Endorsed by

Ten emerging voices in Australian landscape architecture

Today’s graduates and young practitioners face very different challenges to the generation before them. What contribution will they make over the next fifty years? The following people have been selected because they represent a wide cohort of engaged landscape architects and collaborators facing contemporary issues with eyes wide open.

The past half-century has brought many changes in the way landscape architects practice, how they are educated, and the way their projects are procured. Models can now be made in CAD programs such as Revit as well as out of balsa wood; drawings can be rendered using Photoshop as well as coloured pencils. Landscape architects often deliver projects using design and construct contracts or public/private partnerships, rather than competitive tendering.

Today’s landscape architecture graduates will be coming to the end of their careers by the time we celebrate another fifty years of AILA. What will their working lives look like then? What challenges will they have faced, and what opportunities will have unfolded?

It’s meaningless to discuss these questions without some understanding of the broader context in which current graduates and young practitioners will operate.

The Foundation for Young Australians’ 2016 Report Card identified sobering challenges faced by today’s young people compared with those of earlier generations. Among them:

  • young Australians are paying more than double the cost for higher education than the previous generation;
  • young women may continue to face the same gender wage gap as their predecessors;
  • government spending on younger Australians has declined in the past decade; and
  • Australia-wide, the average home loan is 134 percent of average disposable household income, compared with 32 percent in 1988.1

Climate change will impact Australia’s water security, agriculture, coastal communities and infrastructure,2 and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events is already obvious.

The health of Australians is a developing concern. Obesity, diabetes and similar problems are well documented. Mental health issues can be added. This raises a myriad of other concerns regarding landscape architecture practice.

As one of the world’s most suburbanized countries, Australian cities and towns continue to grow outwards. The resultant problems – social isolation; frustrating transport and infrastructure; difficulty in accessing employment, cultural facilities, parks and shopping; and loss of habitat – will only increase if we continue to follow the present model.

If today’s graduates face a sobering array of new challenges and conditions, there will be a continued need for even more skills, such as broader collaboration and thinking in landscape architectural planning. And like those who precede them, they will share a deep commitment to the planet, to communities and the places we live.

The jury consulted widely, advertising to the entire AILA membership and consulting with the AILA board, state presidents, industry leaders and other colleagues.

Our “Emerging Voices” will be contributing in one of three ways. Firstly, they could be studying, commissioning, enabling, repairing or creating diverse places and spaces. Secondly, they could be influencing and advocating through their speaking, writing or teaching activities. Or thirdly, they could be collaborating intensely with many other disciplines, to achieve these goals. Importantly, they will also build, engage with and serve diverse communities, including the disenfranchised and Indigenous Australians.

Not all of our Emerging Voices are landscape architects. We’ve also included a soil scientist, whose work will increase in relevance as we seek to increase the amount and quality of vegetation in our major cities, as well as the co-founders of an organization that is in close daily contact with parks and streets across Australia, engaging with a disenfranchised part of Australian society – the homeless – who by necessity spend the majority of their time in the public realm.

The jury posed a series of questions to all the nominees, and the reflections on the following pages are drawn from their responses. The jury stresses this is not a “top ten” list. These people are contributing and achieving, but they are not alone. We see them as representatives of a much wider cohort of landscape architects and engaged collaborators who are facing the challenges of the next fifty years with eyes wide open, but with the curiosity and commitment required to ensure we are part of the solution. We wish them well.

Sarah Fayad
Sarah Fayad.

Sarah Fayad.

Sarah Fayad is a passionate graduate landscape architect with strong interests in urban regeneration and industrial ecology. In her final years of study, Sarah was nominated for the Hassell Travelling Scholarship and awarded an AILA Future Leader Award for design innovation in landscape architecture. Sarah currently works at AECOM and tutors in landscape architecture at the University of New South Wales.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Sarah Fayad: The clash between our mega infrastructure, global urbanization and the natural environment is inevitable and has illuminated the growing need to re-mana ge our resources, especially our energy sources within the Australian environment. As climate change and global warming continue to change our ecological patterns and cause disturbances in ecosystems, we are now more pressed than ever to move beyond the fossil fuel era into a “bio era.” This transition will lead to remarkable changes in the landscape, and as landscape architects our role shouldn’t simply be about integrating structures but rather reorganizing them.

