Alice Leake Landscape Professional Spiire  / 
Community Collective

story / Guest Story / May 14, 2017

I grew up in Naracoorte in South Australia. I was surrounded by a patchwork of people all doing their bit, to make the world around them a better place. I left home to attend boarding school at fourteen. Leaving home at such a young age, taught me the importance of looking after yourself. I learnt resilience. It gave me the ability to bounce back and keep thriving.

I grew up spending my summers down the beach running free range across the town with the other kids. We would spend days exploring the sand dunes, the reefs, the cliffs. Without realisation, my fascination of nature had begun. Now when designing spaces, I am not only aware of nature but push to design spaces that are responsive to these natural forces.

I was a well-rounded student at high school; with a keen interest in the social sciences, art and design. When I was applying for University I decided to study a double degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design. I did an exchange to Vienna and ended up in architecture classes debating the way we live and engage with one another. Their paradigm was one of watching the world go by, something I find myself often doing.

In my final year, I participated in the Lurujarri Heritage Trail. It’s a trail that follows the ancient living Songcycle, from Broome to Bindiyangun. We traveled with the Goolarabooloo people, stopping at campsites that had been used by Aborigines for millennia. Walking through the mangroves and along the beaches of Northern Western Australia allowed me to reflect on what a beautiful country we live in. The Goolarabooloo approach to country, protecting our resources, their concept of landscape and respect for elders has stuck with me today.

I spent my graduate year based in Shanghai, living the Chinese way. In China, no two days were the same; some days I was marketing new developments, others I was in large meeting rooms discussing possible opportunities with clients and government agencies. In my spare time I learnt Chinese and would explore their landscapes. Every night after work the corner of the footpath in front of my house was turned into a dance floor with music from a local band. Everyone and anyone could be a dancer and one couldn’t help but want to join in.

I have a real passion of access to play for all ages and approaching design through my inner child. When I lived in Sydney, I chose to work as a play specialist. My idea of a playground was truly transformed. The playground is the central meeting place of a community; where everyone feels welcome and at ease to meet and hang out. These places do not necessarily need to be playgrounds however; they may in fact be a park bench or urban space; a space that offers an array of opportunities for placemaking.

The way I have approached my career thus far has been through passion and commitment to people. That is, offering up solutions to leave the community in a better position than when I started. I have realised how much my upbringing has shaped the way I approach work and my life as a landscape architect. I find myself looking at opportunities through my inner child and my need to be outside exploring the world we inhabit.

I’m currently working at Spiire, predominantly in Greenfield work. This work opens up a different notion of what it is to design for a community. As designers, we are continually asking ourselves how to create culture and community in a place, where we have no idea who might live there.

On reflection of my experience of community, I’ve realised although the word community stays the same, the idea varies according to our locations. The one underlying message is our internal need for connection, collaboration and the desire to feel welcome.

I try to add a playful element to all that I do and am currently working on a small project about Play and what is it? Why is it some people want to be outside jumping in puddles or why is it that when you walk down some streets you feel like you can dance and sing to the music in your head. These playful elements make our cities and spaces more welcoming and engaging for the whole community.

My grandma is my inspiration. She is 98 and still able to find time to play daily. In her commentary about age, she sees herself as still young at heart. It makes me smile. My future looks bright and as our population ages I would love to be involved in designing playgrounds or outside areas for people who are growing older. I hope I’ll be lucky enough to live to tell half the stories she has under her belt!

 

Alice is a landscape architect and urban designer currently based in Melbourne. 

Community, by definition, is the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities. As the definition is so broad and given Alice’s experience in community, we though it would be perfect for her to frame a guest article around idea.  

Alice is one of those legendary humans who knows just about everyone. She has been an integral part of the Gazella community. A constant source of contacts. Always up for the adventure, full of beans and constantly cheerful (much to Justine’s dismay). She loves a good pattern, can often be found around plants and swings. No that’s not weird, that’s Alice! Thank you so much Alice for your self reflection and time. This woman is going to change the world. D&J xx

One thought on “Alice Leake Landscape Professional Spiire

Di Stuart   May 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

What an inspirational reflection from an amazing young woman who obviously stops to smell the roses of life itself
I loved her scribe Di Stuart