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    IN PROFILE: TCL's Kate Cullity, landscape architecture and environmental art

    Stephanie McDonald

    Kate Cullity, director at landscape and urban design firm Taylor Cullity Lethlean, is a noted landscape architect and environmental artist with particular skills in the integration of public art with landscape and urban design.

    In 1990, with Kevin Taylor, she formed the firm Kevin Taylor and Kate Cullity. The first project she and Taylor worked on was the Box Hill Community Arts Centre, a project that has won numerous awards and is a building and landscape that is often referred to as a landmark in terms of creative collaboration between architects, landscape architects, artists and community.

    Cullity spoke to Architecture & Design about why you need sustainability in landscape designs to win an award, why landscape designers now have more freedom in their work and why Taylor was her muse.

    Is landscape design well considered in property developments?

    It's becoming more so important in the last five years or so. Clients are realising the value of aesthetically, socially and environmentally considered exterior environments. Both clients and the subsequent users are becoming more adventurous, which allows more freedom for the designer.

    What would you like to see change so landscape design is more integrated into building designs?

    I’d like to see more landscape lead or urban design lead projects as I believe landscape architects and urban designers (and that includes building architects with an interest in urban design) have a great understanding of everything that goes on between buildings.

    Has sustainability had any impact on landscape design?

    It's having an increasingly important impact. It's now not possible to win awards unless the project demonstrates sustainable solutions – and that's a good thing. TCL has always seen sustainable landscapes as fulfilling not only environmental goals but also being socially and culturally sustainable. The founding directors are currently doing a PhD together at RMIT exploring our body of work over the last 20 years and what direction it could move to in the future. 

    I've found for me there is an essential link between beauty, aesthetics and care with sustainability. As well as imbuing projects with technically sustainable systems they require the ideals of beauty. That is, for people to experience the environment in a visceral and sensory manner, one that elicits an emotional response. In this way people will be more impelled to want to understand what makes an environment sustainable and be more compelled towards that goal. 

    Do you prefer urban design work or waterfront design?

    Well, Perry Lethlean is the Waterfront expert at TCL, but all projects with a good brief, a great client and a fair budget are an interesting challenge and worth taking on. 

    What landscape design around the world do you admire?

    I have quite eclectic taste so I admire lots of different projects. The one essential element that they all have in common is that they are invariably imbued with an elusive soul quality. I love the minimal design of Japanese Zen Gardens as well as ebullient and colourful works like Park Guell by Gaudi.  

    Like many others, I admire the elegant pared back work of the contemporary landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson (the Diana Fountain in Hyde Park is probably her best known work). I also admire James Corner's Highline in New York with Piet Oldorf's painterly planting. Visiting Gertrude Jeckell and Edward Lutchen's Hestercombe in England just after rain was another highlight. 

    And if I had conceived of Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain in Chicago I would be very happy with myself. It is one of the greatest interactive public art and urban spaces I have experienced. 

    I also marvel at my business partner Perry Lethlean’s and my late husband and business partner Kevin Taylor’s output and artistry in the field of landscape architecture. It may seem strange to say but they are like my muses and they inspire me to be more creative. I feel lucky to have worked with them for so long. 

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