; concept and masterplanning; detail design and technical resolution).

I also supervise post graduate dissertation and PhD students on topics relating to my research interests. Currently these include PhD work relating to: the development of visual communication tools for people with learning disabilities; the exploration of place perceptions of children in routes routinely encountered; the perception of environment through dynamic body movement; the restorative potential of landscape places.

Administrative Responsibilities
Since joining the Landscape Department at Sheffield I have a full administrative role as Director of Learning and Teaching and Chair of The Department of Landscape Teaching Committee. Included in the variety of current responsibilities in this role is leading the alignment of Departmental practice with University and Faculty policy on issues relating to curriculum development, assessment and feedback etc., and representing the Department on a range of Faculty Committees. I also act as Level Three Coordinator for landscape undergraduate programmes and am a member of Department of Landscape Research Committee.

Extramural Reponsibilities
I am an active member of the international Urban Sustainability through Environmental Design (UStED) network, recently established at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy to explore pan-European approaches to socially and environmentally responsive urban design. Along with colleague Ian Simkins I direct the development of the Experiential Landscape Place Research and Development Unit ( which includes a range of research, publication and consultancy activities relating to the aims of experiential landscape place research. I have been external examiner both at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education (now University of Gloucestershire) and at the University of Sheffield, and currently serve on the Landscape Institute Annual Review Group, University of Newcastle. I regularly review manuscripts and books for a range of academic journals on topics relating to my research interests and expertise. TV appearances have included, locally, ‘High Rise Living, Close up North BBC2, 1999, as an invited contributor for an innovative approach to teaching design theory in social housing settings and nationally, BBC Gardener’s World and BBC Gardener’s World Live’, resulting from winning first prize in the Gardener’s World/Radio Times national garden design competition, 1994.


Thwaites.K. Helleur.E. and Simkins.I.M. (2005) Restorative urban open space: Exploring the spatial configuration of human emotional fulfilment in urban open space. Landscape Research, Volume 30, Number 4, October 2005, pp. 525-547(23)

Thwaites.K. and Simkins.I.M. (2005) Experiential landscape place: exploring potential in neighbourhood settings. Urban Design International (2005) 10, 11-22.

Thwaites.K. (2003) Chapel Allerton Explored: An Integrated Approach to Teaching and Research in Landscape Architecture Education. Proceedings of ‘Building the Link’ international conference on integrating teaching and research with practice in the built environment. Wadham College, Oxford, 8-10 September 2003.

Thwaites.K. (2002) Teaching and Research: An Integrated Approach to the Undergraduate Studio in Landscape Architecture Education. Landscape Review (New Zealand), vol.8(1), pp.12-28

Thwaites.K. (2002a) Experiential Landscape Place: Place Making and Quality of Life in Neighbourhood Settings. Paper presentation at Creating Sustainable Urban Environments conference, Oxford, 23-26 September 2002.

Thwaites.K. (2001) Experiential Landscape Place: An Exploration of Place and Neighbourhood in Landscape Architecture. Landscape Research, vol.26, no.3, pp.245-255.

Thwaites.K. (2000) Expressivist Landscape Architecture: A New Conceptual Framework for Landscape Architecture. Landscape Journal, (USA) Vol19, No.s 1 and 2, pp.201-210.

Thwaites.K. (2000a) Experiential Landscape: Place, Neighbourhood and Community in Landscape Architecture. in Benson.J and Roe.M (eds) (2000) Urban Lifestyles: Spaces, Places, People. Rotterdam, Balkema. pp 49-55.

Thwaites.K. (1998) Expressivist Landscape Architecture: A New Conceptual Framework. Paper presented to the Re:search: The Generation of Knowledge in Landscape Architecture conference. Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA), Arlington, Texas, 21-25 October

Thwaites,K. (1998a) Landscape Design is Research: An Exploration. in: Selman, P. Landscape Design as Research: an emerging debate. Landscape Research, Vol 23, No2, July, pp.196-198

Thwaites.K. (1996) In Search of the Designer’s New Mind (Peer Review Feature). Landscape Design, September, p.13-18

Thwaites.K. (1995) The Landscape Design and Community Unit. in Jenkins et al (eds) Developing Skill-based Curricula Through the Disciplines: Case Studies of Good Practice in Geography. Oxford: SCED.


Thwaites.K. (2004) Expressivist Landscape: A New Conceptual Framework for Landscape Architecture. ‘Exploring Philosophical Bases for Integrative Landscape Architecture’, Landscape Architecture Theory Symposium, University of Sheffield, 18 May, 2004.

Thwaites.K. and Simkins.I.M (2004) Experiential Landscape Place: a design vocabulary for people, space and place. Invited presentation to Analysis of Public Spaces and Policies for Public Life in Cities conference, Politecnico di Milan, Milan, Italy, 27 January 2004.

Thwaites.K. (2000) Expressive Landscape Architecture: An Approach to Place and Community in Landscape Architecture. Paper presented to the School of Design, North Carolina State University, USA, 3 April 2000

Thwaites.K. (1999) Going Beyond Design: Organisation, Planning and Participation in Successful Schools Development. Landlines, February, pp.8-9

Thwaites.K. (1998) The Well-being of Disabled People: Developing the Concept of Landscape Settings. in Stoneham.J. and Kendle.A. (eds) Plants and Human Well-being, Bath: The Sensory Trust

Thwaites.K. (1998a) Research in Landscape Architecture: An Opportunity for Unity or Division in Practice and Academia? South West Aspect: The Journal of the South West Chapter of the Landscape Institute. March,p.4-5

Thwaites.K. (1998b) Is Landscape Design Research? Landscape Design Extra, March, p.3

Thwaites.K. (1997) An Academic’s Vision of the Way Forward. in Thwaites.K. (ed) Landscape Design is Research: An Exploration. SCHOLA Occasional Paper No.3, Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University


Thwaites.K. Helleur.E. and Simkins.I.M. (2004) Restorative Urban Landscape Settings: Exploring the Spatial Dimensions of Human Emotional Fulfilment in Urban Open Space. Paper and conference presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference, Edinburgh, 27-29 October 2004.

Simkins.I.M. and Thwaites.K. (2004) The Spatial Experience of Primary School Aged Children: The Development of an Open Space Design Language. Paper and conference presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference, Edinburgh, 27-29 October 2004.

Thwaites.K. and Simkins.I.M. (2006) Experiential Landscape: An approach to people, space and place. Book commissioned by Spon Press, London. (to view a synopsis click this link).

Thwaites.K, Simkins.I.M. and Worthington.S. (2005) The Experiential Personality of The Calls, Leeds: the occurance of centre, direction, transition and area in urban regeneration.

Thwaites.K. (2006) On the Nature of Landscape Architecture: Reflections on the Integrity of Philosophy, Theory and Practice.

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