An aspiring architect since childhood, Dean Landy now serves as a partner at award winning Melbourne based firm ClarkeHopkinsClarke.
November 28th, 2014
Always driven by a strong social conscious, Landy is also the Founder and Director of the One Heart Foundation and director of Melbourne’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation organisation Destiny Transformations.
As a regular event speaker around the country, talking on the subjects of architecture, urban design, social impact and leadership, Landy is clearly passionate about his work. We talk to the architect as he prepares for the One Heart Foundation’s inaugural major ‘Run from Poverty‘.
1. How did you become an architect? What first drew you to the practice?
I’ve always loved to create and build. The passion started as a kid with building Lego towns over our pool table where kids from the neighbourhood would come and play.
I first intended to become a builder, but then having completed my work experience as a builder I decided that I would enjoy architecture more.
I completed my ‘year out’ in 1998 at ClarkeHopkinsClarke (CHC) as the office junior, between my degrees at Deakin Uni. This role gave me an opportunity to get involved in the design of some really interesting buildings from a very early stage. I’m still working there now.
I decided to stay at CHC once I graduated, having received several student awards in my final year, as I could see that as a practice of only 12 people at the time there was a lot of history and experience there, and a lot of potential for me to grow with the practice. Today there are 65 people and the practice has been going for over 50 years.
2. Has the reality of practicing architecture differed from your expectations? In what ways?
I’ve been fortunate to never have been pigeon holed into a set role in a large firm that limits what I can do with architecture, so my expectation or reality of practising architecture has been exactly what I have set my goals to be and achieved them.
Now, rather than building Lego towns on my family pool table, I get to masterplan and design real towns around Australia where people will live and interact. So in that regard, I find the reality of architecture very exciting.
I became a partner of the practice when I was 29, so from a young age I’ve been able to carve out my own path within the vision of the practice.
As a partnership we all work together very well and each partner focuses on a different sector. This is one of CHC’s strengths as it gives us expert knowledge in a wide range of areas from health to education, multi residential to commercial, retail to community infrastructure, and retirement living to overall urban design.
That enables us to have specialist knowledge we can draw upon to create all of the elements that make up the new town centres we are currently designing.
3. How does the role of research fit into your architecture practise? How big of a part does this play in your designs?
Research is a very large part of our work at the practice as we look to always improve the places we are designing. CHC currently have a team working on some major research into ‘what makes a vibrant community’, and how can we capture this in our current designs for new towns.
We are looking at research beyond just the built form, and looking at how we can better deliver a process of creating new communities both physically and psychologically. This process carries through from setting a vision for a new place to how it is literally activated and people engage with it.
CHC’s Creating Vibrant Communities research also enables us to broaden the discussion with various stakeholders that make up new communities much earlier on in the design process. We endeavor to work with developers in delivering better services and facilities to new communities earlier.
4. Can you tell us about your views on architects and social responsibility? Can the two ever be separated?
Architects play a critical role in the creation of the communities that people live and work in. I’ve heard it said that we can have a bigger impact on preventative health issues than doctors, so we need to be conscious of how people will be effected by what we design.
Beyond just the design of buildings and places, I believe architects have a social responsibility to ensure we view each commission as a tool to improve other peoples quality of life. This is important beyond just our cities – it is especially relevant in new growth areas that typically face a different set of challenges and a broader socio-economic mix.
I ask myself the question, how can I encourage developer clients to consider broader needs beyond just retail and residential such as community hubs, childcare, libraries, small offices, medical facilities, schools and better public spaces…the elements we know stitch a new community together.
I believe we all have a responsibility to ‘give back’ to our communities also. Beyond the role of just being an architect, I believe we all have a social responsibility to consider others in need beyond just ourselves. I don’t just say that, I’m the director of a new drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Melbourne’s western suburbs, I regularly work with the Vinnies soup van in the city and I’m also the director of One Heart which is working to address poverty in Africa.
5. You’ve been doing work in Kenya, namely founding One Heart Kenya, building homes for abandoned children, creating jobs and learning opportunities for communities. What prompted this project? Can you compare this to development initiatives in Australia?
One Heart is an organisation that grew out of my desire to make a difference in children’s lives in need. Today we are caring for 75 orphaned and abandoned children in Kenya, and growing. We are building homes, schools, skills training centres and farms all aimed at creating an environmentally, financially and socially sustainable community that can be replicated over and over around the world to see thousands of children’s lives transformed. We believe that education is the key to breaking the poverty cycle so that is a very big focus for us, but also providing a loving family environment for kids that were otherwise left to die on the streets.
I believe these same pillars of what makes up a sustainable community are just as relevant here as they are in Kenya. New communities need to financially ‘stack up’ from a commercial sense given they are being created by commercial developers, they must be environmentally aware and look to reduce the impact on the environment where ever possible, and they must be based around people…to create a more socially connected, healthier and happier place in which to live, work and learn.
At the end of the day the success of what we do now, as architects, will be determined by the people that live in the new communities we design.
6. What do you believe to be the main forces and challenges for the practice of urban architecture currently? What do you think they will be in the future?
The biggest challenges now are population growth, an ageing population and underdevelopment of infrastructure.
These can present both opportunities and problems. There are huge opportunities in looking at new ways of providing housing options for our ageing community. Retirees want new living options such as apartments closer to where they currently live; better community facilities for them to connect; more walkable environments etc. These are all areas that will only serve to improve the vibrancy of the new places they are integrated with.
The rate at which new housing needs to be provided to meet the demand of our growing population is alarming. This provides amazing opportunities to offer a wider range of housing options rather than the ‘typical’ 3 bedroom home. This too will start to visually impact the way new communities look as we encourage more medium density townhouses and apartments which will also serve to create greater density around new town centres and in turn boost the financial viability of the retail precinct.
The potential issue in addressing these opportunities is ensuring there is adequate infrastructure there to support it. Public transport, roads and bike paths need to be delivered early otherwise areas simply get strangled by their own success.
7. What changes do you hope to see in terms of the relationship between architecture and social responsibility?
I think there is a tendency in the design industry to shun new growth areas because many are philosophically opposed to ‘urban sprawl’, but the reality is that hundreds of families are moving to these new growth areas weekly, so I believe we have a responsibility to make them a great place to live, as not everyone is going to live in the city or in the fringe suburbs.
For me, my success as an architect in terms of design and social responsibility will no doubt be judged by the orphans living in the childrens villages I created in Kenya, the young family doing their shopping, grabbing a coffee and seeing the doctor after the school pick-up in a new town centre CHC designed in Cranbourne, or the guy suffering from addiction living in the Hoppers Crossing rehabilitation centre which I helped establish and design as a personal interest area of mine.
8. What is the most exciting or significant development for the architecture industry currently? How does this affect your area of work?
I think an encouraging development is the fact that there is a lot more consideration going into the planning of new major and local town centres from a macro level with the Metropolitan Planning Authority. Thankfully this will prevent any more ‘faceless suburbs’ that were prevalent in development during the 80’s and 90’s where there was no identifiable centre, no ‘place’ that residents could be proud to say was their village centre.
Some may call it ‘new urbanism’, but I simply think of it as returning to the basics of building a strong sense of place, a commercially viable village centre, and a happier, healthier place for people to live and grow in.
One Heart Kenya
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