Hao Yong – Reconciling Tourism and Heritage by Kate Baker

Nestled deep within the ancient field patterns of Hainan Island lies one of the last remnants of feudalism in China. The village of Hao Yong, which was largely abandoned in the eighteenth century, represents a special relationship between man and the land, each family grated a small plot of land to farm themselves whilst contributing to the farming of larger communal areas. Chinas rapid urbanisation has seen much of its historic landscape and field patterns disappear under massive infrastructure or abandoned by populations flocking to the city for highly paid jobs.  Now the Chinese Government is turning to countries such as the UK, experienced in the preservation of heritage, to help preserved the last remaining remnants of its historic settlements. But the preservation comes at a cost. In order to substantiate the cost of restoration and of not developing the land, they have to be designed to accommodate tourism. The vast numbers of Chinese residents flocking to see such attractions can itself be the biggest threat to preserving the ancient pathways and rural landscapes due to the need for larger roads, car parking and amenities such as restaurants, hotels and gift shops. In order to reconcile the needs of visitors with the preservation of the village, Wilder Associates have explored the formation of the village over time from its earliest habitation.

“We have used drones to map the landscape so that we could understand the intricate relationship between the village and the encircling farmland” explains Peter Wilder, who has recently returned from an intensive site visit that involved documenting both from the ground and from the air the delicate fragments of the remaining buildings and infrastructure.

“Water, as in most human settlement, has been a key ingredient in the success and demise of the village. The availability of fresh water for drinking and irrigation made it an ideal location, but one easily prone to flooding. We are working with the site topography and water management to improve the flood resilience and to preserve the water quality of its ponds and wells”.

The masterplan by Wilder Associates will look both at the preservation of existing buildings and the construction of new ones in a style that sits comfortably with the scale, pattern and materials of the historic settlement.

“The key for us”, explains Peter, “is the understanding of the people and their story in all of this. Their understanding of the land and their ability to live in harmony with nature is just as important to the preservation of their existing way of life as it is for city dwellers suffering from a lack of connection with the land.”

For more information on how we mapped the landscape click here


Bending The Spoon by Kate Baker

As a year out student from Sheffield University, I came prepared for anything that the industry could throw at me. I was prepared for potential monotony, the odd tea making and site visits to see schemes under construction. But when my boss told me to bend the spoon, I was a little perplexed to say the least. Allow me to explain.

Our client is a landlord with a series of Victorian Mansion blocks in Kensington and Chelsea, looking to revive the current courtyards that have become little more than utility spaces between the red brick buildings. We could have gone down the traditional route of providing aluminium planters, shrub planting and the odd piece of sculpture, but instead we were told by Peter to go a little crazy. He explained that our objective was not to create a landscape but to create a film set, a place where people would emerge into a totally unexpected environment, an immersive experience. It should be like putting on a pair of VR goggles and letting your imagination run wild.

The five individual courtyards were divided up among the team who were told not to discuss their ideas until everyone had had a chance to develop a scheme. Then when we came to the table to discuss our ideas, the themes of; vertical green, desert, Zen, rainforest, woodland and cottage garden were agreed with the aim being to keep the loadings on the slab as low as possible. I drew the short straw, the task of designing a woodland garden in a London Courtyard. How would it be possible to get trees, shrubs and understory planting complete with a woodland boardwalk all into such a small space whilst maintaining the necessary fire escape routes? I came up with a few concepts but struggled with the task of accommodating the planting and anchoring of trees.

Then, Peter said to the team “Do you know that famous quote from the Matrix? Do not try to bend the spoon, that’s impossible, only realise the truth, there is no spoon”. Still perplexed he explained, “We are not trying to create a real woodland in a podium deck courtyard, that’s impossible. We are only trying to create a facsimile of a woodland, the experience of being in an English woodland for weary London residents who are tired of staring into an abyss of concrete”.

The exercise is one that has breathed fresh air into the office. It’s a chance not only for residents to escape, but for our team to explore new ideas and approaches that wouldn’t usually be discussed for a London garden, like what is the essence of Zen and how do we create the feeling of arid in an often grey and wet climate. It has also given Wilder Associates a chance to bring some of the gardens it has been designing around the world (currently 18 countries) back home.

It has been a risky exercise and one where we weren’t sure what the client’s reaction would be. Thankfully they have been surprised and delighted by our response.  And as to the final solution for the woodland garden? Well you’ll have to wait and see, but thankfully not too long. Construction is due to commence on site later this year and completed in Spring 2019, well ahead of my return to Sheffield in September.

By Simon Cording.


