Soo Ching Ngu is a UWA Landscape Architecture student who recently completed an exchange semester at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China.  Here, we chat to Soo Ching about her experience as a design student studying abroad, and she gives us some tips on life in her host city.

Could you describe an average day as a Landscape Architecture student in Hangzhou?

I knew I was only going to stay in Hangzhou for a semester,so I tried to do as many things while I was there, like travelling around, eating delicious food and meeting new friends. So I don’t really have an average day because I was always doing different things.

The only repetition that I can recall in my daily life in Hangzhou is that I usually had my meals at school canteen. Their canteen is amazing! There’s a huge varieties of food and you’re able to have different food every meal for weeks.  This only costs around $1.7 a meal, which saved me a lot to go and travel in the holidays.

Also, when university work started to get busy, my studio mates and I would stay in studio all day. Something interesting to mention about studio at Zhejiang University is that every design student owns a table and cupboard in the room, and they use the same room throughout the course. So they are allowed to store food and past assignments in their cupboards, install desktop computers, decorate their table and they even have a sofa and small bed in studio room, which is the best part of it.




What were the main differences about studying design in China as opposed to studying design in Australia?

Zhejiang University focuses more on the practicality of the design and UWA focuses more on abstract thinking. The assignments I did in China were mostly about solving the existing design problems of the site.  At UWA the assignments I got were more about creating new spaces. To think about it, this is due to the different landscapes, histories and human activities in these two countries.

Also, China has their own way of thinking about designing landscapes, which has been influenced by the logics in Chinese classical gardens. They value the implication of Chinese poems, idioms and some cultural beliefs in their design.

As for the logics of Chinese classical gardens, I strongly recommend people who are interested to read Yuanye by Jicheng (园冶-计成). It explains how and why the logics were formed, which helped me a lot with my design.


Could you tell us about the main design project you completed whilst at Zhejiang University?

The main project was a problem solving task, and we were able to choose our own site. My group chose Quanyeli at Hangzhou (劝业里,杭州). It is a Linong (里弄) style housing sector located at next to the famous Westlake scenic area, surrounded by the city.

However great this spot is to live in, this Linong residential area didn’t invest in private washrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. Due to the lack of facilities and very small living spaces, a lot of young people moved out and this formed an imbalanced population demography. Our main design intent was to create more space and to fulfil the need for facilities while retaining the iconic Hangzhou Linong housing pattern.

What were some new influences or precedents that you came across after study in China?

While doing research on the mentioned design works above, I studied how  history and culture has influenced the formation of space, also how landscape architectural design need to anticipate the future, or in another way how design determines the future of that particular place.

What were the biggest challenges and the biggest positives about taking part in exchange?

The biggest challenge was when enrolling into the university when I just arrived. It was very confusing but luckily there were friends who helped me through.

The biggest positive is to have met so many kind people in China, like a man who ran for a bus for me when I was late, a stranger who paid for my lunch when I didn’t have enough money, and many more. It is this kind of bond between people that I appreciated the most while living in China.



What was your favourite landscape in China, or that you came across on your travels?

Maojiabu, Hangzhou (茅家埠, 杭州). It’s a quiet and calming place.

If we had one day to spend in Hangzhou, how would you recommend we spend it?

One day is not enough to experience all of Hangzhou! But if you only have one day, choose to go during autumn, and avoid summer and winter. I would recommend waking up very early and climb Laohe Mountain (老和山) to see the sunrise, and look at the elder people doing Qigong and Taichi in the mountain. Then take the path that goes down to Hangzhou Botanical Garden. After breakfast, rent a bike and cycle pass Yanggongdi (杨公堤), to Maojiabu (茅家埠), then Longjincun (龙井村), Lingyin Temple scenic area (灵隐寺), then cycle to the city and park somewhere in it. It will be probably 3.30pm by then, you can head to Westlake to look at the sunset, and walk along Sudi (苏堤). Westlake looks very different at night but if you are hungry already, you may go to the city and have dinner. Then go visit Hefangjie (河坊街), shop around Qingchun Road (庆春路). At late night, you can go visit G+ to look at what a Chinese bar is like.


Architecture It grows

This semester at the Curtin University architecture faculty, masters students have been busy designing… a landscape! Our fellow landscape architecture graduate and committee member Pip Munckton tells us more.

Architecture It Grows is a design and methods architecture masters studio that has encouraged students to produce design interventions that extend far beyond just the footprint of a building or structure, but also consider the creative design of open outdoor space, planting palettes and even green corridors.

The project is a partnership between the North Perth Community Garden Committee and the Curtin University design studio to investigate opportunities for an abandoned block of public land adjacent to the existing and thriving community garden and Vincent Men’s shed.

The design of this micro public open space is charged with the possibilities that Architect Junya Ishigami presents through his own works

The scales of space engendered by the natural environment. The liberating feeling of a landscape extending seemingly forever, the vastness of the sky, the lightness of a cloud, the fineness of raindrops. Each has a scale never realizable in architecture until now.

Ishigami, J. Another Scale of Architecture. Kyoto: Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc, 2013.

Architecture It grows 4

The design investigation for this public open space started with rigorous analysis of the (sub)urban fabric at a variety of scales. With an understanding of the surrounding North Perth landscape, students were then able to make informed decisions on how their interventions may appropriately enhance and contribute to the community. It was here where students identified the need for green corridors, strengthened pedestrian connections and increased permeability through the site. At the lot scale, the students were then challenged to consider the extended realm when questioning how the landscape can provide an enhanced experience for the visitors to the space.

As part of a collaboration with the Centre for Sport and Recreation Research, students were also asked to consider how the design could invite community members into increased physical activity. Students explored how the ideas of active bodies, active gardens and active communities could initiate a beneficial elongated involvement within the space.

Students took their designs from concept formulation, to design development, right through to submitting a building license, documentation set and costing for the landscape and shelter.

