Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 27 Summer 2010 Contents 180 INSITE SUMMER 2010
OUTDOORS landscape architect
“It’s not so much about this set of stairs...
The stairs are just stairs, but the fact that
the space is conducive to us having a
chat is really kind of beautiful”
Blake sits on the stairs in front of the wall that
gives his ‘zen’ fishpond privacy.
lake Willis brings to all his projects the kind of creative
mind that thinks in tangents. While his passion is to design outdoor
areas just right for the WA conditions and lifestyle, he’s not shy
about drawing on concepts from other countries and cultures.
And that’s what gives him an edge.
This award-winning landscape architect has stepped out on
his own and formed Blake Willis Landscape Architects after 10
fruitful years as half of one of Perth’s most successful outdoor
teams – Tim Davies Landscaping. While it was a tough decision to
go it alone, it’s something he’s embraced, now working at his own
pace from his home studio, which opens on to a garden where he
can wave to his kids as they play.
One of his philosophies is to create outdoor spaces for people,
rather than cramming the area f ull of ‘stuff’. For instance, by
incorporating places to sit, people – rather than objects – can
fill the space. “It’s not the fabric of the thing, but what it does...
much more to do with how people use it,” he says. Here, he brings
in the Japanese concept of ‘ma’, which relates less to the idea of the
things in a space, more to what you experience from being in it. He
gives an example. “It’s not so much about this set of stairs [we’re
sitting on]... it’s about the conversation we’re having and what’s
happening today, and how the sun falls on us and the memories
we’re going to have when we go away. The stairs are just stairs,
but the fact that the space is conducive to us having a chat is really
kind of beautiful,” he says.
Another example from another culture he draws on is that of
old-style Kashmiri gardens in the mountains, to which royalty
would retreat in summer. In these walled gardens, people could
feel safe, he says, even if there was chaos outside. They could sit in
an elevated area overlooking the garden and some of the outside
world, but have the privacy of not being seen. “It’s that whole sense
of retreat, safety and enclosure, but with vantage, and that’s what
makes gardens feel really cosy and comfortable,” Blake says. “A lot of
these things are so basic... I think maybe people overcomplicate it.”
In Australia, getting the colours right is vital, he adds. The light
here is so strong that “we need to include devices to knock the light
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