Entering its tenth year of operation, Sydney-based practice Arcadia Landscape Architecture has consistently looked to evolve its designs, placing outdoor spaces front and centre in the built environment, while placing emphasis on collaborating with First Nations peoples.

Founded by Principal Alex Longley and Director Michael Barnett, Arcadia has grown from a team of two to a team of 49 that spans across three studios located in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. 

Arcadia has worked on nearly 900 projects in a ten year period, creating and honing a holistic design strategy that nurtures and celebrates human experience and Connection to Country. It’s key projects include large-scale infrastructure and public spaces such as the University of Sydney’s Susan Wakil Health Building, Cbus Property’s Newmarket precinct and Sydney Metro’s Barangaroo Station.

susan wakil health centre arcadia

Alex Longley, Arcadia’s founder, says the practice has been able to create a unique position within the design industry, due to the increased need for green spaces amongst metropolitan areas.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we’ve worked on 111 projects in the past year alone, from city-shaping infrastructure to legacy public spaces in regional areas,” he says.

“A new appreciation for the outdoors and public spaces was born amid COVID-19 – everyone very quickly noticed if the outdoor places in their area hadn’t been given the appropriate level of investment in both time and money to allow landscape architects to deliver successful community amenity. We’re finding that people are seeking an improved human experience, reflective of the local natural character. We’re excited at the future opportunities in store as the built industry, government, and broader society places greater value on the pivotal role landscape architecture plays in our everyday life.”

Arcadia Director Michael Barnett says the practice looks to create places with strong connections to their locale and the wider community.

“Understanding the cultural significance of a place is fundamental in the process of designing better public spaces that reflect local history and connect through story and interpretation,” he says.

“The psychological response people have to spaces steers and informs our design philosophy, as we seek to create spaces that people want to experience and interact with. This has benefits for both the social fabric of the community and for the environment.

“Our desire at Arcadia is to advance these relationships between land, people and culture.”

Arcadia has consistently looked to remedy the significant under-representation of First Nations people within the industry through increased collaboration and opportunity for up and coming Indigenous architects. The practice indicates that there are currently fewer than 30 First Nations professionals practicing in the built environment across the entire country.

barangaroo metro station arcadia

The Arcadia Landscape Architecture Indigenous Scholarship, created in 2016, was established to help create pathways and support First Nations people wanting to enter the landscape architecture industry. The scholarship is offered at eight universities across Australia, with two recipients within the scholarship program currently undertaking their degrees at UTS and QUT.

To further embed and champion collaboration with First Nations people in its design strategy, in 2020 Arcadia appointed Kaylie Salvatori, a Yuin woman, as Indigenous Landscape Strategist. Arcadia also integrated collaborative design processes such as ‘Walkshops’, where the project team and client walks country with leaders and members of the First Nations community as part of its strategy.

Arcadia has also worked to increase representation for women in the landscape architecture field. More than two-thirds of Arcadia employees are women, with Nicole Wilson joining the team as a Principal earlier this month. Wilson joins as the practice’s first female Principal, achieving a long-held goal of finding an exceptional candidate in spite of the shortage of women in the industry.