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Architecture (MA)

Quentin Martin

Quentin Martin is a British architectural designer and artist who works across a wide variety of mediums, creating work which typically broaches areas of interest which include landscape, horticulture, ecology and sustainable and ecological design. As a designer, Quentin likes to explore how various media - painting, scanning, drawing, film making and model making - can work hand in hand to be able to communicate these areas of interest. Recently, he has been exploring the ways in which human societies can build stronger relationships to more-than-human ecologies through practices such as gardening or more broadly, engaging with the worlds of soil and plants.

Quentin took his 1st year MA with ADS9, John Ng, Zsuzsa Peter and James Chung. He studied his undergraduate degree at the Architectural Association (2016 - 2019) where he also completed their Foundation Course (2015/16). Quentin has exhibited his paintings at - 

The Mall Galleries / group / 2015

Messum’s Wiltshire / group / 2017

Green & Stone Gallery / group / 2020

Espacio Gallery / group / 2020

The Next Big Thing / group / 2020

The New English Art Club, The Mall Galleries / group / 2021

Hollis Mead Organic Dairy / group / 2021

The Royal Bath and West Show / group, scholar / 2021

The South West Academy, Kennaway House / group / 2021

Art For Youth UK, The Mall Galleries / group / 2021, 2022

Quentin wearing red sitting on the ground in a field knapping flint

The project explores the relationship between humans and plants and looks to understand this as having always been rooted in ideas of control. Historically, our human relationships to plants have revolved around managing varying degrees of control and order between the gardener and the plant subject. Examples which may express the least amount of control might included the neglected garden or the ancient unmanaged tree, whilst practices such as penjing, bonsai or topiary would be express the greatest degrees of control, with the formal classical gardens of the 16th and 17th century acting on similar levels of influence, just at a larger scale. In the middle, practices of maintaining trees through physical propping methods (which could be considered a form of topiary) or gardening in more naturalistic ways, present themselves as fine balances between human and plant influence. 

Simultaneously, it could be argued that many of these forms of gardening, such as tending vivariums (terrariums, aquariums etc.) - which might still express high levels of management - are a form of covert gardening. One where the human impact on the plant is concealed behind a veil of the plant’s ‘natural’ habits. On the other hand, the overt gardener intentionally expresses their control and impact on the plant subject, topiary for example or tree training. This form of explicit expression may have a recent history of criticism surrounding the topic of human influence on nature, however, I would argue that the closeness and intensity of managing one’s interactions with the plant in such a way actually instills a different sense of knowledge and appreciation for the plant world. By paying very close attention to how a plant, like yew, grows and responds to human impact, high levels of respect and care can be achieved. This is possible beyond the perhaps more removed ways of gardening popular culture often employs today. 

Gardening in this more overt manner not only instils more control and order on the plant, but also sometimes on ourselves, as well as enhancing respect and care for the plant, as topiary maker Darren Lerigo said about how his students feel after they have made their own individual works. They feel that making topiary gives them a greater feeling of control over their potentially disorderly lives. Similarly, the act of maintaining hyper controlled environments such as vivariums, allows others the opportunities to enhance their own management and mental health.

The etymology of the word topiary expands the definition of the word beyond shape making into the realm of place-making, since it is derived from the Greek, topos, meaning 'place'.The project looks to explore these themes and question these relationships, through an analysis and reaction to three very different forms of garden. It uses various methods of 3D scanning to reimagine the garden's representation and treats the scan itself as a form of topiary, through its various manipulations. Overt gardening involves a ping-pong philosophy; a back and forth relationship where one makes one move and the other responds. Thus the relationship between, humans, plants, control and place making is formed.

Diagram plotting a number of examples of gardening methods on a scale of more or less human control.
Degrees of ControlHuman control over the plant world is ever present to some extent, with topiary and bonsai practices exemplifying explicit human control - overt gardening - and perceived notions of wilderness and abandoned gardens lacking human control. The maintenance of ancient trees with physical props, the keeping of house plants or the designing of naturalistic gardens occupy the middle zone - covert gardening.
Practitioners of Gardening ControlFour key players are extracted from the spectrum of control in oder to understand their relationship to gardening as a practice of order and control in very capacities.
Black and white 3D scan image of a living room with plants inside and someone sitting on a sofa
The House Plant and the HomeThe ways in which we choose to live with house plants are clear expressions of covert gardening and are sometimes hyper controlled. We tend to them, watch them, make assessments on their health as though they were out child and yet we choose to conceal this involvement and control and wish for the plant to live as though we're not needed.
Colourful abstract oil painting with images of gardening and plan of South London printed over the top
Practitioners of Gardening ControlExpressions of overt and covert means of gardening. If the covert gardener conceals the visible human impact on the plant, then the overt gardener rejoices in making explicit the effects of human intervention, control and order. My initial research looks into how different gardeners express control in different ways, some more concealed than others. The city can act as a stage for these different forms of gardening to play out through the urban landscape, exposing different aspects of human-plant relations.