Natural History Museum Project leaves Wilder Associates shortlisted for BALI Award by Kate Baker

The Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum.

The re-generation of one of London’s most iconic buildings has led to Wilder Associates being shortlisted for a prestigious BALI award, in the Hardscaping non-domestic project over 1.5 million category.

Extensive refurbishment of the main entrance was completed in June this year, to coincide with the opening of the Hintze Hall, opened by the Duchess of Cambridge alongside Sir David Attenborough on July 13th 2017.  

The project is part of the overall strategy for the re-generation of the grounds that will see the return of ‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus, grazing in a primordial forest of ferns and cycads.  

The main entrance, previously a sea of tarmac and mismatched stone, has been refurbished to accommodate wheelchair access whilst presenting the heritage stone work. This required extensive reconstruction of the vaults below the entrance and the world-famous carriage ramps.  

The scheme involved the re-use of existing stone setts and a national search for stone to match the existing material including sandstone, granite and porphyry. The large forecourt has been reconfigured in elegant arc laid setts, with new technology enabling a surface water storage tank beneath.  

To complete, the large bastions on either side of the reconstructed steps, have been re-imagined as planters exhibiting plants from the Canary Islands, one of the first places that Charles Darwin stopped on his journey in HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands. It is a demonstration of the museums continuing work in the construction of the environment across the globe.

Although integrating the new design into the existing heritage proved challenging, the execution depicts a seamless transition from the museum’s original architecture to a more modern standard. Whilst ensuring the ethos of the original architect, Alfred Warehouse, is kept alive. 

The Bali awards take place at the Grosvenor Hotel on the 7th December, where the winner will be announced.

By Kate Baker


Teaching at Oxford Brookes by Peter Wilder

Today saw a lively debate at Oxford Brookes University about the influence of AI and AR in architecture with a lecture by Peter Wilder on the impact of drones, Big Data and cloud processing on the design studio. The lecture was rounded off with a demonstration of our Inspire 1 Drone in the courtyard and an afternoon of critiques on student work. With just four weeks to go until the end of the semester, some amazing work is emerging with themes that vary from mental health and well being, biomimicry, augmented reality, fractal and algorithmic design, and a human upgrade factory. 

It clear that technology is influencing the design direction of many students and symbiotic relationships with nature seem to be at the forefront of student work. Im looking forward to a return visit in the next academic year!

Crit at Oxford Brookes

Looking for new talent by Peter Wilder


Water is the driving force behind many of nature’s most inspiring creations, and it continues to inspire our work as landscape architects.

Our ability to think creatively and adapt to our surroundings have enabled us to transform communities in over 14 countries. If you are looking for an opportunity to flex your muscles and be a force for change then simply send us some examples of your most exceptional work, 150 words on how you would like to change our world and a photo of the landscape that inspires you the most and why.

We are looing for candidates with a minimum of two years post graduate experience in a UK practice, excellence in written and graphic communication, a solid grasp of industry software including AutoCAD, Rhino, Revit, Lumion, and Keyscape. Applicants should apply to info@wilder-associates.com and any attachments larger than 10mb should be sent via WeTransfer. A shortlist of candidates will be selected for interview in the week commencing 19th March.

Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment by Peter Wilder

The cold snap has provided an ideal time to go out and obtain landscape views without foliage on the trees. We are currently working on a scheme in Kent where proposals for an acoustic bund will change the short term and long term views from the North Downs AONB. If you are considering carrying out visual impact work for a proposed development then now is a good time to contact us.


Escaping 2017 by Peter Wilder


2017 was an incredible year for us with a host of new projects and new clients as well as some great events. We have watched our scheme at the Natural History Museum slowly take shape and we look forward to its official opening in April this year. It has involved working closely with a great team including Kim Wilkie, Niall McLaughlin Architects, Expedition Engineering, Atelier Ten, Thomas Mathews, Jane Toplis Associates, Blakedown landscape and of course the Natural History Museum. The scheme is complex and involves working both with a Grade 1 listed building and a highly used public realm, heritage materials and modern access standards. So just to keep the team on their toes we embarked on an escape room challenge to test our ability to work together to solve complex problems. And the result? Well you'll have to ask us next time you see us!

Wilder Associates Featured in Pro Landscape Magazine by Peter Wilder


Wilder Associates were featured in the December issue of Pro Landscape Magazine which also featured the first of a three part series written by Peter Wilder on the role of technology in the diversification of the industry. Starting with Communication, the series will explore the opportunities and challenges that virtual reality, automation and artificial intelligence will bring to the field of planning and design.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the article.