As landscape architects we need to rise beyond parochial dialogues and comfort zones to address relevant global issues in energy production, contested resources, water crisis, air pollution, waste and rapid urbanization. I believe there is opportunity for a significant role in advancing sustainable development strategies through our efforts as landscape architects.

What do you need to know, but you don’t know right now?

SF: Industrial designers, architects, engineers and many other creative disciplines have found ways to employ biomimicry concepts into their profession – I’m interested in how landscape architecture can draw more on nature’s time-tested solutions. We need stronger symbiotic relationships between our cities and their surrounding environments.

Brenton Beggs
Benton Beggs.

Benton Beggs.

Brenton Beggs is a senior landscape architect at Hassell’s Melbourne studio. Since joining the practice in 2010, Brenton has worked on projects of varying scale and complexity, from the innovative Medibank Place in Melbourne’s Docklands, to vibrant public installations such as the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Urban Coffee Farm. Brenton has a keen interest in temporary and tactical design interventions in the public realm, particularly due to their utility within the design process. He currently leads design studios at RMIT University on this topic.

What do you need to know, but you don’t know right now?

Brenton Beggs: So many things! Something I’ve been considering a lot recently is the value of our contribution – what is the best way to measure the qualitative impacts of a landscape project or intervention, and understand its success (or otherwise)? How do we effectively track value over the project’s lifetime? And if that can be achieved convincingly, how do we communicate that to the wider audience in an engaging way so that they too can appreciate the value of landscape architecture? These aren’t new questions and there are plenty of practitioners tackling this – so I’m watching with interest, thinking about and testing different approaches on current and future projects.

What is your definition of success? How will you feel you’ve made a contribution?

BB: It sounds corny, but I do think that good design can change the world. I want to contribute to bold projects that generate better spaces for people and the environment. Success for me is the creation or support of places that improve natural, cultural and social systems, and that ultimately spark joy. I feel I’ve made a valuable contribution when that balance is achieved.

Alex Georgouras

Ten emerging voices in Australian landscape architecture

Alex Georgouras is a landscape architect who is interested in how cities can be globally resilient yet intrinsically local. He has worked extensively abroad and gained diverse professional experience on a multitude of project types; from the mega-infrastructure currently dominating the Sydney urban landscape, to disaster recovery initiatives in New Orleans.

Alex is currently an urban designer at Wellington City Council where he is involved in formulating the 100 Resilient Cities strategic document for Wellington – a city located on multiple seismic fault lines.

Who has been a person of influence in shaping your ideas and approach so far?

Alex Georgouras: During a secondment to the USA [while working for Spackman Mossop and Michaels] I was tasked with photographing our team’s existing built work, scattered across the city of New Orleans. To my surprise, this simple task of urban photography has come to shape and influence my approach to design and engagement. One of the smaller projects lay within a very low socio-economic suburb in Mid-City. It was a neighbourhood park funded by a well-known Hollywood actor and the design was aspirational, using artificial mounds to create viewpoints across what is a very flat city. The park itself was poorly maintained and crime was an ongoing problem. While photographing I was startled by a man yelling “Yo, you’re not the designer of this park here are you?” Sensing his distaste I replied “Urgh, no. I am just a contracted photographer.” He approached me and explained that he lived on the park’s edge. He revealed that prior to the mounds, he would be able to see across the park from his home to where his eight-year-old daughter would play. The man explained that although the new play equipment was “a great addition,” the mounds created issues with safety and vigilance.

At first I felt attacked by his comments. Even though I wasn’t the designer of the project, I felt some level of responsibility over the project and its shortcomings. On the drive back I reflected on the value of speaking to end users to understand a project’s real success.

Amy Grey
Amy Grey.

Amy Grey.

