It is the broad skill set of landscape architects – integrating design vision, scientific and technical rigour – that, if introduced early, helps expand the potential for Territory projects and community outcomes.
But it is practical competence and local experience in delivering those projects that make the landscape architect’s contribution invaluable.
For the Darwin office of CLOUSTON Associates these essential qualities, both skill and experience, have been honed over three decades of continuous presence and hands-on service.
Director Tony Cox says: “For over 30 years we have collaborated with fine professionals, every discipline and diverse communities – always urging imagination, adding the creative bit.”
This is a reflection of the practice’s inspiring, expansive creed: We see landscape as a canvas, not as a frame. As a hallmark of CLOUSTON’s commitment to sustainable regional growth, local knowledge is one of its greatest strengths, one that gives the team an unparalleled appreciation of the Territory’s unusual and often challenging environment.
People are the key here, and all the Darwin staff either grew up in the Territory or have made it their home. Other senior staff have been involved since the office’s first projects, reinforcing the breadth of the practice’s commitment.
“We’re part of the community,” says Mr Cox. “And we understand the demands of the environment, whether in tropical Darwin or the Central Australian desert. We’ve all got a great sense of place.
“We understand the seasons, the plants, the water. We recognise the essential contribution of culture. And all of that is crucial for the work we do.”
Mr Cox was a volunteer on the Cyclone Marcus recovery team. He got to see first hand the value of healthy, stable trees in the aftermath. Street trees planted 15 years ago survived due to the structural soil systems pioneered by CLOUSTON. It’s all part and parcel of designing in the cyclone-prone Top End.
“We’re striving to create resilience among our urban trees.”
Knowing how to look after trees for life is a useful skill in Alice Springs, where trees can soon be weaned off expensive town water if their roots can be nurtured to reach the subterranean water table.
CLOUSTON is playing a major role in the Territory’s heat mitigation strategies in Alice Springs, Palmerston and Darwin. Projects include the shade structure in Darwin’s Cavenagh Street.
The 55-metre long pergola, which is made from Darwin stringybark, is winning more admirers by the day as the vegetation grows – it will soon be a lovely avenue of trees and overhanging plants.
“Our heat mitigation work is now being looked at interstate,” says Mr Cox.
The firm also carried out the landscape architectural work on Garramilla Boulevard, the elegant commuter road leading into the heart of Darwin. Garramilla’s attractive terracing, abundant vegetation and cycle paths have won praise from Territorians.
“More space is dedicated to vegetation, footpaths and cycle paths than for cars. We’re helping make Darwin more pedestrian and cycle friendly.
“We look at the big picture but don’t forget the all-important detail.”
CLOUSTON, whose services range from strategic landscape planning to specialist advice, is also at the forefront of a drive “back to the future” with children’s play – combining natural play materials, such as rocks and vegetation, with universal playground equipment.
This stimulates creative learning and allows children to learn to assess risk.
“We’re encouraging children to make up their own games – they have to use their imaginations, rather than totally rely on the physical demands of fixed equipment,” says Mr Cox.
“It has been shown that this is important in child development.”
CLOUSTON’s Darwin team works well together – bouncing ideas off each other in that technical creative atmosphere almost unique to the landscape architecture profession – but also can call on highly-experienced practitioners in its sister office in Sydney if needed.
A final example of the firm’s innovative thinking: Mr Cox says many trees in Darwin city centre could be irrigated with the free condensate from air-conditioning systems rather than town water.
Level 5, 21 Knuckey Street,
DARWIN NT 0800
GPO BOX 1118, DARWIN NT 0801
+61 (08) 8941 2450