Landscape Architect, Planner and Urban Designer Writer and presenter on climate change, urban design, community development and the carbon footprint of urban design Award winning carbon landscape researcher and creator of www.carbonlandscape.com Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects
Opening my own consultancy, Design Environment Limited was a product of the desire to approach design from a different direction.
During my time working and traveling internationally but, in particular, during my time living in Palestine I developed an acute appreciation for the value design and planning can bring to everyday life within a community. Whether it be the good management of scarce resource such as water that frees up time to allow children to go to school or the design of a simple space that brings relief and pleasure in a harsh existence.
During the two years working in Jordan and Palestine, which included a year of living in the West Bank, conflict broke out in 1999. As a New Zealander I could leave but the community I had worked and lived with, who had looked after me like family, could not leave. This was the point in my professional career that I understood the privilege and the responsibility I had as a designer who has the freedom of movement. It was a significant point of change for me both personally and professionally, I became not only community and resource focused in my design and planning work but I felt an obliteration to give to the greater community. At the same time I started to understand from working on large scale projects on the Dead Sea in Jordan the significant ongoing environmental impacts of poor design. I began to understand and become critical of the international approach of "cut and paste" design that ignored the environmental and social context. I started to look into the impacts of landscape architecture through a more critical eye. I went on to work on projects in India while based in the US as employed by Margie Ruddick and managed to not only apply my design and resource management knowledge gained from the Middle East but learnt from India how to beautifully frame resource harvesting from examples such as the famous step wells and floodable landscapes.
My consultancy was created in 2005 out of the desire to approach design and planning from a level of environmental and social sustainability that was not typical at the time. I had no desire to own my own firm or have my name on projects or deal with the ordeals of running a business. I created the firm because it allowed me to engage in design, planning and research my way which in turn attracted staff and clients that valued similar design, community and environmental outcomes.
Design Environment allowed me to start questioning the design industry’s assumptions about their impacts on the environment and communities which tender to be only ever considered positive. This freedom led to a decade of focused research both independent and with Lincoln University in New Zealand on the impacts of landscape architecture including the carbon impact of our work and possible strategies top reduce our negative contribution to climate change, what we term the carbon landscape.
Over the years much of our work has been pro bono especially around schools and communities in India, New Zealand and most recently with communities recovering from earthquakes and economic hardship. Owning my own firm allowed me to focus of these issue without having to debate with other principles or shareholders about whether the project, community or research deserved our time or resources. I would like to think that I have done my best to acknowledge and appreciate the values of both design and freedom of movement that I learnt from my time in the West Bank and apply it to my work adding value to communities whether they could afford professional advice or not.
The diversity of international experience and projects, whether small pro bono or large scale urban design/planning has given me a skill set that allows me to keep complex projects moving forward. That is where my professional strength lies, ranging from managing public relations to value engineering, and real success is achieved for clients and communities.