Architecture It grows 5

Students were supported in their inquiry by an interdisciplinary group from both industry and academia including: community groups, local government, landscape architects, quantity surveyors, researchers from the Centre for Sport and Recreation Research, and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

The students will present their projects on Friday 26th June at the Brickworks Design Studio. Three winners will be selected by the North Perth Community Garden Committee to be presented to the City of Vincent Council for consideration for the space. Awards will also be given by Brickworks for the most innovative use of a Brickworks product, by Fini Sustainability for best costing, and the Centre of Sport and Recreation research for most refined design for active bodies, active gardens & active communities.

Keep an eye out on the wAILA fresh social media as we will be keeping you up to date with the winning designs next week. If you would like any further information on this project, please get in touch with Pip at


For the next in our Spotlight series, we talk to Henry Robinson, a University of Western Australia Landscape Architecture graduate who is now living in Melbourne and working as a Project Manager at Arup.

Henry has had quite the journey in the years since graduating from landscape architecture, having worked overseas and interstate before making the move to project management.

Here, we chat to Henry about how he got to where he is now, the relationship between landscape architecture and project management, as well as asking about any tips he may have picked up for us along the way.

What’s your current position and how did you get to where you are now?

Since finishing uni I have been really lucky to have had a great range of experiences. I’m currently working in Melbourne as a Project Manager with the engineering consultancy firm Arup.

I graduated from UWA in 2009 and was offered the Jeppe Aagaard Andersen and Oculus Awards for Landscape Architecture. The Jeppe Aagaard Anderson Award gave me an amazing opportunity to live and work in Denmark in 2010. This was huge for my career and winning a Danish AFL premiership with the North Copenhagen Barracudas was certainly a highlight.

After my time in Copenhagen I moved to Melbourne working with Oculus for two and a half years. The office was right in the centre of Melbourne with a great bunch of employees and I was given lots of design and project opportunity.


What prompted you to make the change to project management, and what parallels do you see between the two industries?

After my undergrad I always wanted to further my study. I thought about registering or doing a Masters in Landscape Architecture, but instead opted to broaden my skill base through a 2 year Master of Project Management at RMIT.

Whilst at uni the second time round I eventually picked up some Assistant Project Management work within RMIT, and on the completion of my studies I was offered a place with Arup. Arup is an independent multidisciplinary firm with a focus on sustainability and ‘total architecture’, which is basically the notion that it’s best to integrate all disciplines within a project.  This really outlines the complimentary nature of project management and landscape architecture.

Where was your work experience placement during your degree? What did you gain from it?

In fourth year uni I worked at the City of Perth and prior to that as a farm, construction, and landscape labourer. All were very useful.

I loved my time at the City of Perth and was exposed to a range of professionals from tradies to engineers, arboriculturalists to accountants, highlighting to me the complexity of our industry. I realised the importance of cross-disciplinary relationships and how each discipline has a very specific and important role. Improving the human experience was a key philosophy at the City of Perth. I still really value this approach – the importance of always maximising the utility of space.

Can you tell us about some projects that you’ve worked on?

At Arup I’m working on a range of projects including some related to schools and education facilities throughout Victoria.

At RMIT I was assisting on a software project, which aimed to more efficiently manage Work Integrated Learning.  RMIT requires all students to have work place experience. Luckily for me, this role didn’t require my average techno skills but instead the people and management skills I had picked up as a landscape architect. Our skills are applicable in a wide range of industries.

At Oculus I worked on a heap of fun projects with GTV9 perhaps being the most memorable. The project involved the redevelopment of the old Channel 9 studios, where Australian TV gold such as The Footy Show and Hey Hey Its Saturday were once filmed, into a funky high density residential precinct. Oculus were involved right from the start and with the guidance of Mark Jacques I was given a heap of design and management opportunity. Seeing this project finished was amazing and also a bit surreal.  After working on it for 2.5 years it was no longer a mash of coloured CAD lines in my head and was actually a real thing!

20151305 GTV9 Heritage Courtyard

Which issues do you feel are most important for landscape architects to be addressing in Perth and more broadly, in Australia?

I love public spaces and I think they are a huge part of what makes a city cool. Our cousins, the architects, can often be very focused on the object, whereas landscape architecture focuses more on the context. In a sprawling city such as Perth this is critical.

Great landscape architecture understands that public space doesn’t always need to be grand or ornate to be successful. The way we integrate our projects into urban or natural landscapes is extremely important.

Whether on a larger scale, developing wetlands to output clean and treated water back into the Swan, or on a smaller scale revitalising the alleyways of the CBD to increase the flow and complexity of the city, any landscape architecture project should always aim to contribute to the larger context.

Which resources, whether they be books or websites, do you most often refer to?

These days I spend a fair bit of time reading the PMBOK (Project Management body of Knowledge), the BCA or various construction manuals trying to get my head around all things technical.

I love the living aspect of our industry so a copy of Fleming’s Urban Tree Guide, or any botanical books for that matter, are never far. A Sense of Place by George Seddon is a great read for any young WA landscape architects and like many, I often use the Landscape + Urbanism blog if I need some lairy images to help me get a bit creative.

I love the work of Ian Weir and Nathan McQuoid as they have both focused a lot on the Great Southern, my home, and the immense biodiversity in the region. I have always loved the work of Richard Weller and find his use of data to inform design inspiring.

Often I will send an email to or call or text some of my uni or work friends for ideas and always find their combined knowledge and advice incredibly useful.

With uni Friends in NZ

Which designers, local or international, do you find most inspiring?

My uni friends are a very talented bunch, each with their own styles now working in many different areas and are a huge inspiration. I was lucky enough to have Richard Weller as an Honours supervisor and his depth of knowledge related to landscape architecture and the world in general is phenomenal.

In terms of work experience, Jeppe Aagaard Andersen in Denmark was an amazing first boss, he is very free thinking, well versed in the literature, and really straddles the line between artist and architect.

Mark Jacques at Oculus is an amazing designer, with a natural skill for being able to make things work; he’s also an all-round great bloke.  Mark’s designs are multi-dimensional and encourage people to touch and be a part of the space as opposed to just look and admire. My parents have designed and built a few homes over the years too and without any technical training it’s pretty wild to see what they can achieve with a simple set of pencil drawings.

