2022 saw us mark an impressive 60 years in practice.
As we continue to focus on our future, we also embrace, reflect and celebrate our proud past and the people who have helped to grow the practice over the last six decades.
From humble beginnings in Glasgow, Gillespies has become one of the largest and most successful global landscape architecture, urban design and landscape planning consultancies. We maintain our local roots while delivering our global mission: to design and deliver transformative, sustainable spaces that make people’s lives measurably better.
In 1962 Bill Gillespie, a prominent Scottish landscape architect, set up William Gillespie Landscape Architects. He had previously been chief landscape architect to Cumbernauld New Town. He took on a number of projects from Dame Sylvia Crowe’s offices, and recognised the need to develop the landscape profession as she had done.
Bill built on the profession's roots in garden design to address a broader range of environmental issues. Using his skills developed in the innovative New Town Movement in Scotland, he made a major contribution to creating new public landscapes and regenerating urban areas.
He was later elected President of the Institute of Landscape Architects (now the Landscape Institute) from 1975 to1977.
In Glasgow’s Park Circus Conservation Area, Bill demonstrated that the spaces between buildings were just as important as fine architecture in determining the quality of an area. The firm was at the forefront of the profession in recognising that raising the standards of soft and hard landscape was key to successful area conservation.
Bill's practice grew steadily throughout Scotland and in the north of England. He took on more employees and re-named the practice William Gillespie and Associates.
Notable projects included landscape-led regeneration plans for the River Clyde Valley, Forth and Clyde Canal and the development of Strathclyde Park to the east of Glasgow City Centre - it remains a major attraction for city recreation today.
By the mid-70s the firm played a leading role in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) preparing a regional plan for the Suez Canal in Egypt, our first foray outside the UK. Further commissions were obtained from The Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction for the Arab Republic of Egypt for the preparation of landscape masterplans for large industrial areas across the country.
The 1980s saw Gillespies taking on ever-more high-profile design commissions, and the opening of the Manchester office.
Our reputation for planning and designing large-scale landscapes led to our being appointed master planners for the UK’s first International Garden Festival, in Liverpool. Derelict dockland was transformed into a major international destination. Opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 2 May 1984, the event attracted over 3.5 million visitors and helped to change public perceptions of Liverpool as a major city.
In 1987 Gillespies prepared environmental evidence for the Public Inquiry into the Torness Nuclear Power Station on the Forth Estuary and later pioneered environmental impact analysis techniques for overhead transmission lines for Scottish Power.
This success was followed by the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. Again, Gillespies acted as master planners and design coordinators, with Bill as strategic advisor to the Scottish Development Agency, and achieved a memorable transformation of derelict dockland. The project marked a significant point in the regeneration of the River Clyde and the resurgence of the Glasgow as a vibrant post-industrial city.
Concepts of urban design were further developed through work with Richard Rogers, preparing a master plan for The Royal Docks in London’s East End.
By the late 1980s landscape planning and environmental assessment was becoming central to our work, with the practice starting to support major infrastructure projects and advise the highway, rail, power and water industries on their landscape impacts and responsible management strategies.
During the 1990s Gillespies undertook an increasingly diverse range of commissions from a number of new UK studios.
Our overseas activities expanded with a major portfolio of work in Japan. We collaborated with the Nichimen Corporation on a number of high-profile resort developments across the country, and in 1990 prepared the British Government’s display garden at the Osaka Expo. At the same time, Gillespies also collaborated with an international team of designers to prepare the European Pavilion at the same Expo.
The regeneration of UK city centres formed a major part of our work during the early 1990s. We won an international competition to redesign Glasgow's city centre and its most famous shopping street, Buchanan Street. The design received several prestigious awards, and we went on to win more awards for enhanced public realm environment projects in other major cities.
Growing awareness of the role of high-quality landscape design for visitor attractions and commercial developments led to increasingly varied commissions for some very high-profile clients. These included a new campus landscape for Glaxo Smithkline in 1990 (the biggest construction project in the UK at the time), Microsoft’s Headquarters in Thames Valley Park, and the major masterplan and landscape design commission for Legoland, which opened in Windsor in 1996.
In 1996 Gillespies opened an office in Kuala Lumpur. We delivered the masterplan and landscape design for the National Sports Complex in Kuala Lumpur; it hosted the Malaysian Commonwealth Games, opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 12 September 1998.
In 1999, for the UK’s first Urban Regeneration Company, Liverpool Vision, the practice prepared the blueprint document for the city's urban and landscape regeneration that is still a template for regeneration in the city.
We started the new century with renewed vigour, applying the principles of placemaking and landscape-led design to every project.
