Site-Specific Practices for Communal Landscapes 

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The S-LAB team participating in the Field Office Workshop 

Workshop & Fieldwork: London, 13-14 October 2023; online, 1 December 2023. 

Dr Fadi Shayyai and a teamii of third-year students at the Salford Laboratory of Architecture (S-LAB) participated in the interdisciplinary Field Office Workshop 01iii to exchange knowledge about site-specific practices with the Sayes Court (CIC) community organisation in Deptford, London. 

Based on the conceptual framework of the Right to Landscape, the team’s contribution constitutes part of a collective effort to support the community in negotiating their commons in the face of the Convoys Wharf large-scale urban regeneration and its consequent landscape displacements and climate injustices. 

“Sayes Court is a place that was historically the London home to John Evelyn, the author of ground-breaking books on urban forestry (Sylva) and air pollution (Fumifugium), and it is currently being developed as a public landscape and research centre.” 
(Field Office, 2023) 

The Field Office organisers selected the Salford team to participate in the workshop among over 200 applications from 10 countries. They spent two days in London with over 100 workshop participants between the Convoys Wharf development site and discussions at the University College London and the Royal College of Art. They met with members of Sayes Court and a diverse group of academics, researchers, and professionals based in the UK, the US, Germany, Denmark, and Italy. The participants then met online for a final presentation of outputs and discussion on 8 December 2023. 

“Students and young practitioners, including architects, artists, ecologists, geographers, landscape architects, anthropologists, and urban designers, will develop new forms of grounded practice, from innovative digital methods to alternative approaches to design… The first workshop will explore three questions: firstly, how projects create equitable and meaningful engagements with communities; secondly, how data that is collected and generated can be made accessible to communities that are part of sites; and thirdly, how study and design of a site/project, such as Sayes Court, can be distributed across a wider area.” 
(Field Office, 2023) 

The S-LAB team based their fieldwork on the site-ing method developed in Dr Shayya’s second-year Architectural Design Studio, “A New Design Cosmology.” Introduced by Yaneva & Mommersteeg (2019), site-ing is an active method to trace and document fragments of dynamic associations and compositions of site-specific actors and agencies. It is an “ethnographic strategy … [for] ‘establishing co-presence’” (2019, p. 312) rather than reading sites as static and fully-constituted artefacts. The team established co-presence at the Deptford site by engaging with the workshop participants, learning from the community group, documenting field experiences and observations, and analysing existing maps and planning reports. 

Together with the workshop participants, the S-LAB team discussed how the traces of the 1650s John Evelyn’s Gardeniv and the local communities’ histories could further negotiate the social and spatial strategies of the Convoys Wharf master plan. They articulated their experiences by proposing to invoke the Right to Landscape (after Egoz et al., 2016) and re-presenting the landscape relationships through a Cosmogram. The Right to Landscape is a framework for a world-making practice based on intersecting the in/tangible Landscape with human rights. A Cosmogram is a visual re-presentation of human-nonhuman relationships (see Aït-Touati et al., 2022) that make up these worlds, that is, “external depictions of the elements of the cosmos” (Tresch, 2007, p. 92). The alternative framework and re-presentation could assemble major and minor historical narratives – and, therefore, futures – as situated and extended site networks. 

Illustration of the Right to Landscape Cosmogram for Sayes Court (Credits: S-LAB Team)

The S-LAB team proposed to read Sayes Court as a cosmic thing and a cosmic practice. It embodies relations of bygone and continuing worlds of empire, militarism, and innovation, and through that, it allows its participants to imagine and produce alternative futures for co-existence. Just like John Evelyn’s Garden is “a tool for thought, a living laboratory and an act of creation” (The Sayes Court Project, 2018). They expressed their proposal through a cosmogrammatic video narrative. 

Video of Design Statement and Cosmogrammatic Narrative for Sayes Court (Credits: S-LAB Team) 

The community members and workshop participants collectively contributed to collating research, generating new media, and making varied connections about the site, thus rendering the field visible and calling out the violence and possible agencies to resist it. Media outputs included research folders, design proposals, mappings, illustrations, photography, video, environmental data, debriefings, and interview transcripts. Participants ensured that output materials are produced in accessible formats for use by future researchers and community organisations. 

The impact of this participatory workshop remains to be seen when the organizers follow up with updates on Sayes Court’s community efforts in their next judicial and planning appeals against the Convoys Wharf master plan. The Field Office Workshops team will consider publishing a book based on this workshop series exploring new site-specific practices. The S-LAB team will track citations in public proceedings/debates, debates amongst practitioners and policy makers, and news media. In addition, they will gather evaluations/testimonials and track independent documented evidence by third party including testimony of experts and users. 

At the University of Salford, engaging in this workshop allowed staff to extend their research/practice networks and students to explore alternative models of practice and make new friendships. The S-LAB team’s outputs are part of a knowledge exchange practice with the Sayes Court (CIC) community organization, where the employed methodology extends from exploration in the classroom to interpretation in a live project and to adaption by stakeholders. The next step will be for Dr Shayya to test this methodology with a diverse range of stakeholders such as a science festival of ideas. The S-LAB team will host a special event to share their experience and present their outputs with the university’s School of Science, Engineering and Environment next year. 


  • Field Office Workshops /// Website + YouTube 
  • London Architecture Diary /// link 
  • The Landscape /// Link 


Egoz, S., Makhzoumi, J., & Pungetti, G. (Eds.). (2016). The Right to Landscape: Contesting Landscape and Human Rights. Routledge. 

The Sayes Court Project. (2018). Sayes Court, John Evelyn and the National Trust. Sayes Court Garden CIC. 

Tresch, J. (2007). Technological World‐Pictures: Cosmic Things and Cosmograms. Isis, 98(1), 84–99. 

Yaneva, A., & Mommersteeg, B. (2019). How Does an ANT Approach Help Us Rethink the Notion of Site? In The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory. Routledge. 

  1. i, The S-LAB team’s participation the is part of Dr Shayya’s research on public space, exclusionary governance, and fieldwork methods, and it is supported by the Pump Priming Fund at the university’s School of Science, Engineering and Environment.
  2. ii, The S-LAB team included BSc (Hons) Architecture students Raeven Branch, Hafid Raza, Sehar Ahmed, Matthew Turner, Yesu Sarcauga, Megan Tate, and Connor Harris; BSc (Hons) Interior Design student Danielle Wright; and Dr Fadi Shayya, Lecturer in Architecture & Urbanism.
  3. iii, The Field Office has been initiated by a working group of academics and practitioners, and it received seed funding for collaboration from the Centre of Spatial and Digital Ecologies, University of Greenwich. Follow their updates on Instagram and YouTube.
  4. iv, Whose controversial conservation led to the creation of the National Trust