GTV9 Model

What’s your favourite Australian landscape?

Being from Albany in WA, I’d have to say any of the long coastal walks are right up there, often they are simply just a crushed limestone path following an old fisherman’s track and the landscape speaks for itself. In terms of more humanised landscapes I love the vistas and the amenity of Kings Park and how it provides a rare chunk of the wild so close to the city. I also love the work that has been done by the City of Perth in breathing new life into the underutilised laneways within the CBD.

What’s on your desk?

I’m a pretty big fan of a simple tidy desk so it’s easy to roll out drawings when I need to. I love the black leather Rhodia notebooks so there are a few of those around and I am a big fan of any kind of map/aerial photograph with many pinned to the wall. I have a folder filled with useful sections of the BCA on my shelf and my desktop picture is one I took of a pink snapper up in Shark Bay earlier this year. I have a couple of succulents in water which are near on impossible to kill and considering a few of my friends have taken to calling me “Snax”, predictably there is a tasty little plethora of treats on it as well.

If you could go back and give your first year self-advice, what would it be?

I loved my time at uni and wouldn’t change much, but I think an exchange would have been fun and I probably spent too much time in the computer labs around folio week! A few fellow students went and did a semester or two in the States and Europe, and it was evident from the quality of their work on return that being abroad rapidly grows skill sets and understandings and also sounded like a heap of fun!

In terms of my approach to uni life itself, I would perhaps just manage my time a bit better and reassure myself that the end of semester doesn’t always have to be a mad rush. I think in our industry the notion of a mad chaotic sleep deprived folio week bender is often accepted as the norm, I’m not convinced this should be the case. Efficiency should be encouraged as it’s a great skill to bring with you into the work force and if students want to avoid the rush I’m sure studio coordinators can help improve the project management of studio activities. Working strategically and intelligently over semester is not only healthier but also more conducive to great work.

Also, now I think about it, at Oculus we used to make a lot of handmade models. I was constantly amazed at how descriptive and beautiful they could be, and I definitely could have used these more in my studios.

GTV9 Concept

For you, how did your experience working in the profession differ from the university experience?

I’m sure I’m not covering anything revolutionary here, but the workplace and uni are totally different. The work place is all very real, with less enjoyable ‘reals’ such as strict deadlines, greater consequences and long days. These are certainly outweighed by amazing ‘reals’ like seeing a project built, sourcing real and individual established trees and getting paid.

At uni, there is far more potential for creativity and less focus on feasibility, which is arguably more fun, and with the ability to work at your own pace there’s only yourself to answer to – this can be good and bad.

There is a lot of time for socialising at uni and I think having fun and making friends is a really important part of the experience. With a cohort stretching across the years and the programs of ALVA, the students and teachers I met through UWA have been a huge part of my life both professionally and personally.

Tianjin Waterfront

Image credits: Henry Robinson (Images 1), Jeppe Aagaard Andersen (Image 2), Oculus (Images 3 – 7)

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We last caught up with our mate Liam Mouritz when he was a recent graduate of  the University of Western Australia, working at local firm Ecoscape. Liam has now crossed the seas and is living in London, studying a Master of  Landscape Urbanism at one of the most prestigious design schools in the world, the Architectural Association School of Architecture (the AA).   Here, Liam guest blogs for us, telling us about life at the AA and the project that he’s currently focusing on as a student there.

For the last 6 months I’ve been studying in London at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture in the Landscape Urbanism graduate program. It has been an incredible and very challenging experience so far, pushing me to my limits. I have begun to expand upon my foundational interests in landscape architecture, that of horticulture, construction and design to other fields. These new interests which are guiding my projects at the AA include geopolitics, geomorphology, critical geography and computational design tools.

Life at the AA is very busy, we are in studio every day and see our tutors 4 to 6 times a week, and most days there is a public lecture on in the evening. Last week we were lucky enough to get lectures from starchitects Bjarke Ingels and Rem Koolhaas, although getting a place in the lecture hall to listen in is always difficult amongst all the other architecture nerds which the AA cultivates on mass.

The Landscape Urbanism program attempts to challenge the idea of a project coming from a problem / solution mentality that may occur when given a brief set by a client. Instead, our projects start at first with an interest in a particular landform process and then evolve from there. In my groups case (by the way – all our work is done in groups) we are interested in the littoral zone, the blurred condition between the land and the sea.

We have researched how waves move sediment along the coast forming the dynamic coastal edge known as the littoral zone. One of the main focus of our program is to learn how to script these processes so as to potentially intervene within it. Each group must find a way to script their landform, be it waves, wind, river, or whatever you are interested in. My group managed to hunt down some scientists in the UK to teach us how to use the Coastal Evolution Model. This is basically 1500 lines of code written in C which scripts the process by which sediment moves along the coastline. You can change the wave parameters, input a real coastline and add in interventions and additional sediment to potentially grow an unlimited number of artificial coastlines using only the power of waves and your imagination.

The code looks like this:


It outputs a set of numbers files like this (very matrix style):


Which can then be transformed using more scripting in to images like this:

CEM_plot_H38 CEM_plot_H23 CEM_plot_H12 CEM_plot_H0

And then made in to rhino models:


This simulation is potentially a very powerful design tool because you can begin to create very particular coastline formations by intervening within the system with certain walls or structures.

From this research we have begun to build our project around sediment moving in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with this interest in the geomorphology of coastal landscapes, we are also interested in the way humans might occupy them.

We have also researched the anthropogenic movement of sediment on a planetary scale through activities such as dredging, beach nourishment, sand mining and illegal sand trade and how this can potentially provide the grounds for doing a design project. In altering the sediment transport processes that influence the geomorphology of the earth, humans have become active geomorphic agents, moving the planet in to a new geological era known as the “Anthropocene”, in which human influences characterize a distinct layer of the geologic record.

