Five Minutes With...HASSELL Principal Jon Hazelwood

Jon Hazelwood is a Principal at leading international design practice HASSELL, which has studios in Australia, China, South East Asia and the United Kingdom. Jon recently returned to Sydney after four years in the HASSELL London studio.

Jon’s career in landscape architecture spans 18 years across both the UK and Australia.

Most recently Jon was part of the team working with Archikidz to create PLAY(ground) - the highly successful pop-up play space in Sydney which saw 4,000 children running, climbing and giggling their way through the installation as part of the annual Vivid Sydney event.

The 2011 London riots were a catalyst for an extensive High Street improvement programme across London. Jon and his team worked in partnership with the Council, the local community and likeminded collaborators to promote increased use of the high street through creating an environment more conducive to strolling, shopping and ‘grazing’ the restaurants. The results saw shop vacancies reduce from 25 per cent to 5 per cent by the time the project was complete.

What sparked your interest in landscape architecture and design?

Initially it was a love of maps! I enjoyed and excelled at geography at school, and growing up in a remote area of Northumberland on the Scottish Borders I would map the surroundings and start to take liberties, making up new rivers and landforms, roads and paths. When I discovered there was a career called landscape architecture it seemed a natural fit.

PLAY(ground) in Sydney. Photo: HASSELL[/caption]What drives you? Simplicity. I think we often have a tendency to throw lots of “stuff” into a space, where simplicity is actually much harder and braver to design. In searching for the simple and singular idea for a project it gives us the opportunity to consider more ephemeral, flexible and evolving uses for the public realm.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?Time or resources would be the obvious daily reply, but thinking beyond that, terms like “activation” and “meanwhile use” are becoming somewhat clichéd. However, the fact they are so ubiquitous goes to show the lengths and interest clients are taking in answering the simple question, “what will draw someone to my site, stay there and tell their friends about it?” It goes back to the earlier point, it’s not about the “stuff” we throw into a space, but how people use it.

What is the highlight of your job?

When a collective idea, a concept “clicks”. You just know it’s right, the team knows it’s right and the client knows it’s right; it gives a burst of productivity, energy and creativity. Working in a collaborative environment such as HASSELL, full of likeminded people across a range of design backgrounds is consistently enriching. Without a “house style” we are given the opportunity to express our design idea in an open and inclusive manner. Also crucially, it’s the opportunity to work on a global platform without the blinkers of a single market, and the access this gives us to the best projects internationally.

PLAY(ground) in Sydney. Photo: HASSELL[/caption]Who are your three favourite landscape architects and designers? Michel Desvigne, Piet Ouldorf and Professor Kongjian Yu of Turenscape.

Apart from those by your own company, what do you think are the three best projects in the world at the moment?London’s

Queen Elizabeth Park can’t be overlooked, not just from a pure Landscape Architectural perspective, but the wider “fringe” work that the London Legacy Development Corporation carried out, and are still carrying out around the park, stitching it physically and culturally into its surrounding context. Nigel Dunnett’s research into the creation of his pictorial wildflower meadows for the park and beyond has been hugely influential.

I am big fan of the

MFO Park in Zurich by Burckhardt + Partner and Raderschall Landschaftsarchitekten, it is over a decade old now, but challenged and still challenges our perception of what makes a great space in all dimensions.

What is the most pressing policy issue facing your industry?

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Tyler Brules’ comment regarding Australia being a “nanny state” due to overzealous health and safety regulations, however when it comes to comparing between designing the public realm in both Australia and Europe, there is a grain of truth in the statement, particularly when it comes to the design of play and inserting play into our cities.

Croydon South End  High Street. Photo: Jakob Spriesterbach and HASSELL[/caption]

What or whom have you learned the most from?

My partner and colleague and fellow landscape architect, Sharon Wright continues to challenge and inspire me. Our work is born out of each playing to our strengths and working to a common vision. I also consistently draw inspiration from interesting and inspirational collaborators. Getting the view point from collaborators as disparate as a brand expert, a story teller or a horticulturalist, all make for a vastly better project.

What is a website or blog that you visit often?
Bustler to catch up with latest international competition opportunities,

Landezine for inspiration, Building Design to keep up with the UK market and to update the daily soundtrack.

What are three books that have either influenced you professionally or personally?

Landscape in Landscapes by Piet Ouldorf,

Soak by Anuradha Mathur & Dilip da Cunha, and

An Unexpected Light by Jason Elliot.

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