In The Spotlight - Shaun Walsh

What does becoming an AILA Fellow mean to you?

Recognition from professional peers is the highest form of accolade that my contribution to the profession and our landscapes has been worth it.

What are your proudest achievements as a Landscape Architect?

I am actually a rare landscape architect who is also a compulsive gardener. I have been working on my acreage garden for some 18 years now – it’s still a work in progress, the garden has become richer due to intellectual thought processes I have applied as a landscape architect in terms of designing with found objects, creating an identifiable sense of place and a contemporary manipulation of native plants.

Professionally I was involved as a town planner and landscape architect in the Cooroy Lower Mill Site (Noosa Hinterland) over 25 years and have seen plans enacted and populated, so a polluted industrial wasteland is now a thriving community and open space hub with award winning design.

I love going to Surfers Paradise Foreshore which I executed under strategic direction of Andrew Comer, and detailed design of Richard Mason at Place Design Group. The way that the public interact with the beach at street nodes of triangulation of facilities and beach outlook points, and the way the landscape deals with massive environmental and crowd issues is accomplished design that is getting better as it ages. I love people watching there and the way all Australian cultures and tourists mix in harmony in this space – navigating their own idea of beach culture.

A current professional challenge is bringing the exceptional landscape architecture of Roma Street Parkland to the fore of public appreciation and value – it is one of the 2 best contemporary showcase gardens in Australia, and the landscape architecture as designed is intact and authentic, I didn’t design the park – but very appreciative of the opportunity to manage it and promote it in my current role. It’s a great privilege to manage South Bank Parklands as well. I never thought that when I was kicked out of a fountain by security on the EXPO 88 closing day in a happy inebriated state that I would end up managing the space!

What inspired you to become a Landscape Architect

I was working as a Town Planner at Nambour in the mid-1990s and looked over the work partition and saw what Landscape Architects were up to and I thought I want to do that, so I went back to University as a mature age student. Two landscape architects I came across in that era were Tamsin Scott and Sarah Chalkley and they were fundamental in my decision to mirror their professionalism and intellectual approach to landscape

What issues do you think are important for Landscape Architects to be addressing in Australia?

I am really interested in equity in the terms of the following:

-Reconciliation. As stewards of landscape we should be at the forefront of indigenous culture. I can’t see how we can meaningfully move forward as a profession unless we act on this

-Gender: proudly our profession has equal male and female representation, but salaries are inequitable

-Access to quality open space – as our cities are becoming urbanised are we planning for quality open space experiences for our residents, and are we putting enough effort into preservation of remaining regional natural areas? This issue is at the core of human health

What words of advice would you offer people early in their career?

Ask lot of questions and have an enquiring mind. If you don’t understand, politely say so. Don’t make up answers if you don’t know but go and find out. Listen, really listen – often the people with the best ideas are the quietest, and often they are clients.