Amy Grey is passionate about placemaking and participatory design. She matches her design skills as a landscape architect at Tract Consultants with tactical urbanism and activation interventions. Amy has led workshops in Berlin as part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, presented a popular TEDx talk, and spoken at various arts, landscape architecture, urban design and planning conferences. Amy is founder of Vibrant Places, co-founding member of the U.R{BNE} Collective and co-host of Diner en Blanc, a pop-up restaurant in Brisbane.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Amy Grey: More people live in cities now than ever before. There are great advantages to living in urban areas, but there are many challenges in the urban revolution that we are part of. Our rural areas are in decline, and there is a sense of placelessness and lack of community connection in our urban areas. As landscape architects we should strive to reconnect people with place, and support visions for a sustainable future in both urban and rural communities.

What are you most excited about?

AG: I am very excited about working in a profession that is very close to achieving gender equality. I have been doing some preliminary investigations, and I believe there may be evidence that wages are equal for male and female landscape architects with the same level of experience. If this is correct then we are a unique profession; it’s practically unheard of in many other professions

If true, it provides cause for celebration and something that we could promote to elevate our profession’s public profile. Although it must be said that there are few female landscape architects with twenty-plus-years’ experience. But as part of the next generation of landscape architects, I believe this will change in time.

Vanessa Margetts
Vanessa Margetts.

Vanessa Margetts.

Vanessa Margetts is an AILA-registered landscape architect who completed her education at the University of Western Australia in 2008.

At the beginning of 2014, Vanessa moved to Broome to set up and manage the UDLA Broome office, which has enabled the practice to maintain a strong and continuous connection to the north-west region. In 2017 Vanessa founded her own practice, Mud Map Studio.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Vanessa Margetts: Understanding how to design within a landscape that is so old, so diverse and so culturally rich. This challenge can only be solved by forming meaningful relationships with traditional custodians and working together to share knowledge and develop ideas. As design or planning professionals who make changes to the landscape, we have an obligation to be respectful and listen. This is a positive challenge and can produce exciting spaces and healthy communities.

Who has been a person of influence in shaping your ideas and approach so far?

VM: I have been lucky to have worked with some really strong and passionate Elders who have given me many hours of their time to talk about all sorts of things – what life is like for them today, what it was like growing up, and what it was like hundreds of generations ago. Understanding this cultural context has helped me become a better landscape architect.

One particular Elder I would like to acknowledge is Jakari Togo who passed away last year, he was a friend and mentor. He provided guidance on cultural protocols and helped to shape future work I have done. I will always carry his teachings with me. Sadly he didn’t get to see our project finished but his input and stories are captured and will be available for future generations.

Michael Marriott
Michael Marriott.

Michael Marriott.

Michael Marriott is a graduate of landscape architecture from Queensland University of Technology. He has nearly a decade of experience as a practicing landscape architect and academic researcher and teacher. In 2012 Michael undertook a PhD in landscape architecture and urban design. Michael’s research examined the impacts of regulatory interventions on the use of public space by residents of informal favela settlements in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Michael’s research, completed in 2015, was awarded QUT’s Outstanding Thesis Award. Michael currently works for the Australian Government in Canberra on transport and infrastructure policy.

Name something – a project, a person, a moment – that stands out for you from the past fifty years of landscape architecture in Australia?

Michael Marriott: The Metsi a Sekhala (fast water), Metsi a Phallang Butle (slow water) design research project in Lesotho by Glenn Thomas (then associate professor of landscape architecture at QUT), which was before my time, but nevertheless showed me the potential of using landscape architecture to generate positive social and ecological change where it is needed most. Another would be the SW1 project in South Brisbane, Queensland, by Gamble McKinnon Green, which showed great sensitivity and understanding of higher density, climate-sensitive urbanism, as expressed through the hands of landscape architects. The book Boomtown 2050 by Richard Weller opened my eyes to the reality of the great Australian dream, and the potential for addressing its challenges through a pragmatic, landscape-based approach. Finally I’d like to mention Paddington Reservoir by JMD Design for its sublime beauty.

What do you need to know, but you don’t know right now?

MM: Economics – it overwhelmingly shapes our world at present. If we cannot engage with it as a force for good, any noble intentions we might have will remain futile.

Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi
Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett.

Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett.