The announcement in December 2014 by the Egyptian President to expand the Suez Canal may provide a trigger for the dispersal of sediment locally and throughout the Mediterranean region. The increase in trade provided by the Suez Canal will potentially trigger larger boats docking at Mediterranean ports, resulting in further harbor deepening projects. We consider the excess sediment provided by this dredging process could be used to fabricate novel coastal landscapes, using the process of longshore drift as a tool to shape this sediment redistribution.

Focusing on the erosive littoral zone of Lake Manzala situated between the mouths of the Nile and the Suez Canal, we have begun to envision scenarios of planned sediment redistribution in which land expansion begins to reconfigure new territory.

01 Atlas

We are now developing a series of drawings which both attempt to describe this geomorphological and social process in detail, and begin to provide the stimulates for our project, which is now exploring how you might redistribute sediment from the inside of the lake the coastal area to develop a new coastal spit, in which integrated salt water aquaculture practices could be developed.

06 Tectonic Intersection

03 Geomorphology

This research project begins to challenge our dichotomous relationship with the ocean in the hope of finding something new. Land is typically represented as a complete figure situated within a void. What is the void? Why the focus on the dry? What is the relationship and boundary between the two situations, given that they are both dynamic and evolving?

04 Social Formation

From here we continue to refine our simulation to better manipulate and control this sediment redistribution to allow us to grow completely new artificial landforms. And finally, we are constantly dwelling upon potential conflicts opened up by our proposal. Conflicts around land ownership and land rights. For example, who has the right to take sediment and put it somewhere else? Also, who has the right to make use of the new land being reclaimed from the sea? These are tricky questions which will probably remain unsolved, but at the very least our project simply draws attention to this ongoing process of sediment moving from place to another, forming new land. A realization of this planetary scale process begins to reveal the liquid capacity of both land and water, and reinforces the lack of divide between the two.

05 Cartogenesis

Image credits: AA Landscape Urbanism (Image 1), Liam Mouritz (all other images).



This year has been a big one so far for our fellow graduate Christie Stewart.  Christie, who is currently working as a landscape architect at Fremantle and Broome based design studio UDLA, graduated from the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at UWA at the end of last year. Since then, Christie’s Honours project, which focused on broadacre agriculture in WA’s Wheatbelt, has been attracting quite a bit of attention. The project has been awarded the annual HASSELL travelling scholarship, as well as being featured in Landscape Architecture Australia magazine as their WA Student Prize winner.  Here, we chat to Christie to find out more about her Honours project, what she learned throughout the process, and what she’s up to now. You can check out Christie’s project, along with the other nominated projects, here.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now? How and when did you come to the realisation that you wanted to be a landscape architect? 

I completed my Honours in Landscape Architecture in Semester 2, 2014 at the University of Western Australia. Growing up on the farm I had always enjoyed growing things and building things with my hands, and had an endless fascination with the world around me, along with an acute sense of observation.

A year spent in Denmark on rotary youth exchange fuelled my love of Scandinavian design, where upon I returned to WA to qualify as a furniture maker through the Australian School of Fine Wood. With a thirst for knowledge not quite sated, I undertook an aptitude and intelligence test through a careers adviser. Landscape architecture came out as the number one career choice for me, being the most rewarding and challenging path for utilizing my creative and mechanical skills with my love of the outdoors.

wheat paddock during harvest

Can you describe the brief for this project and your response to it?

The brief was a response to the environmental degradation experienced in broadscale agriculture in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt. Ameliorating Agriculture: Cultivating Biodiversity focused on increasing agricultural yields whilst improving the health and resilience of the land, both agricultural and ecological, to ensure long term farming viability. Utilizing graphic information systems (GIS) and an iterative design process, the project tests wether emerging precision agriculture, including water use efficiency, yield mapping and controlled traffic farming, can be integrated with environmental and ecological system design. The aim is to ensure long term farming viability by establishing a regenerative synergy between agricultural and ecological landscape, understanding that for farmers the health of the land is both their livelihood and identity.

What inspired you to approach this topic?

I grew up on a broadacre wheat farm in the central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. This experience, having shaped my identity, prompted research into connection to place, spirituality and what it means to belong as part of a place.  This project became about the two sides of home: ‘the hills’, and ‘the farm’. The hills are the biodiverse, geologically ancient, powerfully seductive formation of rock and bush that draw your consciousness down into deep time.

The farm is broadacre agriculture, 5300 hectares of wheat, lupins, barley, canola and chickpeas, and was both our everyday life and our livelihood. After a long battle with drought, we were forced into making the heartbreaking decision of selling the farm in 2013. After the distance of both time and space to reflect on our situation, I wanted to explore the problems faced by all farming families in the broadscale agricultural industry, and synthesize a range of creative solutions for tackling these problems.

processing concept sketches

What were your biggest challenges throughout the design process?

Time! The project I had visualized at the beginning of the process was more intricate and covered a broader expanse of content, in terms of both scale and detail. I quickly realised I had to pare it back to turn it into a 12 week Honours project, so I honed in on the current agricultural practises. With such a personal project it was a challenge to stay objective about both the process and the possible outcomes. I was using my intimate knowledge of the site as a farmer to explore creative possibilities from the perspective of a designer, which lent a richness to the work that I hadn’t envisaged. The generation of the detailed mapping required for site analysis at the farm scale was time consuming but very rewarding.

salinity analysis

ag soil and controlled traffic  mapping

While working on this project, which resources, whether they be books or websites, did you find most valuable? Were any precedents or theorists especially influential?

Precision agriculture, and in particular controlled traffic farming is still new technology in the broadacre agricultural sector, and as such there are few precedents of controlled traffic farming itself, and none using controlled traffic as a tool for integrating natural and agricultural systems. As a result I was researching biodiversity and regenerative ecosystems separately to agricultural practices and technology.

I found the CSIRO Publishing books fantastic, having purchased many of them through the CSIRO website, as well as the Science Library and Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts Library resources at UWA.

What’s your favourite WA landscape?

In terms of a natural landscape I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, although a certain pile of rocks in the central Wheatbelt would be right up there! The forest at Walpole also speaks to me in a similar way. The Quarry Amphitheatre remains my favourite built landscape.

farm wildflowers

Who and what do you find inspiring?

