For the first interview for our new blog, we chat to Dan Young, a Landscape Architect based in Brisbane.
When I initially talked to Dan about interviewing him, I admitted that I didn't know much about landscape architecture. What I do know is that the natural environment we surround ourselves in plays an instrumental part in how we feel every single day. It also has an amazing way of transforming our connection to the built environment- which Dan certainly knows a thing or two about.
- What drew you to pursue a career in landscape architecture? What is your favourite part of your work?
I had a job many years ago as a safari guide in Namibia, which is a country with a really diverse landscape. I started noticing that the response of guests to certain locations (canyons, sand dunes, etc.) was different when we’d approach a place in different ways. I learned that I could curate their experience by manipulating the way in which the approach sequence unfolded, and really enjoyed that I could make those changes through subtle shifts. From there, it's easy for me to draw the parallel between physically curating an experience and designing an experience.
- Traditionally, landscape architecture is seen and more obviously noticed in urban planning and public spaces, why did you decide to focus on residential projects?
Firstly, this isn’t even really a distinction in Europe - it’s tacitly understood that landscape architects are involved across all scales. This speaks to a broader identity crisis for landscape architects generally, but also reflects on the public generally - I really can’t understand why I need to explain what a landscape architect does, because it’s there in the title. But to get to your question proper, there’s a number of large companies, multinationals even, who do all the large scale public infrastructure work, which means there’s very little opportunity for small practices to be involved at this scale. There is a huge market in residential projects, and it’s really rewarding to see the tangible experiential result of a project that speaks directly to the wishes/desires of the client.
- You’ve worked on some residential projects for some of Brisbane’s best architects, how do you determine which homes lend themselves to more clean, minimal landscaping or which would favour a more high-density, lush surrounding?
This is generally an interpretation of discussions with the client - how is it that they would functionally like that space to perform? Is it practically achievable? Is it contextually appropriate? What are the underlying site conditions? Those conversations become the project brief, and I think there’s an element of stewardship that comes with the role, and having the ability to say “no, that’s a poor idea for this reason, this reason and so on” and propose alternatives is crucial. A good way to think about it is that, just as with other design disciplines, we’re designing space and experience - plants are just a tool in that sense.
- In Australia, and specifically Queensland, our outdoor environment plays a major role in our daily lives, what are some simple steps anyone/everyone can take to improve our outdoor spaces?
Take a moment to appreciate the inherent spatial qualities of those areas, and build on that. There’s a huge issue with the practice of property being used as a vehicle for wealth creation, so we typically get massive houses and smaller outdoor spaces and this muddies the idea of the value of land, and by extension landscape. What is this value - is it monetary or experiential? And more curiously, if you place so much value on something, why are you reluctant to invest in it? I think poor housing stock (generally) has broadened the disconnect between people and landscape, and any gestures that seek to reestablish that connection are worthwhile. This could be as simple as introducing indoor plants, or removing the front fence and engaging with the street. I know that’s not a simple answer, but there’s not really a simple solution.
- Running your own business can be all-consuming. What do you do in your downtime? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?
Downtime is generally spent with family and friends - and most likely involves food and wine! I’m also a huge basketball fan. I do also have a pile of books to get through, though it’s more ‘Tsundoku’ than an active collection at the moment.
- Lastly, where would you like to see yourself and your business in five years time?
I should probably have a business plan, right?
See More of Dan's work at danyounglandscape.com