Professor Sally Smith Dean of Computing

The vision for The Lions’ Gate Project is to provide a unique and valuable experimental space for staff and students at the Merchiston Campus.

Designing new technology-based interaction approaches to the world around us unlocks the potential for interconnectivity. Technology in cultivation is essential for the future of sustainable development including data related to soil structures and plant development.

The garden is a living, outdoor lab for computing students researching Internet-of-Things, Data Science, Software and Human-Computer Interaction. Our students have been involved in the design and implementation of sensor networks to monitor heat and light; future work is planned for individual and group project students to create experiments and co-create technology-based systems to overcome the challenges of sustainable agriculture.

Kate Murray Procurement Manager

I was fascinated to see and hear about the plans for the development of The Lions’ Gate such as the plans to create a student performance space and a digital bothy – both of which would offer great spaces for students and staff to work and relax. In my role supporting sustainable procurement in the University, I was particularly excited to learn more about the community growing space – in partnership with the campus canteen, fruit and veg would be grown in the allotment to be used in canteen meals. This innovation is part and parcel of sustainable food procurement – a hot topic in University procurement at the moment. One indicator of this is that I was asked to give a presentation on The Lions’ Gate at a recent sustainable procurement forum organised by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges. There was a lot of interest in the project from participants across the Scottish HE and FE sector.

Clement Luciani, Robin Mackenzie Partnership

I think it is an amazing opportunity to bring together people from different disciplines within and out-with the university. It promotes sustainability in line with the university objectives through applied research in a field which seems to me very pertinent with the current ecological crisis.

I really appreciate that the university has been supportive of the project, which I think could be far reaching as it develops, giving a more progressive feel to the university for current and prospective students.

Callum has been very welcoming when I said I wanted to get involved as a volunteer and I look forward to the project expanding so there are more opportunities for me to get involved.

Tam Collier, Grounds Maintenance Supervisor

The Merchiston campus is not one of the universities most colourful campus’, apart from the beautiful tower where John Napier lived.

The Lions’ Gate project aims to change that with edible plants, laying a winding path and seating. This could be a place for students and staff to relax and look at something other than concrete.

To quote our principal, this would enhance “the student experience”.

Richard Thompson (SACI/SoC PhD student)

This is a fantastic project that can only benefit both staff and students at the Merchiston campus. In addition I hope it can provide a blue print for how outdoor spaces are utilised across the university as a whole.

Callum’s project offered me the opportunity to deliver design work to a large audience at Gardening Scotland 2017. It offered invaluable real world experience and I was actually paid for my work! In the current job market this can be an all too rare occurrence and one which is particularly prevalent in the creative industries. This project also allowed me to become published as a co-author as part of the team that submitted to HCI 2017. Working with Callum and David was a fantastic learning experience.

Callum’s commitment to this project, and the opportunity to work with him and Professor Benyon have been hugely inspirational on a personal and professional level.

Dawn Smith, Public Engagement Officer

I am delighted to see that things are progressing with The Lions’ Gate, a testimony to all the hard work put in by Callum and his volunteers. I am very pleased to support The Lions’ Gate project which has a number of possibilities for the university, and specifically for public engagement projects. It is unique in its location in the midst of a university campus in Edinburgh, the potential for its use to bring together different communities both within and beyond higher education and to make a real difference to the lives of those who participate in it. I look forward to working with Callum to develop some exciting new projects with community partners and to have The Lions’ Gate as a central part of the university’s public engagement offering.

Andrew O’Dowd MDES FHEA (Subject Specialist, MA Interaction Design, Lecture in Tangible Interactions Design – SACI)

The Lion’s Gate project stands alone in its progressive intention as well as consideration for the otherwise neglected spaces on Merchiston Campus. The topic of permaculture and technology are extremely current and developing across both computing and the creative industries. With The Lion’s Gate project, the University is in a position to develop a leading research group on this topic in both the UK and internationally.

