Landscape Architect Spotlight Dan Young
Architecture, Landscape

Landscape Architect Spotlight Dan Young

A Brisbane local who started his career as a Safari Guide, Dan Young certainly chose the road less-travelled.

Eschewing the typical post-school sojourn of European coastal towns in favour of the rugged Saharan plains, Dan Young’s years spent in the South African plateaus informed and inspired his creative practice. The founder and director of his eponymous Brisbane-based Landscape Architecture practice, Dan has a rich educational history and a long-standing passion for the landscape design sphere, Dan’s work epitomises relaxed, Australian living. With a penchant for native Australian greenery Dan’s work is favoured by those wishing to imbue their home with an abundance of lush, local and exotic flora.

Dan Young Brickworks

How and when did you realise your passion for Landscape Architecture? How did you get your start in the industry?

I did a number of different things before studying design. I had a job in the early 2000s in Southern Africa as a Safari Guide. Part of that job was driving people around on Safari and going to great places of natural beauty. I started to realise that the way you approach different features could influence someone's perception of that space or location. 

A canyon is a good example because it’s massive. If you drive up there, down a hill or down a big slope where you can see the entire thing, you kind of get an idea of the scale and the grandeur of this particular landscape, but it’s presented all in one hit. There were some other approaches to this particular viewpoint where you came up over the crest of a hill, so there was nothing and then instantaneously there was this massive canyon and the response or the exposure to the experience was completely different. At that point there are ways that you can curate experiences and responses to different stimuli and that’s what got me looking towards landscape as an idea.

Project: Windsor Garden Landscape Architect: Dan Young Architect Photographer: Andy Macpherson

How did you get your start in the Landscape Architecture Industry?

I am from Brisbane originally, and was an Undergraduate at QUT. When I came back from overseas it was more natural for me to come back here than anywhere else, and so I enrolled in a Research Masters which articulated into a pHD. From here, a friend of mine, Architect Paul Owen said to me, “well, we have all of these great residential projects that we could probably use a hand with, do you want to do one of them?” I said yes, and here we are! It was very fortuitous and a combination of expressed work and ideals of what landscape could be in a suburban or residential setting through ongoing conversations with Paul

I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to do that and for being in the right place with the right group of people. It was a real alignment of interests and personalities.

What was your motivation for starting your own practice?

The biggest driver was flexibility, knowing that I really had a whole mix of things I needed to do around the house and figuring out how to be a parent and all the everyday stuff that comes with that. The companies that allow for the flexibility in work are generally the ones that allow for the larger, more commercial projects, which wasn’t really the work that I wanted to do.

How would you describe the ethos of your practice? 

I would describe it as experientially process based. The majority of the work I do is alongside architects who I have already worked with, so we generally have an understanding of where the client wants to go with a project. A lot of my role and approach to any of those projects is to augment a series of decisions that have already been made through the architectural process.

Where do you see the future of Landscape Architecture going? 

Through the 80s, there was a big push toward native styles of garden and approaches to landscape architecture, and there was this sort of academic divide between what’s landscape design, landscape gardening and landscape architecture and I think those areas are all starting to converge again. In the residential space there’s a big push towards native gardens, and there’s some great characteristics of native plants that are starting to become far more apparent in the pressures of climate change.

I noticed that your projects are really abundant with a variety of different plants, and there’s lots of native species. How important do you think biodiversity is, in both residential and in commercial spaces?

Biodiversity is a huge driver to anything because it solves a lot of broader landscape system issues. Natives tend to work well in most contexts because they’re from here, and so they’re designed and evolved to grow in these conditions.

In a sense, plants are kind of like materials, so we look at the process as a human experience, in the same way as an interior of a dwelling or a building in itself there’s a whole body experience that’s happening. So, in that sense, it doesn't matter what the plant is, it matters what or how it does what it does and how that elicits a response from whoever is interacting with that landscape.

“At that point there are ways that you can curate experiences and responses to different stimuli and that’s kind of what got me looking towards landscape as an idea.”

Dan Young

“At that point there are ways that you can curate experiences and responses to different stimuli and that’s kind of what got me looking towards landscape as an idea.”

Dan Young
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