I find inspiration in many places, although after I’ve made it through each semester I seem to gravitate back to one particular book of writing; Tim Winton’s memoir ‘Land’s Edge’. I listen to the audiobook, and I feel that it brings my mind back to basics, into alignment. Tim’s reminiscences make me question what it is that I hold dear, what thoughts and experiences define me, and seem to kick start my mind back into creative enquiry. It makes me think about holding onto the things that are important, recognising what to let go, and pursuing things that I feel passionate about.

The Tenth State or Rocket Fuel?


Up north or down south?

Out east!

Any advice for students embarking on their Honours semester, or any design studio?

Read thoroughly, plan and research your brief beforehand. Accept that the brief will evolve as your knowledge broadens, and be prepared to narrow it down and focus on a specific line of enquiry. Choose a subject that excites you, your experience will be richer for having pursued it. Finally, throw everything you have at the project! It’s an incredibly rewarding process.

What’s next?

I’m thrilled to have joined the UDLA team in Fremantle, where I’m  busy absorbing myself into the ‘real world’ of landscape architecture! Thanks to the HASSELL Travelling Scholarship I’ll be making some travel plans in the near future, as I continue my investigation into the long term viability of farming processes in broadacre agriculture.

the wongan hills with controlled traffic lines

Image credit: Christie Stewart (all images)

lt 8

Our friend Laura Thwaites, graduate Landscape Architect, is currently on an epic adventure through Central and South America. In this post Laura updates us on what she’s been up to on her travels.  As a part of the excellent Workaway program, Laura has been working on a permaculture and bioconstruction project with Aluna Permaculture in Paso del Mango in the Sierra Nevada, Colombia, near Santa Marta. You can keep up to date with what Laura’s up to by following her on Instagram at @thwaileyontour.

Recently I volunteered at Aluna Permaculture, a permaculture project “aiming to strengthen the food sovereignty from natural farming” in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. The project also aims to aid in the restoration of intensively explored (deforested, burned, eroded) areas and provides the tools needed to create spaces with self-sufficient and sustainable energy. Is this case, those often clique green words actually meant something!

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While I was at Aluna, volunteers either bunked in the shell of a former house or camped wherever there was space. We were living almost off grid (there was a fridge) and we adoped a series of sustainable living practises including eating food grown on the farm (vegetarian), using a bano seco or dry toilet, bathing in the river and recycling all scraps of plastic made their was to the house in bottles for later use as construction bricks.

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lt 4

Everyday we would work on the finca – either using COB bioconstruction techniques to build a house, in the working garden, on the construction of a series of terraces that would be gravity fed water or in the neighbouring school that the Aluna Group had initiated and ran daily. As volunteers we were able to participate in a variety of sustainable living practices including building houses from mud and straw sourced on property, planting according to the moon and working within a community.

house 4  house 1

house 3

Through the creation, analysis and adoption of a new design process, it really seems that Aluna Group, a couple and an older Colombian gentleman, are able to maintain a holistic approach to living, designing and building. It was such a privilege to find such an amazing and educational ‘hands on’ experience while backpacking.

I found out about this experience through a friend but I’d highly recommend jumping on a site like Workaway next time you’re abroad. It’s a great way get involved in a meaningful local community project.

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For this installment of our Spotlight series we talk to Paul Boyle, a Landscape Architecture student at UWA who is currently completing the final semester of his degree. Paul entered the Vision 42 Design Competition last year and it has now been announced that he is one of four finalists. We chat with Paul about his scheme for 42nd Street in New York City and about the process of entering and becoming a finalist in an international design competition. You can check out the finalists for the competition here, as well as voting for your favourite – we may be biased, but our bets are on Paul.

First of all, congratulations on reaching the finals of the Vision 42 Design Competition. How did you come to find out about it?

I entered as a part of a fourth year Landscape Architecture design studio at UWA. Our studio co-ordinator, Jeremy Flynn, entered us all in the competition as our main design project for the semester.

Could you tell us a bit about the competition and the brief?

The aim of the competition was to get some support and interest in the Vision 42 Initiative, which is to create an auto free light rail boulevard along 42nd Street. Aside from incorporating the light rail system into 42nd Street, the brief encouraged us to explore designs that were pedestrian friendly, created a 24/7 live/work space, created more open space and looked at the unique conditions of each block along 42nd Street as well as how surrounding areas could be included in this transformation. Overall, this new design for 42nd Street could be seen as a leading example for other cities in creating auto free transportation corridors.

How did you approach the brief with your project, ‘A Greenway Grows on 42nd’?

My approach from the start was for my design to have an environmental angle to it as it supports the Vision 42 initiative in moving away from cars and encouraging pedestrian traffic and light rail.

The form of the design is inspired by a sprouting tree, with the light rail line acting as a stem from which “leaf pods” sprout out into the street, injecting a sense of the natural environment into the dominating hardscape concrete surfaces.

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The design also aims to improve the environment of 42nd Street. This is achieved by tackling three of the big environmental issues of any large urban metropolis – air pollution, the urban heat island affect and storm water runoff.  Each “leaf pod” serves as an architectural element and also allow trees and other plant matter to be grown in a protected area away from the high pedestrian volumes along the street. Planting vegetation directly tackles these three big environmental issues by taking pollutants out of the air, slowing stormwater runoff and providing shade to both people and surrounding buildings.

What were the major positives that you took away from this design process?

Hard to say, I think the little hints and tips that you pick up throughout the semester are always a positive as they help you with your work in general and more often than not save a fair bit of time.

Were there any major challenges in approaching this brief? How did your approach differ, given that you couldn’t visit the site?

There were heaps of major challenges. Some of the original ideas that I came up with did show a lack of knowledge about the site, however after scanning up and down street view a few times and doing research, the site became more familiar.

It was the process of putting ideas forward to the studio co-ordinators and my classmates and receiving feedback from them that informed my design the most as you learn from mistakes and become more familiar with the site each time you draw up a new idea.