As seen in this year’s Design Degree Show, the field of Design is only developing connections to the natural world around us and how our practices should be more informed through permaculture theory.

Dr Kirstin James (Programme Lead MSc Occupational Therapy – SHSC)

In support of The Lions’ Gate project I would like to offer a few words.

Having visited the garden and met with Callum on two occasions, I anticipate the garden to be an invaluable resource to the Allied Health Profession-Social Work programme that is currently developing at Edinburgh Napier. Having a physical space to participate in, and gain a true understanding of, the role gardening and community gardens in support of health and well being is a unique feature of the University and a valuable selling point to students. I anticipate it to be very meaningful to positive student experience. The occupational therapy students in particular will be able to make use of the garden as part of their curriculum as they are required to gain knowledge and skill into therapeutic activities.

This is in addition to future opportunities to potentially offer the site as a student led therapeutic activity which would make links with the community and encourage enterprise and positive engagement outside of Edinburgh Napier.

Alistair Lawson, Associate Professor, School of Computing

The Lion’s Gate Gardens project is a fantastic opportunity to develop a novel lab research environment and workplace for environmental and health and wellbeing related research, enterprise and teaching. It has the potential to contribute to many of the Schools/ University Strategy objectives and to the Research Environment.

Personally, as an academic in School of Computing, I am currently using The Lion’s Gate Gardens as a test bed for low cost environmental sensors and data processing. This has facilitated:

• Supporting cross-school collaboration and university-wide research, e.g. exploring collaboration with School of Engineering & the Built Environment on sensor data filtering – which lead to discussion of other potential collaborations and the submission of a joint proposal for PhD funding to The Data Lab related to environmental monitoring.

• The initiation of a research collaboration with University of Glasgow – around using Pi sensors and Pi server stacks for environmental monitoring – with the potential for future publications and joint grant applications with University of Glasgow and their national and international research partners.

• Development of case study material for MSc Data Science (Module SET11121 Data Wrangling) on programming in Python for integration and processing of real world, live sensor data (Supporting Research-Teaching Linkages)

• Development Honours and MSc Dissertation Project Dissertation Topics around low cost environmental sensors, and data integration, processing, machine learning, visualisation etc. (supporting research-teaching linkages)

The following passage was written by Catherine Dignan from the University of the Third Age (U3A) who visited us in autumn 2018:

The Healing Power of Nature: Life today is undoubtedly easier but in some ways it’s not better, just faster. Part of the problem may be a disconnect from nature. Urbanisation and so called ‘digital creep’ means many of us spend a large part of the day indoors staring at a screen which raises our risk of metabolic syndrome, vitamin D deficiency, obesity, depression, loneliness and anxiety, as well as the ill effects of continuous EMF exposure. The risk to health of prolonged sitting has been well documented by research after space travel and is not offset by spending a couple of hours in the gym.

Health boost: The power of nature as a restorative therapy has been applied in many contexts throughout the world: UK post-war city slum clearances to make way for houses with more daylight and gardens; Japanese “forest bathing” and metsänpeitto in Finland have been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and support immune function. Hospital gardens or landscapes with trees, flowers and colourful shrubs have been proven to speed recovery from illness.

Grounding: The human body is an electrical entity and is designed to be in direct contact with the earth. A garden could provide a little space for direct, barefoot contact with earth, grass or sand. Before urbanisation and rubber soled shoes, the human body had access to the earth’s negative charge, providing an endless supply of electrons to balance the activity of free radicals and to reduce chronic inflammation, which is the root of many modern diseases with added benefits of better sleep, reduced stress, pain and blood viscosity.

Plant power: Organically or bio-dynamically grown fruits, vegetables and herbs give direct access to fresher, more nutrient dense foods grown in nourishing soil and without the usual helping of toxic elements from pesticides and spraying. Aromatic plants such as lavender, bergamot or mint both for culinary and garden use open up another whole field of health benefits both for the gardener and the consumer.