Exploring a looping path – a design art practice in landscape architecture by Anton James

* Click on the red time-stamp to go directly to each segment in the video

00:10 The Chair (Suzie Attiwill) introduces Anton James and the examiners: Lisa Diedrich, Annacaterina Piras and Bill Fox

01:17 Anton James: Introduction to presentation: title, history, six key projects

03:33 Three incites that form the basis of the presentation and exhibition: modes of engagement, drawing, methodology (Methodology)

04:00 Describes the exhibition (Structuring)

04:52 Beginning of the PhD – categorisation, drivers, registers (Structuring)

07:03 Shifts in thinking about the project – the uncoupling of contradictions; the creation of ‘mood’ (Methodology / Practice narrative)

11:10 The first ‘shift’: modes of operation (scaling, voicing and making) in relation to five projects (Project narrative)

13:47 Project: Mt Penang Gardens (Project narrative)

21:44 Project: Blaxland Riverside Park Regional Playspace (Project narrative)

32:32 Projects: Clifftop Walk Cockatoo Island & Glebe Foreshore Walk (Project narrative)

41:36 Paddington Reservoir Gardens (Project narrative)

45:27 Second incite: drawing, painting, the centrality of the sketchbook (Methodology)

50:17 Ideograms: looping (Methodology)

54:24 The contribution the PhD has made (Contributing)

57:07 The looping nature of the exhibition

1:03:05 End of the presentation / Beginning of Questions

1:03:29 Bill Fox (BF) responds (very positively) to the work

1:06:30 Annacaterina Piras (AP) responds (likewise very positively) to the work

1:11:00 Lisa Diedrich (LD) discusses the book that Anton produced as his dissertation

1:15:18 BF: Has the PhD given you new tools with which to talk to your clients?

1:16:00 BF: Is there a relationship between mood and genius loci

1:17:03 AP: Comments and a question about directing, or not, the direction of visitor’s responses to each project site

1:21:56 AP: Comments on the difference between the impression of a place left by the sketches (or assumptions made based on the sketches) and the reality of the place

1:25:44 LD: Drawing is one of your main tools. LD suggests more could be made of this in the future

1:28:00 LD: The idea that Anton uses mood is a bulwark or antidote to the traditional concerns of landscape design: measurement, climate, number of trees, sustainability etc. Q: Did (AJ) consider examining mood beyond his practice?

1:29:44 LD: Comments on the slippery slope of adopting words (in this case mood) without understanding their historic antecedents and the authors who have written on the topic

1:30:55 AP: Comments about the seamlessness of the overlay of project onto landscape

1:33:10 End and applause

View the complete dissertation


The research undertaken in this PhD has entailed the close scrutiny of a personal design method that has propelled more than twenty years of design/art practice in landscape architecture. The original research through typological models gave way to a more specific understanding of my design methodology as one that loops around diverse references, operations and site qualities. It is a method that explores a variety of divergent ideas through drawing, one that loops between different positions, pursuing new directions as they reveal themselves, retreating, revisiting and testing options against project realities and my imagined mentors. The looping method is as much a process of elimination as it is of selection.

This PhD has brought to light the importance of my sketchbooks as the site of my design research and methodology, and has given them a central position in my practice. It is here that the looping method makes itself evident and reveals a number of recurrent operations that are used to engage with, manipulate, heighten, reinforce, ennoble and or challenge context.

This research implicitly builds an argument for an approach to the sites of landscape architecture that celebrates the particular and embraces the discontinuities, missed beats and contradictions of sites as they are here and now.

Year: 2013
Examiners: Lisa Diedrich, Annacaterina Piras, Bill Fox  Supervisors: Professor SueAnne Ware, Professor Leon van Schaik

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