Best friends Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett are the 2016 Young Australians of the Year. In 2014, the pair founded Orange Sky Laundry by installing a free mobile laundry in their old van to help the homeless. Since then, the world-first idea has rapidly expanded to ten vans operating in Hobart, Sunshine Coast, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. Run by 600-plus volunteers across the country, the vans service over seventy-one locations and wash more than 6.39 tonnes of laundry per week.

What have you learned or noticed from spending time in parks and public places? What works well? What could we do better?

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett: Orange Sky Laundry (OSL) vans service multiple parks and public spaces all around Australia alongside awesome food, health and outreach workers. We aim to provide an active connection into different service providers through our mobile laundry.

What is your definition of success? How will you feel you’ve made a contribution?

NM + LP: In OSL eyes we talk about success not in kilos of washing or litres of laundry detergent but in the hours of conversation that occurs from people interacting with our service. This is delivering on our mission of providing a platform for conversations, volunteering and opportunities through a free mobile laundry for our homeless friends worldwide.

What are you most excited about?

NM + LP: We are most excited by the prospect of helping more and more people. We have found something that is incredibly scalable, and can help a lot of people with a simple idea. We know the exact formula for this concept and can deliver it in a similar way all across Australia and the world.

Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard
Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard.

Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard.

Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard is a lecturer in the built environment faculty at the University of New South Wales. She is a registered landscape architect and PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia and combines teaching and research with leadership roles within AILA. She is currently a member of the AILA National Council, an AILA company secretary, and former state president of AILA Western Australia.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard: Landscape architects will need to become influential in operating at the scale of the city. That is, they will need to influence and strategize design solutions that reconcile large-scale ecological systems with the demands of the growing metropolis.

Who has been a person of influence in shaping your ideas and approach so far?

SPK: I was lucky to be taught by Richard Weller at the undergraduate level and feel fortunate to now have him as a colleague. His energy and vision is undeniable and his influence in shaping landscape architects in Australia should not be underestimated. I have also had great mentors in Tony Blackwell and Greg Grabasch – their vast knowledge of landscape architecture and professional practice has been critical in helping me gain confidence and develop.

What are you most excited about?

SPK: I’ve recently commenced as a permanent lecturer in landscape at the faculty of built environment at the University of New South Wales. This has meant relocating with my young family to Sydney. I’m loving being in a city that I know very little about and having the opportunity to build some of the fundamental skills of landscape architecture through learning about place and country.

Elke Haege and Simon Leake
Elke Haege.

Elke Haege.

Simon Leake.

Simon Leake.

Elke Haege is a landscape architect and qualified consulting arborist. She is an enthusiastic proponent for the development of, and sustainable connection to, natural systems. Since setting up her own business, Elke has lectured at The University of New South Wales, Ryde TAFE, and co-authored the book Soils for Landscape Development: Selection, Specification and Validation with soil scientist Simon Leake. Elke is a member of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

Simon Leake is a respected soil scientist. Simon established SESL in 1984 and quickly found work providing advice and analysis in the urban amenity horticulture and landscape architecture industries. Simon was a member of the Sydney Olympic Park concept design team and evolved a new approach to the specification of landscape soils, one which was science-based and measurable. He has further developed this approach working on projects such as One Central Park and Barangaroo Reserve.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Elke: To challenge and promote the importance of biodiversity and natural systems through all developments so that those systems are not eaten away or disconnected with each individual development. By biodiversity and natural systems, I mean the functioning and connection of soils, water, air, fauna, flora, fungi, bacteria and their systems such as drainage, decomposition, filtration, bioremediation, seed banking and recycling.

Simon: The ongoing issues of the spread of rampant and poorly designed urbanism where the built environment and the flashy and showy subsumes the natural beauty of the land. In Europe and some areas of Asia, such as Japan, they manage to control this disease and preserve natural contours and beauty amid significant populations.

Name something that stands out for you from the past fifty years of landscape architecture in Australia?

Elke: Early in my career I was involved in the conservation management plan for Royal National Park when working at Context. The stand out experience was exploring the Audley Weir precinct with Craig Burton who imparted his extensive knowledge on the history and culture of Royal National Park.

