Design and Life: Andrea Cochran, Kate Cullity and Sacha Coles

It has been a great privilege to have had the opportunity to access and share plenty of wise words, big ideas and deep thoughts over the six years of publishing The Planthunter. We’ve spoken with artists, gardeners, politicians, lawyers, writers and designers – each sharing their knowledge and story with generosity and humility. To celebrate this vast and precious collection of knowledge, we’re bringing together the stories of three landscape architects whose combined visions, commitment and creativity are shaping the earth beneath our feet for the better.

Stone Edge Farm by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture. Image by Vicky Sambunaris

Andrea Cochran, Principal, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture

“It took me a long time to find my voice as a designer. In many ways I consider myself a late bloomer. It was only after having worked for more than a decade that I feel I really began to have a sense of what good design was. Through trial and error, I discovered that I was much more satisfied with my designs as they became simpler. I think there was something about that early work in architecture, together with my love of art, that gave me a framework to build my ideas around.

My hope is that ultimately my work initiates a deeper respect for the environment and for nature. To me, this is an incredibly powerful notion: that by drawing attention to the aspects that are delicate and fleeting, we can change larger attitudes. Craft is so essential to this philosophy because, like art, the materials themselves can start to suggest or illicit more emotional and gut-level reactions.

Our world is incredibly fragile from an ecological standpoint, and increasingly so. We need to value it, protect it, and be humble in the face of these daunting ecological challenges. We can’t control nature – we need to learn to work with it rather than resist it.”

Right now we are losing our wild landscapes at a rapid pace. At the same time, there is an enormously expanded potential for nature in urban areas. In my work, I try to convey that we need to value, protect, and be sensitive to the natural world as a whole. The experience of nature becomes increasingly important as we spend more and more time in developed places, and by capturing it we preserve it and underscore its value.”

Andrea Cochran. Image by Joe Fletcher

Kate Cullity, Director of Taylor Cullity Lethlean

“I was born and spent my childhood, university years and early adulthood in Perth. I studied biological science majoring in botany prior to studying landscape architecture. The Australian writer Robert Drew, who was also raised in Perth, speaks of how Australians share in varying degrees two central myths the myth of landscape and the myth of character … all Western Australians are without question, one hundred percent inheritors of the myth of landscape.’ This rings true for me. It is a place of strong elemental resonance and, being a world botanical hotspot, has an amazingly abundant and magnificent flora. My mother was and still is a keen gardener and I grew up surrounded by a large garden.

I have always either constructed or dreamt of gardens. As a child they were models out of moss and beautiful samples of timber my father bought home from work. As a young adult I always made a garden in rented homes. The first house I bought was purely for the very large and gnarled mulberry tree.

In 2010 I embarked on a PhD with Kevin Taylor and Perry Lethlean, the other founding TCL directors. My studies delved into my interest in beauty and aesthetics, yet I came to understand that what really drives me is the desire to care; that care provides the conduit between beauty and sustainability in all its forms – environmental, social and cultural. I came to understand the seamlessness between beauty and sustainability and the actuality of it being and/and rather than and/or. This understanding has provided a renewed consciousness and confidence in my work

Projects that are unusual, difficult, or on the edge of the traditional definition of landscape architecture have sustained our practice and kept us enthused as practitioners. These projects often require us to take a chance in bidding for them, and, if successful, require research, conversations and collaborations with partners outside the sphere of our discipline. The requirement for a deeper level of research on these atypical projects, tend to result in a more enjoyable design process.”

The Australian Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, by TCL Studio. Image by John Gollings
The Australian Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, by TCL Studio. Image by John Gollings

Sacha Coles, Director of ASPECT Studios

“A great space is one that understands the site conditions and designs with them in mind.

I’ve always been passionate about nature, conservation, and design but perhaps the most formative period was in high school when I became very involved in protests against the logging of old growth trees in the south-east forests of New South Wales. My friends and I spent months in the forest and weeks in tree platforms – high in the canopies of these giant forest elders.

I founded ASPECT Studios in Sydney in the early 2000s. I share the running of the studio with my formidable design partner, Kate Luckraft, who has been with me since the beginning, growing the studio from just the two of us to a team of over 45 talented people. My role remains embedded in projects – specifically guiding the concept development of our designs.

When designing we talk a lot about physical and sensorial experiences within environments, and how our designs can provide multiple reasons to stay in a place. We never forget the fundamentals of design; to know what the sun is doing, where the wind is coming from, and the opportunities which come from the fall of the landscape. We also try to design generous elements – specifically designed for a project and always with people in mind.

I’ve always been socially-minded and it is a perfect fit for me to be a part of the profession that designs and creates the city’s public spaces. Landscape architecture is also the most collaborative of endeavours. Everything inhabits the landscape, and therefore as designers we are compelled to interrogate the social, cultural, ecological and technical layers which make up the landscape we live on. This means that as a landscape architect, the process of design exposes you to leading thinking across a spectrum of fields.”

Sacha Coles.
UTS Alumni Green, Sydney. Landscape architecture by ASPECT Studios. Image by Florian Groehn
The Goods Line by ASPECT Studios. Image Florian Groehn