Our desire to connect with nature through design fuels the ever-increasing importance of landscaped spaces. We’ve engaged Australia’s leading landscape architects and designers in a new series that explores the myriad ways they design to live in harmony with nature, concurrently improving human health and wellbeing. 

In this instalment of the Q&A series, we sit down with the Melbourne-based landscape design practice Florian Wild director Rupert Baynes-Williams, to discuss the importance of context and climate in residential landscape design; context encompassing a site’s location, history and inhabitants, and climate encompassing its unique weather conditions. Rupert’s design approach emphasises the role of both in shaping spaces of substance and meaning, as he maintains they form an integral part of the ‘narrative’ of a site.

In this interview, Rupert draws on his experience exploring a range of contexts and climates, including in both rural and urban settings, and his collaborations with leading architecture and interior design firms to illustrate how he creates site-specific gardens that deeply resonate with their inhabitants.

In creating a sense of place in your work, you describe your approach as drawing inspiration from experience and memory while speaking to a project’s locality. How does this approach manifest in your work?

Rupert Baynes-Williams: Gardens have a remarkable ability to evoke deep emotions and nostalgia. When engaging with people about gardens, it’s amazing how often their earliest memories are intertwined with landscapes and gardens. I’ve encountered numerous clients who connect specific elements to their childhood environments, like crazy paving in their backyards or special plants at their grandparents’ homes. Some clients enthusiastically embrace this nostalgia, seeking to recapture past sentiments, while others are motivated to forge new memories and associations. Our work aims to delicately balance the sentiment of the past with the present aspirations, creating a harmonious interplay between personal history and the contemporary context of the project.

How does a site’s context – i.e. its history, location and the people who live there – inform the way you instil meaning into your designs?

Rupert Baynes-Williams: In our experience, responding to these contextual factors is vital to creating a connection with a space. Understanding a site’s context assumes particular importance at the beginning of the process. Standing in a space and getting a sense of it – how it makes you feel, what sparks attention, what has come before it and how it is intended to be used now – guides how our design should interact with it. A simple tree might remind you of a place you’ve visited, a cherished memory or a cultural reference, all of which become threads woven into the design narrative.

What are some of the key considerations you make as a landscape designer when it comes to climate? 

Rupert Baynes-Williams: We’ve worked on projects in diverse climates, from the cooler southern regions of Tasmania to the equatorial landscapes of Indonesia and the subtropical Gold Coast Hinterlands. While these climates may differ significantly, the underlying philosophy we embrace remains the same: the creation of a botanical playground. The trick is to learn from local knowledge; do what is already working, put a spin on it and keep learning.

Context and climate matter significantly in both rural and urban settings. Could you talk about your approach to each; how are they similar, and how do they differ?

Rupert Baynes-Williams: Fundamentally, we aim to create landscapes that resonate with their surroundings and fulfil the needs and desires of our clients – whether in a rural or urban setting. In both contexts, climate plays a pivotal role in shaping design decisions. Whether it’s the harsh conditions of a more remote area or the microclimate of a walled city courtyard, the suitability of plant selection, materials and layout are closely connected to the local conditions. That said, there are some differences.

In rural settings, the design process often involves a deeper engagement with the existing natural context. Rural projects are more likely to be able to borrow from the broader backdrop of the surrounding landscape. The challenge here lies in integrating the design and ensuring it’s compatible with the area’s natural topography, vegetation and cultural history. 

On the other hand, urban projects offer the opportunity to create moments of introspection and escape. The broader context may be less important as the focus shifts toward crafting spaces that offer respite. Our choices are designed to transport our clients to a different state of mind. In that respect, we may use nostalgia as a device.

est living florian wild interview 05

Troye Sivan’s House by Flack Studio and Florian Wild | Photography by Anson Smart

est living florian wild interview 06

Troye Sivan’s House by Flack Studio and Florian Wild | Photography by Anson Smart

You collaborated with Edition Office on their Mossy Point and Federal House projects. How did you work with Edition Office to ensure a strong relationship between the landscape, built form and the regional context?

Rupert Baynes-Williams: At the foundation of our working relationship with Edition Office is a mutual respect and genuine appreciation for natural landscapes. In their work, we observe a pure celebration of the natural environment’s beauty and its cultural history. Their architecture is conceived as a respectful companion rather than an imposition.

At Federal House, the building stands as its own entity, sitting proudly on the side of a hill. While proud, it still allows nature to do its thing without interference. Stepping back, the dark charred facade of the house gradually transforms into a silhouette before disappearing altogether. In this context, our landscape design is articulated with deliberate subtlety; it is a design that doesn’t demand attention, recognising that sometimes, creativity demands humility.

You’ve also collaborated on Melbourne inner-city homes with Flack Studio. Can you share an example of how you worked together to respond to context in this collaboration?

Rupert Baynes-Williams: We loved working with Flack Studio on a project for Troye Sivan, which brought together the threads of personal identity and context. Our design sought to capture the urban pulse of Melbourne and the unique style and passions of our clients. Our intention was to empower Troye to feel an intimate connection with the space. It was paramount that the landscape resonated as his personal haven – a retreat that felt authentically him.

In tandem with David Flack’s design, we envisaged the courtyard as a narrative-rich space that had gracefully matured over decades. This influenced our plant selection, with a lean into some less trendy ‘nanna plants’ to create that sense of nostalgia. There was also the deliberate choice to leave some existing plants gently decaying in a wall planter. Having a layer of familiarity and imperfection anchored the space in a sense of timelessness. We also meticulously and haphazardly curated an assortment of pots and plants, each with its own character and history. These were blended to create an eclectic collection that exuded a whimsical charm reminiscent of a genuine ‘Northside share-house’ collection.

The post Exploring Context and Climate with Florian Wild appeared first on est living | exceptional living.