Darren Atkinson URBIS
1. When / how did you first discover Landscape Architecture, what attracted you to it, and how did you pursue it as a career?
As a country kid in Year 10 at High School, I was prompted to consider what I’d like to do for a week of work experience. I was given a careers book by our careers teacher and over many evenings started eliminating all the professions I knew I didn’t want to do. Through the process of elimination I eventually discovered landscape architecture, it was the perfect balance between office work and having the opportunity to spend time and be paid on site. I also enjoyed graphics, geography and biology at school, which aligned well with the profession of landscape architecture.
Landscape Architecture wasn’t recognised as a profession by many country people and there weren’t any regional opportunities for work experience at that point in time. I was one of a handful of students who travelled to Melbourne to work in their preferred profession. One week with Gerner Sanderson Faggeter and Cheeseman, Architects and Landscape Architects in Hawthorn and I was sold, I knew this was the profession and career for me.
The following year I followed up with a 2-week period of work experience and after successfully completing my HSC, I applied to study landscape architecture at RMIT. I was accepted and in my 4th year started as a student landscape architect at the company where I had been placed for work experience. I have now have been working in the industry for over 25 years.
2. How does URBIS contribute to fostering the next generation of Landscape Architects (intern programs, educational seminars etc.), and what has been the greatest achievement of these initiatives?
Urbis is proud to provide a ‘Student Program’. Our program consists of up to 15 opportunities to gain experience in a range of property consulting disciplines and a broad exposure to our business and related industries. We currently have 2 landscape architecture students in our Melbourne office and many more throughout our Sydney, Brisbane and Perth offices.
More importantly Urbis values its people, as it is their skills and talents that ultimately define our reputation. We will enhance the specialist and collaborative capabilities of our people in a high performance environment characterised by continuous learning and development. This is a formal program and offers all employees a program for continued professional development.
3. What would your advice be to other practices in the industry that are considering engaging work experience students or interns?
Just do it. They are a valuable part of any business and are acknowledged as the next generation of highly skilled, committed professionals who will complement the broader team. Not all candidates work out due to a lack of commitment and / or skills, but in most part they turn out to be inspiring young individuals who progress into full time roles.
Sometimes folios don’t represent their experience or capabilities so a probationary period is mandatory.
4. What would your advice be to Landscape Architecture student’s seeking/completing work experience?
If you don’t get into a practice immediately, try getting experience in an allied area such as a nursery, associated products or landscape contracting. Volunteer work with environmental organisations also can add substance to curriculum vitae. I’ve witnessed many students volunteer to assist AILA during the Awards program and other events, and this is a good opportunity to network and secure employment opportunities.
5. Any other thoughts you’d like to share on investing in the future of the Landscape Architecture profession?
Landscape Architecture as a profession needs to strengthen its position in a multidisciplinary, sub consultant environment. Landscape architects have the capacity to lead complex projects, providing coordination and bringing together the ideas of landscape, planning, architecture and engineering. I suggest we challenge ourselves as a profession, maintain a level of confidence and charge hourly rates and fees comparable to these allied disciplines.