Andrew Baranowski is Director of PLAN E, a commercial landscape architectural practice that provides a broad range of landscape architectural and urban design services.
Can you describe the work you do?
We’re landscape architects, but we also work in natural areas. We do a lot of work for Kings Park. We do a lot of institution work. Our firm has also developed skills in land subdivision work and schools and hospitals. We also do residential.
We’re very selective in the residential work we take on. It really depends on the people who are involved.
We’re a big organisation and we mostly do major projects. Single residential work isn’t something we would take on normally. We only do it when someone like Neil comes to us with something special.
What sorts of projects have you worked on with Neil?
I’ve known Neil for about 20 years and we’ve worked on a range of projects. When I first arrived in Perth in 1988, Neil was involved with commercial projects, apartment work. We did a fair bit of that work with him then. There were a couple of single residential projects that he did as well. I quite enjoyed those.
You recently worked on a house in Floreat?
The Floreat project is quite exciting. When Neil sent me the drawings I immediately knew that we wanted to be involved. That was because it has quite a high level of architecture and design.
A big focus, even from his drawings, was the strong relationship between landscape and architecture. It’s one of Neil’s strengths, to be able to marry the two. It doesn’t read as two separate entities but as one integrated whole.
I quite enjoy working that way too.
Can you tell me what it’s like working with Neil?
Enjoyable. He’s an architect who respects other consultants and other viewpoints. I think there is a real affinity there with landscape in particular. This is good for us because it’s an easy working process. There’s no sort of in-fighting. We have a job to do and he respects what we do.
The other reason I like working with him is that he’s a true collaborator. He really likes to work closely, particularly at the design stages. He’s one of the few architects who think about landscape at the same time and how that works with the building. A lot of other architects tend to be so focused on the building they forget the setting. I guess that’s what I found really enjoyable about working with Neil. There’s a vision that we work on together. This covers all materials, paving materials, wall materials as well as the look and the feel of the thing.
Neil has a real respect for his consultants. Collaboration and respect for me go hand in hand. In the projects that Neil’s done you can see that there’s been a collaboration. That’s why the projects, in my mind, have been successful.
He’s also a hands-on architect which is good. He has a vision for the project. He’s across everything, from every detail, from every angle to make sure that the building is a whole project. That’s what I’ve found different about Neil.
Can you describe Neil’s communication and documentation?
There’s an initial briefing. We’re served a set of drawings that we then get excited about. We then sit down with Neil. He’s very good at articulating what the vision for the project is. He’ll talk about what the look is. He’ll tell us about the feeling that he’s trying to create both in the internal and external environment. That, from my point of view, makes our design process a lot easier.
There’s a real clarity about what he wants to achieve and the vision for the project. We would then go away and produce some rough sketches. We get some image boards together that are our interpretation of the vision. We have a working session with the client to flesh out what works and what doesn’t. It is a continual kind of collaboration.
Can you talk a little bit about the documentation from a cost point of view?
Neil’s documentation is thorough. The budget is always articulated up front to us. That clarity is important particularly in residential projects. A lot of people don’t have a feel for their budgets when it comes to landscape design. Neil is clear and his specifications are detailed and reliable. This helps us prepare our own costings.
Do you recommend Neil to clients or friends that are looking for an architect?
Yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t hesitate. In fact, since the Floreat job, there have been a few projects where we have needed to collaborate with architects on submissions. We’ve chosen to work with Neil on those. If I was doing another house for myself I’d get Neil involved for sure.
When you’ve completed a project with Neil, how do you sum up that experience?
The word that comes to mind is, enjoyable. There’s never any sort of harsh words or anything like that. It’s just a pleasure. It’s a good experience because at the end of it you’ve learned something. This is important in any sort of design work. In our profession I think if you felt like you were just churning out the same old stuff it wouldn’t be good. You wouldn’t have actually grown as a result of the process and it’s a lost opportunity. I never feel that with Neil. There’s always an interesting challenge that’s part it.