Film, 3d scan, painting, drawing, photography
Barney the London Plane Barney is the largest and oldest London Plane tree in London. Found in Barnes, it is an example of how our human influence has led to its prolonged life as a result of the addition of strong chains and steel ties which hold together its four huge trunks. Barney, however, is an exception when it comes to most other London Planes in the city, which are spatially subjected to the control and order from the city streets.
Translations of BarneyUnderstanding Barney as a form of topiary and also a destination, a place to be visited, I tried to develop a closer relationship to the tree. Lidar scanning methods allowed me to gain a different perspective and view of the chains, whilst understanding that the scan is also alive in some way and can be manipulated or gardened to some extent.
Black and white scan image of the tree showing the chains in the apparently hollow trunk
Lidar scan of Barney
Black and white scan image of the tree
Scan image of the tree, cropped so we just see the trunks and chains in plan
Manipulating the scan can be understood as some form of topiary in a way as well.
Scan image of the tree looking from below through the trunk
Photograph of the chains holding Barney together
Map showing the location of the tree in Barnes and how its sole species position stands out from the Plane tree lined streets
Barney in Barnes Barney stands out as its own location or destination as a sole species in Barn Elms, near Barnes Common, in comparison to its 'placeless' identical species lining the nearby streets.


Film, 3D Lidar Scan, Animation

Expressions of Overt Gardening

Overt expressions of control over the plant world has had a tumultuous past and has recently fallen out of popularity in favour of more naturalistic forms of gardening. However, one could argue that through a more direct and physical interaction with the plant world, stronger relationships and respects can be formed between the human and the plant.

These overt expressions manifest themselves in a wide range of forms which could all be considered to be some form of topiary (as far as understanding it as the manipulation of a plant into a desired form).

Spatial and Formal Conditions of TopiaryTopiary and tree training can be used to express formal, spatial and patterned conditions as has been done for centuries. Through lidar scanning, we are able to understand these conditions as a cohesive whole and as isolated fragments of a broader way of working with plants in controlling ways.
Black and white image of 5 different types of topiary, 3D scanned and represented as a ghostly point cloud
Spatial and Formal Conditions of Topiary – The drum, the cone, the tunnel, the parterre, the relief
A selection of drawings and images depicting different methods of controlling plants. Reductive, Maintaining, Training, Additive
Actions of Control
Oak TopiaryTopiary also involves the training of young trees, such as these oak trees which were given to me by the topiarist Darren Lerigo who was a key figure in the project. Working with the shape and natural growth of the tree can help one make decisions as to what to cut or tie or shape. It is as much about working with what the plant is giving one as well.


Film, 3D Scanning, Drawing, Photography

Garden 1 - Instances of Control

This is my back garden. Quite similar to most London back garden typologies, in that it is a bordered enclosure, adjacent to other identically demarcated plots hosting practices of cultivation. The boundary is the first instance of spatial control in gardening. I’ve come to recognise my own relationship to plants in this space are predominantly rooted in productive control. i.e. the physical manipulation of plants for the benefit of produce and aesthetic value. For example I’ve been tying back these invasive Ailanthus trees since they were obscuring light from the beans and other plants in the garden.

The garden boundary is a layered composition of fences, plants and retaining elements. The fruit tree, a productive component of the garden, has historically been trained across similar boundaries in espaliered fashions, like this one. What if we were able to imagine the possibility of a more open garden where the boundary has become dissolved and the elements of productive and spatial control are now re-appropriated as a new composition? New relationships created which are still explicit in their use of controlling elements but more ambiguous in their dictation of how one should use the space. In this sense, the bordered place of control can become more like individual points of control, operating more as a network of dispersed locations. 

Garden 1 - Understanding Control as Spatial Boundary and Productive Control
Bird's eye view of back gardens with fragments of gardens from 3d scan overlapping existing boundary elements and fences


Film, Animation, 3D Scanning

Garden 2 - A Covert Steward

The second garden belongs to my friend Kamal Yusuf, who acts as my example of covert gardening. He uses gardening as a tool of control to add greater stability to his otherwise turbulent lifestyle.

It could be said that Kamal gardens the environment of his vivariums which subsequently controls the plant-life contained within. How would his relationship to plants change if roles were reversed and the plant were released from the boundaries of the glass tank and began to effect the new environment of the bedroom? The bedroom garden would now become the subject of Kamal’s interests, and a more direct relationship to the plant itself would have to occur. A different balance of care and control, curated and wild, would potentially foster less constrained forms of therapy for Kamal. 

Garden 2 - Understanding Control as Environmental Control and as an Act of Covert Gardening
Image of a 3d scan of a bedroom with plants growing everywhere and pink grow lights and irrigation infrastructure installed
Section line drawing of a glass tank containing plants, rocks, crabs and soil, placed upon a chest of drawers
The VivariumThe vivarium in Kamal's garden of interest. It is effectively a hyper-controlled, self-contained environment when by all the changeable conditions are managed by Kamal - pH, temperature, light, humidity, planting, animal life. However, this is an act of covert gardening since Kamal's subject of direct influence is the environment, not the plants themselves.


Film, Animation, 3D Scanning, Drawing

Garden 3 - A Changing Spectacle

The final example is more an approach to gardening, and involves a topiarist called Darren Lerigo. Our conversations, among other things, were centred around the social aspect of making topiary, In that there is a joy in the discussion between the gardener and plant life.

Darren’s topiary is contained within a back garden however, I speculate that by placing a topiary, with all its surreal potential for shape-shifting, in the midst of an urban environment, new ways of reading the city could happen. As eluded to before, topiary has a magnetic effect of bringing people together around one social spectacle. Both the bizarreness of its form and ritualistic maintenance, along with being located in a place perhaps where it shouldn’t be, can potentially have positive consequences on how we chose to read the city and our collective relationship to plants. The spectacle of one public facing topiary, set free from its usual locations in prescribed spaces for flora, could behave as an alternative social epicentre whilst making dramatic spatial interventions. 

Garden 3 - Understanding Control as Formal Adjustment and Social Exchange
Image of 3d scanned urban environment with large topiary banana, carpets and logs on the street. Green dots flying around


Film, Animation, 3D Scanning