The regeneration of UK and European cities was still a priority, with designs in Scotland, England, and Wales. Our schemes included Plymouth's Royal William Yard, London's Paddington Basin, and we were particularly proud of our work on the Senedd Cymru - Welsh Parliament.
Our landscape planning team grew, fostering particular expertise in major infrastructure assessment and design. We worked on the routing and assessment of transmission and distribution power lines, wind farms and transport infrastructure including roads and highways and light rail (tram) networks in cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Edinburgh. We continued our major HQ landscapes with Pfizer among others.
We won design awards for several city centre public realm designs including Grainger Town in Newcastle, Bradford City Park, St George’s Square in Luton, and St Andrew Square in Edinburgh – public spaces that are still much-loved today and referenced by many as best in class.
During this decade, we extended our overseas endeavours, with major new developments across the Middle East, China and Russia, including Beirut’s Roman baths.
Gillespies continued to deliver vibrant and socially beneficial landscapes for a range of sectors, advocating green infrastructure in cities and buildings to improve people’s health and wellbeing. This fusion of landscape and architecture can be seen in influential projects such as the NEO Bankside in Southwark, Crossrail Place Roof Gardens in Canary Wharf, and the UK’s first and tallest indoor rooftop garden, The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street.
Work across the Middle East extended in 2017 to our first foray into Saudi Arabia, which involved the masterplanning of Medina, a globally significant religious site. We won a major open space commission for the waterfront parks connecting the Zayed, Guggenheim and Louvre Museums, which led to the Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum Park, delivered in 2017. Numerous successful projects in Russia led to the opening of the Moscow office in 2012.
In the UK our project portfolio and business continued to grow and our expertise and reputation was rewarded with multiple design award wins for high-profile projects such as at Piece Hall in Halifax, Bradford City Park, MediaCityUK in Salford, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford, and Aldgate Square and Television Centre in London - the latter secured an AJ Architecture Award in 2018 for best landscape architecture.
Our landscape planning and assessment team continued to deliver pioneering work for major infrastructure clients such as National Grid, HS2, Scottish Power, and EDF (Hinkley Point and Sizewell). Our expertise was recognised with Landscape Institute awards for our Shropshire Landscape and Visual Sensitivity Assessment, North Wales Landscape Sensitivity and Capacity Study, and Strategic Assessment work for the National Grid. (We assessed existing high voltage routes across the UK, and developed evidence-based recommendations for line removal in some of our most important scenery, leading to the removal of transmission lines in Snowdonia, Peak District and elsewhere.)
We continue to grow - and to accumulate awards for our innovative placemaking solutions. Beyond the UK and Ireland, projects range across the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Eastern Europe and former CIS countries, and the Americas.
Our numerous awards included several for the Centre Building at LSE, Wapping Wharf in Bristol, and Elephant Park in London (which is shortlisted for the 2022 RIBA Stirling award). The Helix Innovation Quarter in Newcastle won the Sustainability Award at the Constructing Excellence National Awards. Our urban design and landscape teams have also been praised for the Jersey SW St Helier visioning framework (shortlised for a Landscape Institute award), while we continue to deliver master-planning commissions in the Middle East, several of them directly connected with UNESCO-designated sites such as AlUla.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to recognition of the need for people to connect with nature. With access to green areas more important than ever, and limited ground level space in our major cities, internal, roof and podium landscapes have become more popular. We have delivered landscape designs for a number of residential and commercial schemes, including the new Google Headquarters in Kings Cross, where we are delivering the largest roof garden in Europe. At Mayfield Park in Manchester we helped deliver a new 6.5 acre city centre park that brings nature and biodiversity into the heart of the city centre.
We continue to work closely with the Landscape Institute, taking part in the embodied carbon advisory group, delivering seminars and judging the awards.
The future is exciting. We relish the part we can play in meeting global challenges. These include responses to climate change and biodiversity loss, water scarcity, housing and land shortages, and economic and political uncertainties. We’re pushing the boundaries for sustainability – part of our vision to make the world a better place. We took part in COP26 and we were a founding signatory on the Landscape Architects Declare campaign to drive solutions to the climate and biodiversity emergency.
Having a wide range of multi-talented landscape planners, urban designers and landscape architects allows us to give tailored advice to each client – no-one could accuse us of having ‘a Gillespies style’.
We want to keep it that way: making sure our plans and designs meet the needs of the people using and affected by them, now and in the future.
A heart-felt thank you to all the members of staff who have contributed to making Gillespies the vibrant and successful company we are today.
If we have missed you off, we are sorry, and would love to hear from you! Please do get in touch to let us know.
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