Simon: It was when I drew a soil catena (a section through a hill showing how the soils change) at a meeting of the Millennium Parklands concept design team headed by Tony McCormick and Peter Walker, and presented a table of how the vegetation changes with the soil. I spotted Tony and his head designer drawing a section paralleling this and that became the central theme for the Woo-La-Ra reconstruction. It was the first time to my knowledge that edaphic considerations were taken so seriously into the essence of design.

Mark Tyrrell

Mark Tyrrell is founder and director of TyrrellStudio, a multidisciplinary firm located in Sydney. Mark holds a master of architecture, master of urban design and bachelor of landscape architecture. TyrrellStudio has won a number of design competitions including Street 14 (2014), Melbourne; Parramatta River Ideas on Edge (2011), Sydney; The University of Canberra Campus Design Competition (2010); and Unlandscaped (2009). In 2016, TyrrellStudio was appointed to progress the Sydney Green Grid project for the Office of the NSW Government Architect, Greater Sydney Commission and NSW Planning.

Mark Tyrell.

Mark Tyrell.

Over the course of your career, what is one issue that you feel the profession will have an important role in challenging?

Mark Tyrrell: As cities densify, public space is under threat. The best way to have a meaningful impact in the design of our future urban condition is to have a comprehensive understanding of development economics, urban form and architecture. This multi-layered appreciation will allow us to frame the argument for landscape in the city through the multiple lenses of city making. I see our studio as being a hybrid practice that works across disciplines, but our aim is to build the city rather than design big buildings. I see urban landscape design as a synthetic layering of urban conditions inclusive of built form but believe its potential is largely unrealized at present.

What are you most excited about?

MT: I feel that we are on the cusp of a defining decade of Australian urbanism right now. Sydney is at bursting point and issues such as housing affordability and access to the city are no longer peripheral to daily life.


About the jury

Amalie Wright is the director of Landscapology, a Brisbane-based design consultancy. In addition to her practice, she tutors in landscape and architecture at the Queensland University of Technology. She is the author of Future Park: Imagining Tomorrow’s Urban Parks.

Bruce Mackenzie is known for his contribution to the emergence of the indigenous landscape design movement in Australia. This concern for the true nature of Australia and its special qualities underlines a design ethos that he promotes and respects.

Bronwyn Lee is the director of external relations at the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), an organization that backs the next generation of young people to create a better future. She is currently a board member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

1. Foundation for Young Australians, Renewing Australia’s Promise: Report Card 2016 , fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/RenewingAusPromise_ReportCard_finalwebappend.pdf (accessed 2 September 2016)

2. Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy, “Climate change impacts in Australia,” environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science/impacts (accessed 2 September 2016)



Published online: 3 Apr 2017
Words: Amalie Wright


Landscape Architecture Australia, November 2016

More practice

See all
Traditional Darug custodians lead the Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony to launch Ngara – Ngurangwa Byallara (Listen, hear, think – The Place Speaks, 2018), Oakhurst New South Wales, co-commissioned by Blacktown Arts on behalf of Blacktown City Council and C3West on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Representation, remembrance and the memorial

The RR.Memorial Forum held in June 2018 explored the future of memorials in Australia to the Frontier Wars. The forum included a series of Indigenous-led …

The sparsely occupied main plaza, except for a group of children on a school outing and some tourists taking photographs. Apple controversy masks the real failures of Federation Square

Jonathan Daly argues that the recent brouhaha over the failed proposal for a Foster and Partners-designed Apple Store at Melbourne’s Federation Square has masked a …

Share bikes are just the start of the many competing claims on kerb space. Competition for the kerb is rising – and cities are going to have to manage it

In light of the emergence of new users and new forms of mobility, cities will need to think strategically about how to manage their limited …

At the foothills of the mountains of Hokkaido, Tokachi Millennium Forest aims to coax the public out into the landscape. Evoking the natural: Dan Pearson

The landscapes of British garden designer Dan Pearson celebrate a sublime yet quiet nature in an increasingly urban world. Howard Tanner visited Pearson’s London studio …

Most read