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    The American who influenced Australian urban landscapes

    A highly accomplished landscape architect, Steve Calhoun has been responsible for greening large expanses of urban Australia, with his signature style reflected in a broad range of projects across residential, commercial, suburban and public spaces.

    One of Australia’s most influential landscape architects, the Harvard-educated American arrived in Melbourne on a year-long contract back in the 1970s to take up a position with a landscape architecture practice and stayed on for 43 years.

    After a stint teaching landscape architecture at RMIT, Calhoun was instrumental in establishing an undergraduate program for the subject at the University.

    Steve Calhoun is also one of three founding partners of one of the most influential landscape design practices in Australia, Tract Consultants, which focusses on the core areas of town planning, landscape architecture and urban design.

    This native Iowan has left his mark on a series of headline projects of all scales, covering residential housing estates, golf courses, masterplanned communities, riverfronts, precincts, promenades, freeways and peninsulas in several regions across Australia and abroad.

    Beginning with a team of only three, the Melbourne-based Tract practice has been responsible for projects such as the Parliamentary Triangle in Canberra incorporating the new and old Parliament Houses, Cairns Esplanade, the QUT campus in Brisbane and Circular Quay in Sydney as well as two of the New Town developments in Hong Kong and the Xi Jing Bay region in Suzhou, China.

    From its modest beginnings, the practice has grown into a network of five Australian offices and hundreds of staff with some of the early employees hired straight from the RMIT program.

    Calhoun’s work can be observed in the Southgate and Southbank areas; the sporting precinct encompassing the MCG, the Tennis Centre and Olympic Park; and the pedestrian esplanade stretching from Port Melbourne to St Kilda.

    Calhoun’s ability to visualise the final outcomes of his projects even before starting work is remarkable. His designs have an abstract quality and his skills are focussed on creating art rather than specifying the materials or determining seedling placements for landscape projects.

    One of Calhoun’s career highlights is his work on the Tarrawarra Museum of Art and vineyard in Victoria’s Yarra Glen. The Allan Powell-designed museum is sited on the crest of a rise overlooking the Tarrawarra vineyards and dam, as well as the hills of the Yarra Range. Calhoun began work on the project in 2003 with the museum opening in 2004.

    However, Tract’s contribution to the project began 25 years earlier when the 320-hectare property was a treeless dairy business. The firm created a masterplan for the property, which was progressively implemented over the years. The masterplan comprises of the winery, vineyard, interconnecting roadways, dams, and revegetation of environmentally sensitive areas of the farm. Standout features of the project include a poplar-lined drive from the entrance and the generously landscaped lakes.

    Calhoun describes his work as making urban landscapes liveable. For this landscape architect, greenery connects and creates liveable spaces to provide a complete multi-sensory experience.

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