2018 Tessa Bradbury

At the time of this interview, Tessa Bradbury was a Senior Landscape Architect at Isthmus in New Zealand,, She is now a Project Landscape Architect at Planit-IE in the United Kingdom. Tessa
graduated from the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at UWA in 2018.

This interview was undertaken by Alison Wong, as part of the UWA Master of Landscape Architecture history and theory unit, LACH4421: Australian Landscapes.

Alison Wong – Could you tell me a bit about yourself in terms of your time at UWA and your career as a landscape architect?
Tessa Bradbury – At UWA, I completed a Bachelor of Design. I took a year off before returning to complete the Master of Landscape Architecture; I graduated in 2018. I went on exchange during my undergraduate and studied at the University of Sheffield in the UK. I really enjoyed the experience of being able to study and travel, as well as how different landscapes and cultures influence design.

After graduating from the Master of Landscape Architecture, I decided I’d like to work overseas and I found Isthmus in New Zealand, which is where I work now. It’s a landscape architecture practice, but the team also includes architects, urban planners, and graphic designers, all  looking at how the landscape influences many types of design. This is something that really resonated with me.

AW – What made you interested in studying landscape architecture?
TB – I didn't really know what it was when I signed up to do it. I liked geography at school, and I was also interested in and enjoyed art. So, I thought landscape architecture was kind of a middle ground.

AW – Could you tell us your most memorable class?
TB – My first-year design studio, run by Vanessa Margetts, Jeremy Macmath and Christina Nicholson. They ran a studio on Wadjemup / Rottnest Island, and we spent a weekend there understanding the place and its context, history and the landscape.

AW – How has that class stood out from your time studying landscape architecture at UWA?
TB – During the stydio, I realised that I enjoyed what I was studying. I could see myself focusing on landscape architecture for a long time, to explore how land, design and culture come together.

AW – What is the most valuable lesson or piece of advice you gained from UWA that has influenced your career?
TB – Going on exchange definitely pushed me towards wanting to work overseas. It helped me understand how design is linked to places, and people as well. I would encourage current students to take up the opportunity to go on exchange; it's a really incredible opportunity to broaden your understanding of design.

AW – Throughout your career so far, what have you found that landscape design can do?
TB – It plays the role as a connector. It connects and reconnects people to places. It also connects communities to their culture. And on a broader scale, it connects people, cities and countries to live more sustainably.

AW – Could you tell us about a significant project that you’ve worked or are working on?
TB – With Isthmus, I worked on a project in Rotorua, which is in the central part of the North Island, with a community called Ohinemutu. It's a traditional pā site; people have been living on the edge of the Rotorua lakefront since before European settlement. We worked with the Ohinemutu Development Group and Ngāti Whakaue, who were their iwi, through several workshops. The project was to help them establish a development guide for their village.

AW – Why has this project been significant to you?
TB – It was about how we, as designers, can think strategically to help support the voice of community. It was about community driving their vision for their place and people, rather than us doing so. We were the supporting edge that listened and tied all the threads together to provide a document that they could champion.

AW –How has your definition and understanding of landscape architecture changed since your time at UWA?
TB – I came out of uni thinking that landscape architecture was mainly focused on design through construction, which is pretty narrow. Our role is far greater than that; a lot of the work I've done has sat outside [construction].

Strategic design thinking is an important aspect of landscape architecture. The Ohinemutu project for example, is definitely more about strategic design thinking, and how we connect the dots between people, design and place.

This interview was undertaken in 2022. It has been edited for clarity and cohesion.

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Image: Tessa Bradbury (via linkedin.com/in/tessa-bradbury-058389167)