What were your most influential precedents?

I found the High Line by James Corner Field Operations very influential as it was a similar project.

Looking through magazines and books of completed urban projects in the library was also helpful.  Books I found helpful included Design Like You Give a Damn edited by Architecture for Humanity, Designing the High Line: Gansevoort Street to 30th Street, by Friends of the Highline and The Art of Landscape Architecture by Alex Sanchez Vidiella.

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What have you gained from entering this competition?

A lot of design experience and I’ve learnt to have confidence in my work.

Any advice for students considering the possibility of entering a design competition, or general approach for those embarking on a design studio?

Give it a go, you never know, and be prepared to change your design.

What’s next in the competition process?

The exhibition phase of the competition has just wrapped up so will wait and see what happens next.

And what’s coming up for you in 2015?

I have one semester of uni left, after that, not too sure!

Thanks Paul, and best of luck from wAILA fresh for the next phase of the competition!

Image credit: Paul Boyle (all images)


At wAILA fresh, we think that travel is one of the most valuable learning experiences of student and graduate life.  In our wAILA abroad series we’ll be checking in with Landscape Architecture grads and students in all parts of the globe to get a bit of an insight in to what they’ve learned.  

In September of 2014, a group of selected UWA Landscape Architecture students travelled to India. Current UWA student Nina Zheleva was lucky enough to take part in this trip. Here, she guest blogs for us with a great account of her travels as well as her initial impressions of an incredible cultural landscape.

India has stirred my imagination for many years with its long and rich history, many empires, diverse cultures and peoples across a vast landscape.  In September 2014 a most exciting opportunity presented itself to me. I went on a trip to India organised by Professor Christopher Vernon as part of my course in Landscape Architecture at UWA. In a group of sixteen we set out to explore the cultural dynamics as well as the historic and modern architectural achievements of this vast and diverse country.


Prior to the trip my knowledge about India was rather limited. My general awareness about the number of people, religion and dynamics were not enough to prepare me for what I was going to experience or the deep affection for the place that this short exploration would bring to me afterwards.

Our first stop was in the capital city of India – Delhi. Home to more than 25 million people, the city’s fabric was incredibly vibrant and diverse. At first sight Delhi appeared to be a big mess with a dysfunctional transport system, millions of people sleeping on the streets and tons of rubbish piling up everywhere. But soon enough, I started to notice that the city had three main characteristics.

The first and most prominent of which was the number of people I saw living in absolute poverty. It was the most confronting part of my trip. The savage reality is that one in every three people in Delhi and, in fact, one in every three people in India live in a similar manner.

The second aspect to the city on the other hand was quite astonishing. Exploring some of the historic monuments revealed Delhi’s multifarious political and social layers through the rich architectural history. Altogether there are 174 registered monuments of national importance in Delhi alone, that can take any visitor through the journey of Hindu, Jain, Mughal (Islamic) and colonial (British) architectural styles. Faced with the impossibility to visit all these places, we focused on Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb Minar. Humayun’s Tomb is the earliest example of Persian influence in the Indian architecture built in the 1570s. It is best known as the precursor of Taj Mahal and the precedent that has established the perfection of the mason’s craft in the Mughal architecture.

Humayun’s Tomb

The second site we visited was the highest tower in Delhi built as one of the earliest mosques in India known as Qutb Minar. The mosque was erected by a Turkestan commander in the early 13th century, who after winning a battle sought to leave an imprint of his religion. The mosque was raised over the remains of a temple and it was constructed from materials taken from 27 demolished temples. Its uniqueness comes from the purposely dispositioned Hindu screens to suit the design and create a characteristically Islamic theme.

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The third most unexpected characteristic of the city was its prominent British architectural appearance. As a result of being a British colony during the 1920s and 1930s Delhi today owes some of its look to the British architect – Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944), who was responsible for some of the most stunning architectural designs during that period.

Our next major stop on the trip was in Agra where we visited the majestic Taj Mahal and The Agra Fort. Walking into the Taj Mahal complex was almost magical. It is a place of a timeless man made manifestation, excellent in its architectural achievement and expression of infinite love. The mausoleum, the gardens, the gates were just as beautiful as the motive behind it. The Taj Mahal was built in 1648 as a burial place for Mumtaz Mahal, the second and most beloved wife of Shah Jahan and today it stands in its full glory, only shadowed by the shades of night.

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as red fort

While the birth of the Taj was based on Shah Jahan‘s love to his wife, sadly he found his death under the regime of his son in a prison cell at the Agra Fort overlooking the mausoleum in the far distance.  The Fort itself reached its peak and was one of the grander structures back in the 15th century during the rule of the Emperor Akbar in 1556 – 1605. The Fort was built on an irregular semi – circular plan with its chord lying parallel to the course of river Yamuna, surrounded by massive 20m high walls. Within the Fort there were more than 500 masonry buildings of which only 27 have survived.

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After we spent three very busy days in the Haryana district, we flew off to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. I’ll best remember Chandigarh as a city of modernity and iconic architecture. Being the first designed city in India by the world famous architect Le Corbusier in the 1950’s, the city today is a reflection of modernism and ancient traditions. Well established and designed to accentuate the natural surroundings, Chandigarh appears to have reached maturity today, providing home to more than a million people. We could best experience Le Corbusier’s utopian design theories put into practice by visiting different parts of city. His lifelong focus towards creating cities made up of skyscrapers and providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities were best expressed throughout the hierarchical grid layout of Chandigarh.

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At the Capitol Complex we had the opportunity to intimately explore some of Corbusier’s buildings and have a close look to what has now become the basis of solar passive designs and rooftop gardens worldwide. Le Corbusier’s architectural achievement was further emphasised by Mr M. N. Sharma one of few architects who worked with him between 1952 and 1965. Some of the personal stories Mr Sharma shared with us over a cup of tea in his home were a delight and energizing for all of us embarking on the life journey of being landscape architects and academic minds.


