ESALA Projects supports ‘real world’ consultancy by collaborating staff and students at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). The initiative provides an outward-facing platform for multidisciplinary working by designers at all career stages, drawing on our combined expertise in practice, teaching, learning and research across architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and conservation.

ESALA Projects was co-founded by Lisa Moffitt and Liam Ross, both lecturers and practicing architects.

The initiative supports the work of a number of staff and centres within the University of Edinburgh, including the flagship Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies.

From strategic planning to individual projects, it has involved a range of stakeholders, including The British Council, Haus der Farbe, the Land Art Generator Initiative, The Forest café, arts and social centre, Baltic Street Adventure Playground, Orkney Island Council and the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Department.

To date, over 50 students from a range of disciplines and international backgrounds have participated in ESALA Projects.

Benefits and outcomes

An increasing number of UK Schools of Architecture are integrating ‘live’ projects into their curricula, facilitating engagement with external clients and briefs. ESALA Projects is a step beyond: a means for students to collaborate with staff on outward-facing schemes.

The initiative adds an extra dimension to the already unique blend of academic and practical experience offered by ESALA’s professional programmes. It supports staff opportunities for research-by-design, knowledge exchange and outreach with a range of stakeholders, who benefit from a knowledge-led approach to ’real world’ challenges.

ESALA projects provides a sound framework for collaborative working within the School. To date, funding has been used to produce a guidance document for members engaging in funded or pro-bono consultancy, which directs project leaders to relevant University, professional and legal guidelines on accepting commissions, includes advice on employing paid student research assistants and provides a Project Agreement form for use with student volunteers.

The infrastructure supporting the initiative includes the development of a brand identity, a website for promoting completed work and a dedicated space within the School in which to work. The knowledge gained has been shared with participating external stakeholders who now have a blueprint for working with academic partners, as well as emerging designs for live sites.

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Destination Dalmarnock - budding masterplanners
Image courtesy of ESALA Projects
Destination Dalmarnock workshop for budding masterplanners

"“ESALA Projects offered us access to a range of people, both staff and students, with relevant expertise to assist in a noise mitigation design for the Forest Café.  Their engagement limited the costs incurred in running our charity, and hopefully offered students relevant experience!”"

Stephen Paterson, Project Director, The Forest café, arts and social centre

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