Principal of Landscape Architecture at multi-disciplinary firm Scott Carver, Esther Dickins originally had her heart set on becoming an artist.
It was Dickins’ mother, however, who dissuaded her – steering her on a different creative path entirely by encouraging Dickins’ to get an education first.
Aged just 26, after completing a double degree in architecture and landscape architecture, Dickins was appointed Principal of Landscape and Urban Design at a prominent international design practice.
Now Principal of Landscape Architecture at multi-disciplinary firm Scott Carver, Dickins has worked on major projects in Australia, Asia and the Middle East, across mixed-use, commercial, residential, education, arts and culture, health, hospitality, retail, interior landscape and infrastructure.
Recent clients include Lendlease, UrbanGrowth, and Greenfields Development Company.
Dickins also co-chairs the Women’s Leadership Initiative, ULI Australia, and sits on the Sydney District Council, ULI Australia.
The Urban Developer sat down with Esther to discuss her vision, her latest projects and the evolution of what has been a stellar career.
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TUD: How does your education, both in architecture and landscape architecture, affect your work?
ED: It gives me a much broader perspective and an insight into the language of architects, as well as a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve. This assists me on a day-to-day basis – working with a multi-disciplinary team.
TUD: What else has contributed to your approach to your work?
ED: I worked in HR for two years, which contributed significantly to my thinking when designing environments for people. It was very people focused and gave me a great deal of exposure to the human side of organisations, as well as insights into psychology, conflict resolution, diplomacy and effective management.
TUD: What are your thoughts around the current directions in Landscape Architecture?
ED: I think it is an exciting time to be a Landscape Architect. It's an expanding profession, as the importance of landscape and the public domain is better recognised, especially in the context of higher density urban environments.
We are seeing some encouraging directions from government in defining what is required, and Sydney will hopefully take Singapore’s lead by increasing the provision of landscape on projects.
It doesn’t need to be seen as a cost imposition though – there are so many benefits, from human health and wellbeing, environmental and passive implications on building efficiency; it really is good value.
Interestingly, there is growing recognition by more savvy clients. They are shifting to understand landscape is not only something they need to get an approval, but also that it is vital to their branding, sales and rental values. Indeed, their customers and communities demand the amenities and environmental responsibility that landscape offers.
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Incorporating landscape is fuelling a trend for developers to out-perform each other in their delivery of exceptional landscape and public domain. This is not just down to initial sales either. The creation of vibrant, comfortable, people friendly, inspirational spaces is a big part of the ongoing success of the places we create for the future.Esther Dickins, Principle of Landscape Architecture at Scott Carver
Landscape Architecture has at least as much impact in achieving this as the built form, probably even more based on recent community surveys I've read. Developers are starting to recognise this makes good commercial sense and that gives us much more scope to have a serious impact.
This has been a big shift over my career, and it’s very heartening to see. It drives me to keep having conversations, pushing and finding better solutions that serve our clients clearly, but also serve their clients – the end users who live, work and recreate in the spaces for which we are responsible.
TUD: What attracted you to Scott Carver?
ED: What I missed – and what I found at Scott Carver – was that passion for and interaction between perspectives, the building and the landscape. Working in a landscape only firm you have much less influence.
I missed that collaborative approach – the strict delineation between the disciplines. To me, they fit together – they have absolute synergies, so to work in an integrated way from the outset is far more effective, and you can achieve much better outcomes.
TUD: What's in store for your team?
ED: To continually work with clients who want to do great projects through a holistic multi-disciplinary approach. About half our work comes internally, and half externally. This keeps it interesting and keeps us industry relevant. It's exciting, a really good balance, and enhances the end product and the work the firm does all round.
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