Unimaginably surprising was our visit in Chandigarh to a place called the ‘Rock Garden’. As stated at its entry, ‘Dedicated to the spirit of creativity,’ the garden was an incredible representation of a true fantasy by the artist Nek Chands. In the 50s Nek Chand was a road inspector, supervising the construction of roads while the city was getting built. He saw the industrial waste as a novel resource for his creativity and secretly began to build what is now known to be the second most visited place in India after the Taj Mahal.


Chandighar rock garden

The last city we visited on our trip was Lucknow. A place where the locals told us, once you come here, your ‘luck’ will actually start from now on! Lucknow would be the city where my best memories are all about the food, fashion and hospitality of the local people, as well as the place where Walter Burley Griffin the designer of Australia’s capital city was buried. Similar to the other two cities we spent a great deal of time visiting some of the iconic historical architecture, with places such as the Imambaras, Lucknow Gate, The Residence and La Martiniere College to better understand the local history and how the city came to be.

Gate to Lucknow

The great and wondrous power of India, its history, its architecture and its diverse and creative people, was revealed to us in this amazing trip. The trip was incredibly well organised by Professor Christopher Vernon and extraordinarily beneficial to an undergraduate student as I. It’s hard to imagine the diversity of the cultural and spiritual evolution of India unless you submerge yourself within it and experience it for yourself.

Image credit: Nina Zheleva (Images 1, 2, 12-14, 16), Kelly Hodgson (Images 3, 11, 15), Adrian Snary (Images 4- 10).

fleur rees

Next up in our Spotlight series we chat with Fleur Rees, landscape architect at Sue Barnsley Design.  Fleur is one of our fellow Fresh folk, as representative for AILA Fresh in NSW.  Fleur graduated from the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at UWA and upon graduation, she switched coasts and has been working in Sydney ever since.  

It’s an exciting time for Sue Barnsley Design. They’ve recently been awarded an AILA NSW award for Jubilee Playground and an AILA National award for Prince Alfred Parkland and Pool.  Fleur talks with us here about her work at this award winning studio and about life as a graduate landscape architect in the city of Sydney.

What’s your current position and how did you get to where you are now?

I have been working as a landscape architect with Sue Barnsley Design for 2 years now. Prior to that, I did a stint in infrastructure, spent some time working on residential projects, and started off in Sydney working at JMD Design across a range of project scales.

Can you tell us about some projects that you’ve worked on recently?

There’s a variety, but some projects that I have worked on recently include Jubilee Playground in Bicentennial Park in Glebe, the Juanita Nielsen Community Centre in Woolloomooloo and new student accommodation at the University of Newcastle. Jubilee Playground has definitely been a highlight – we won the NSW Medal for Landscape Architecture at the AILA NSW State Awards this year. It’s a very special playground that we worked on with the City of Sydney Council, reimagining a playspace that was well-loved, but very tired.

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We were able to include an array of bespoke items that really responded to the site and its context. It caters for children from 0-12 years and incorporates wherever possible, recycled or refurbished materials. It is divided into distinct zones, with a pod shaped cubby house nestled beneath the boughs of a fig tree, an area of active play including swings and carousel leading into the ‘foreshore’ zone including a shaded sand pit, timber play elements and a double slide mound. The park is incredibly popular, with hundreds of visitors each week.

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17 Brett Boardman_the world of islands & foreshore

How and when did you know that you wanted to work in landscape architecture?

It was a little formulaic – when we got to year 10, we had to consider what subjects we would take in year 11 & 12 that would set us up to apply for a university course. I knew that art and science were interests of mine and basically chose a course that combined the two – hence landscape architecture. I ended up doing a transitional year of Environmental Biology before transferring across to landscape architecture. It was useful as it confirmed that I wasn’t keen to work in a laboratory as a career path. Moving to the eastern states in 2007 a year after graduating cemented the fact that I wanted to work in landscape architecture. There was so much  opportunity around at that time, and an array of choice in terms of where and what type of work you could choose to do.

What are the books that you refer to most often during your day? Which books would you recommend to a landscape architecture student?

Paul Thompson’s ‘Australian Planting Design’. Planting design is pivotal to our projects, and Paul’s design guidelines provide great inspiration.  Les Robinson’s ‘Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney’. Again, planting is critical, and getting the right plants even more so. This is a great guide book for identifying plants that will grow well in a particular region. Also, Ross Clarke’s ‘Specifying Trees’. I always reference this when putting together plant schedules for working out the minimum height that trees should be procured at dependent on the size you are ordering.

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These books are helpful on a day-to-day basis in the office, but it’s important to be inspired at university. The El Croquis series are a great insight into a lot of inspirational practices. Books that showcase incredible Australian projects include Bruce Mackenzie’s ‘Design with Landscape’, and Taylor Culity Lethlean’s ‘Making Sense of Landscape’, edited by Ginni Lee and SueAnne Ware. From a more technical standpoint, Glen Wilson’s ‘Landscaping for Australia’ is a great resource as Glen taught for a number of years at Canberra Uni.

Are there any other resources that you find helpful?

Sue has a wealth of knowledge which she is very generous in sharing. If she’s not in the office, for tricky concrete questions I go to the CCAA (Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia) website. Normally, colleagues in the architecture and engineering disciplines will be quite helpful when I have questions. Pinterest is also great for finding precedents and materials, as well as Landezine and Land8 websites.

Who or what do you find most inspiring?        

Passion – people who are passionate about their work or others work. Landscape architects that champion the profession and are still excited by it decades into their careers are what keep me engaged. Tutoring second year design students has been a great inspiration – there are no boundaries to design in second year, and seeing so many unique solutions to a problem posed has been insightful.

I find grassroots, community based projects very inspiring. When someone identifies a need in the community and overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to meet that need signifies dedicated and sustainable change. When someone gives a cause a voice and then gets the community on board to enact change gives something real meaning.

What‘s your favourite Sydney landscape?

