What inspired you to become a Landscape Architect?
I was fortunate to live near the harbour in the inner west. From beautiful little creeks, mangroves, tidal areas, the jetties and wharves of the old harbour, to the seemingly endless yachts, ferries and boats, the life of Sydney was ever changing to my little mind.
Most striking of all and in my memory often are the sandstone headlands around Balmain, Hunters Hill and Greenwich - with their striking Angophora Costata (Sydney’s red gum) and banksia heathlands.
I always wondered where creeks flowed from and how these massive trees clung to the sandstone....an interest in geography naturally flowed into design and at 15 I found out there was a course that combined natural systems and design! I was hooked there and then.
There was a sliding doors moment - I studied horticulture before my LA degree at Hawkesbury Agriculture College - and was fascinated by viticulture - if only I had stayed the course?
I stuck with trees and plants and my fascination with pre-existing natural systems became my passion - I still over analyse the landscape as many of my current and former staff know!
What words of advice would you offer people early in their career?
Gut instinct and watching the landscape. Trust one and do the other a lot. Perhaps in reverse order!
The ability to look, watch, walk over, analyse, understand and discuss the landscape of our places is a skill not many people have.
In a world where everything is interconnected, never underestimate the power of deliberative observation. It is what separates us from most professions.
If nothing else, trust your powers of analysis. Develop a way of creating scenarios to play with. And draw by hand on yellow trace. People love that sort of stuff. It is part of being a landscape architect!
Favourite childhood play memory and how old you were at the time of your memory?
Growing up in Sydney, I have to say it is playing on the massive rocket ship that used to reside in Muston Park (the original 'rocket ship park!') in Willoughby.
The steel rocket had a steering wheel at the top accessed by a long ladder - this was the mid 1970's! I was 3 or 4 at the time. It was right next to Scott Creek so i could play astronauts and then be an ecologist.
Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?
I have an unfortunate fascination in vintage cars from the 1970's.
It is unfortunate for my family as I am not the most mechanically minded person.
But the simplicity of old Volkswagens and Audis fascinates me. Every nut and bolt is either 10mm or 12mm. My toolkit is a dual-ended VW branded spanner and a phillips screwdriver.
This 'habit' of mine is a bit recurring and from memory I am on vintage car number 5 - a beautiful, white, 1974 Passat which I bought (as only the second owner!) 5 years ago from an 83 year lady in Hornsby in Sydney.
The Passat was the first ever water-cooled VW, was made in Australia (true!) and it is magnificent in every way. Apart from it is not going currently due to a small engine fire after a spirited drive through the Adelaide Hills on a very warm day a few summers ago.
I am quite good at changing radiators and starter motors having replaced a few in my time.
Are you reading anything or listening to a podcast you would recommend? If so, what’s the title and author?
My other secret passion is politics and following elections.
For this reason I am probably the only South Australian who does not have The Advertiser delivered every Saturday - I am a subscriber to The Saturday Paper - a great read for my political interests especially around elections. I recommend it for their sharp take on quotes from pollies during the previous week.
Again my nerdiness is manifest in reading anything (but mostly his blog) by Antony Green, the ABC's election analyst. He is simply brilliant.