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27th Jan 2023

Our People: 5 minutes with Ibrahim Diaz Vera, Senior Associate at Grant Associates

Animal and plant lover Ibrahim Diaz Vera M.Arch MCH RIBA is an architect whose career has focused on public space and the interaction between architecture, urbanism, and art. Passionate about the power of design as a transformative tool for people’s perceptions, Ibrahim is particularly keen on creating transformative, unique and bold landscape interventions that are able to deliver a sense of place and an identity.

Ibrahim’s design approach is rooted in his life experiences, which have created a kaleidoscopic design vision, enabling him to understand complex urban systems and human scale viewpoints. Born in Tenerife, he studied in Madrid and has lived in Hungary, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the UK and Spain. An avid explorer, he believes in the ability to enrich your life by appreciating different cultures, which then can help to achieve cutting-edge proposals sensitive to the local context.

We speak with Ibrahim about his time at Grant Associates, where he turns to for creative inspiration, and the future trends that are destined to have an impact on the landscape architecture profession.

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When and why did you first become interested in landscape architecture?

I would say it all came naturally; it was not really a conscious decision initially. I did not study landscape architecture; I am an architect who does landscape, or as I prefer to consider myself, simply a designer. I was always interested in the public realm and in how to create exciting moments within it, but after finishing up architecture and completing a Masters in collective housing, which included studying public realm and landscape, I got a job offer from one of the teachers of the course, and I ended up in a famous practice in Rotterdam. With that simple decision made I started my path into landscape architecture; that was over thirteen years ago now.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

My passion lies in the creation of what I refer to as "pop landscapes," or landscapes that reinterpret the notion of the profession with popular cultural elements. I see landscape not just as softscape but really as the ability to blend natural and artificial components together: introducing colours, innovating with materiality, crafting exciting shapes and patterns, and ultimately creating spaces that feel marvellous with moments of fascination.

I would like the landscape to move away from the creation of grey spaces with dull materials, the overuse of lawn areas, and the understanding that it is not good enough for the landscape to rely on just the horticultural traditions; the public spaces of the future demand much more. I would like to see recognisable public spaces: how come most of us are able to have in our memories iconic buildings in London but hardly any public spaces that leave behind a lasting impression, beyond the traditional parks? We need to do more and better, and that is my major inspiration to keep pushing for better designs in the profession; to deliver memorable designs for the public and to put their value for society at the forefront.

What attracted you to join the team at Grant Associates?

I lived in Hong Kong prior to moving to the UK, and one of my trips while living there was to Singapore, right after Gardens by the Bay was opened. While walking around the conservatories, I noticed the Supertrees and I realised I wanted to work for the minds that created that incredible park.

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Initially, I moved to London and worked for Martha Swartz, who has been the most influential landscape architect at a professional level, a mentor from whom I learnt the possibilities of blending art, landscape, and architecture. After that era, I wanted to learn more about the method that Grant Associates followed with an approach that blended good design with ecology, sustainability, resilience, and biodiversity. It has been a real privilege to learn, grow as a designer, and have the support of a great team and the directors, as well as work closely with another landscape architect who has shaped my love for landscape, Andrew Grant.

What projects are you most proud to have worked on during your time at Grant Associates?

I am particularly proud of the work I did for the masterplan vision in Distrito Castellana Norte and, most recently, the three planning applications that I have been leading for East Village. In both cases, we packed the designs with bold ideas underpinned by a strong ecological narrative.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

Some days are calmer and some others are hectic; for example, while I am writing this, I am on a train back from London after having a meeting for one of my projects. Other days we have design reviews and team meetings, and the best part of my day is designing and getting lost in the sketches or in 3D in Rhino.

What do you turn to for creative inspiration?

Anything. I get a lot of ideas from scenes I see in movies, from ideas that appear in my mind while reading, from fashion, and from an understanding of the cultural changes and shifts in the society. From nature and the incredible world that surrounds us, from the aquatic world ... inspiration can be found everywhere, if you make the time to look for it.

What trends do you see influencing the future of landscape architecture?

It will sound obvious, but it will definitely be the climate and biodiversity emergency, the strategies applied to reach a carbon-free world, the need for bigger public spaces but, above all, I hope we don’t lose sight in all the problems we will face the ability to design with beauty. Landscape can’t become an exercise of ticking boxes; it will fail if it does so. It needs to tackle all the problems and challenges facing our landscape today and in the future, while also always remembering that pragmatism does not equal lazy design.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in landscape architecture?

I would say explore, travel, see the world, take your own path, don’t be boring, think outside of the box, and if you feel love for the public spaces, for cities, for the landscape, you will know what you have to do.

Lively minds making a liveable world…

Our continued success at Grant Associates is due to the talent and commitment of our multi-skilled team.

The practice currently employs over 70 people, from over 17 countries, across our two design studios in Singapore and Bath. The majority are qualified landscape architects, working together with architects, 3D modellers, BIM and visualisation specialists, horticulturists, designers, IT and other technicians.

We are always interested to hear from talented and enthusiastic people who would like to join our dynamic teams in both offices. Take a look at our latest vacancies and get in touch.