Outer metropolitan Sydney – I would say the Blue Mountains – the scenery is breathtaking and the extremes in weather make it visually and biologically diverse. More locally, would be Sydney Harbour – particularly the Royal Botanic Gardens, as there is always some undiscovered area or amazing species in flower. A favourite lunch time haunt of mine is McElhone Reserve in Potts Point, designed by landscape architect Ilmar Berzins. It is the most manicured public park I have ever seen in an Australian context, and has stunning views over Elizabeth Bay across to Manly. It’s a serene place to watch the ferries traverse the harbour in the sun.

What’s on your desk?

The most enormous iMac you’ll ever see – I have to crane my neck to see the corners of the screen! 2 years worth of notebooks, Australian Standards, A3 sleeves filled with project mark-ups and sketches, scale rules, pens, snacks, tea and a succulent potted up in a chai cup.

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If you could go back and give your first year self advice, what would it be?

Don’t take criticism personally at university – you’ll receive plenty in your career and it’s how you take that criticism on board that matters. If you listen and improve then you’re moving ahead. If you let it get you down and stifle you, it can only hold you back – have confidence in your abilities. To paraphrase ineloquently from one of my former directors, Anton James, at the AILA National Forecast Festival – not everyone is a great designer. Everyone has their niche and it’s important for individuals to discover that and for employers to foster whatever those skills may be. Also to have patience, you won’t learn everything overnight. The profession is dynamic and so much is learnt on the job – even when you do learn something, someone else has an alternative way to do it or technologies or techniques evolve. Be prepared for a lifetime of learning.

09 Brett Boardman_the cubby - an oculus connecting to tree canopy

Image credit: Brett Boardman (Images 1 to 4 and 7), wAILA fresh (Image 5), Fleur Rees (Image 6)


On Saturday 15 November wAILA fresh, along with Subiaco based landscape architecture and environmental consultancy firm Emerge Associates, ran a 7 Senses Street Day for the community of Wembley Downs. Tilly Caddy tells us all about it here.

By the age of six, we learn the ­­five senses; touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. This seems comprehensible and we grow up accepting this as fact. So when a man attempts to tell you there are in fact seven senses, you cant help but question your lifetime of misconception and tune in to what he has to say. Tobias Volbert, Landscape Architect, Open Space Planner, National Business Development Manager at Playscape Creations and founder and spokesman of the 7 Senses Foundation is this man. Tobias has been publicly speaking about the merits of 7 Senses Design around Australia for more than a year and 2013 marked the first annual 7 Senses Street Day.

To put you out of your misery, the additional two senses are vestibular and proprioception. Vestibular relates to how you body moves through space. Proprioception is the sense of your body’s relative position and being aware of how your body moves through space in relation to other body parts.

What is 7 Senses Street Day?

7 Senses Street Day is an annual event that started in 2013 which encourages individuals to transform their residential streets into a temporary community space. Within this space there are a series of activities to encourage stimulate and engage our 7 senses.

Our 7 Senses Day

Saturday November 15 was the 2014 date set by the 7 Senses Foundation for the second event. wAILA fresh, in collaboration with Emerge Associates,  ran a two hour event for the local community of Wembley Downs.



Numerous bunches of greenery including rosemary, lemon leaves, a branch of melaleuca, mint, thyme, chives, parsley and jasmine were attached to recycled palettes. Kids who visited our 7 Senses Street were encouraged to experience the different smells and to think about how they differed from each other. We encouraged the kids to think about whether or not they liked the smell, how strong the different smells were in comparison to others and to think about whether smell reminded them of something else, like roast dinner or playing in the garden, or any other memories.



Sight is potentially the sense that many of us take for granted the most so we aimed to challenge reliance on this sense. For our 7 Senses Street Day, we designed numerous activities to showcase the importance of sight, including blind drawing, making telescopes with different coloured cellophane and matching coloured beanbags to the same coloured hoop. This variety of different activities gave kids of varying ages stimulation appropriate to their age group.

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A recycled builders pallet formed the base of a ‘musical station’ where different objects could be struck, hit, shaken or run up and down to create varying noises. The station consisted of some conventional instruments such as a xylophone, wind chimes and a triangle, coupled with unconventional ‘musical instruments’ such as pots and pans, a toast rack, PVC pipe and bottles filled with different objects as shakers.



We filled four spray bottles of water flavoured with lemon juice, toothpaste, jelly crystals and salt. Kids then sprayed the water into their mouths to guess which flavour it was. 5 cups filled with miscellaneous ingredients complemented the sprays, with salt, cocoa powder and lemon wedges for the kids to try.




We filled five different boxes filled with feathers, cooked spaghetti, raw pasta, jelly and grass clippings. Kid sized hand holes in the lids of the boxes enabled the content to be felt without the visual prompt of what was inside.



We constructed a ‘lazer field’ which was constructed using existing trees, pallets and red wool.

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We created a maze using stakes and surveyors tape – this was a challenge for kids of all ages. Those old enough were encouraged to wear a blind fold to navigate the space.

Benefits the children experienced:

  • Sense of adventure (maybe the 8th sense!) in trying something new
  • Interacting with some new local faces
  • Risk taking
  • Co-operating and following instructions
  • Being aware that they are exploring their senses
  • Heightened perception of their bodies’ in space (Maze and Lazer)
  • Having fun
  • Exploring
  • Learning
  • Perceptual motor activites- good for motor skills
  • Interacting with Nature
  • Playing outside
  • Hands on interacting as opposed to vitural interaction
  • Problem solving
  • Child initiated activities rather than adult driven
  • Peer tutoring between older kids showing younger kids what to do

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Benefits their parents experienced:

  • Trust
  • Meeting new families in their area
  • Social interaction
  • Child initiated activities rather than adult driven. Kids thrive in these environments as they like to be incharge.


Benefits we experienced in putting together the event:

  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Meeting new people
  • Discovering the powers of a local community
  • Building skills in construction with simple recycled materials
  • Learning about the imaginative power of kids – we learnt that kids will use materials and create their own games

A big thank you from wAILA to Peta-Maree Ashford and family,  Hamish Firth and Elisa Laschon for all their help on the day, and for the Wembley Downs community for getting involved! For more information head to the 7 Senses Foundation.

Image credit: Tilly Caddy