Land Escapism Speakers 2022


Land Escapism, 8-10 February 2022, Bawley Point NSW


John Blay

John BlayJohn Blay, writer and naturalist, was born at Parramatta and since moving to the far south coast in 1970 has written extensively about south-eastern Australia and its people in prose, drama and poetry. His history and art projects also focus on the region. In 1982 he discovered a new species of wattle in the Brogo wilderness. Growing to over 30 metres, the species was named Acacia Blayana in his honour. He has served as a national Arts & Reviews newspaper editor and has published photographs and stories in magazines like Good Weekend. He continues to work in the SE Forests on further projects dealing with the region’s natural history and peoples.
His epic bushwalking trilogy of the southeast forests includes On Track (2015), Back Country (2017) and Wild Nature (2020). It traces the region’s forests, peoples, natural history, and the rediscovery of an important shared history pathway. Now heritage-listed – and thanks to the work of Blay, Aboriginal communities and local people – the Bundian Way is set to be one of the great Australian walks. His most recent publication looked at the challenges to conserving the region’s wild nature and landscapes.
Presentation for Land Escapism (abstract)
From his first book, On Track, which pondered the question of ‘garden’ through his long sojourns in the wild forests of south-eastern Australia looking at the qualities of wilderness, rediscovering ancient landscapes and plumbing the values of national parks, John Blay has never stopped learning the lessons of our unique native flora and the need for its management. John Blay tells stories of his long distance bushwalks and finding new levels of attachment to the landscapes of SE Australia. He believes we should look after our gardens as though they’re here for the next thousand years.


Michael Cooke – Michael Cooke Garden Design

Michael CookeMichael Cooke, a former Garden Editor of Marie Claire Lifestyle magazine and talented nurseryman, lives with his wife and son on a small acreage on the Central Coast of NSW north of Sydney, where he has a design studio, large garden and paddocks with horses.
With an early start in nurseries, plant knowledge and their selection is a one of Michael’s key strengths. Michael, however, says ‘the day he realised he was more interested in the way people lived and interacted within a landscape more than the plants they grew, was the day he identified as a landscape designer more than plantsman’.
His landscapes are designed to last. He sees each of his bespoke gardens as more than transitory fashion – in that they grow and improve with age with warmth, intimacy and sense of place. He’s aware and appreciative of the individuality of people and this curiousness in his clients translates to his design process when he works with a small and highly talented team to produce landscapes that engage and belong.
Michael is the author of two books, his most recent, ‘Disobedient Gardens’ includes photography by Brigid Arnott.


COX Architecture – Philip Cox AO and Chris Millman

Philip CoxPhilip Cox’s work and that of COX Architects and Planners is associated with many of Australia’s major cultural and sporting attractions including the Rod Laver Tennis Arena in Melbourne, Yulara Tourist Resort in Australia’s red centre and in major redevelopments across the globe including the Marina Bay development in Singapore and National Maritime Museum of China. Cox Architects and Planners employs approximately 500 people and was started by Philip in 1967.
Philip has received numerous awards in recognition of his contribution to architecture, including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Gold Medal in 1984, Life Fellowship to the RAIA in 1987 and an Honorary Fellowship of the American Institute of Architects, also in 1987. In 1988, he was awarded an Order of Australia for services to architecture. He is a keen painter, art collector and gardener.
His book ‘An Australian Garden’ explores how Philip has re-imagined a native landscape on the Far South Coast of NSW, exploring design within key landscape elements of sky, forest, canopy, earth and built form.

Chris MillmanChris Millman – Is a Director of COX and plays a leading role in the practice at both a national and studio level, while also contributing his knowledge as a mentor to emerging architects at the University of Canberra. Chris has expertise across sectors including planning, commercial, office and retail, residential, hotel and resort.

Philip and Chris, along with other architects from COX, will provide an introduction their and Cox’s design philosophy and how its reflected in the creation of Willinga Park.


Jane Irwin – JILA

Jane IrwinJane Irwin, with over 30 years’ experience as a landscape architect, has pioneered the way for many women in Australian landscape architecture. Her ability to work across scales from residential to large parks and playgrounds, multi-use developments and ceremonial places has been well recognised in the many awards and commendations she and JILA have won.
Her work on the Eastern Terrace of Government House, Sydney, is one recent example of where her talents are exposed through the design’s recognition and respect of the social and cultural landscape behind its ‘raison d’etre’ and her testing of new ground with native planting schemes. All this gives the spaces new interest and a confident dialogue with the future.


Lucy Culliton – Artist

Lucy CullitonLucy Culliton is one of Australia’s most recognised female contemporary landscape and still life artists. Culliton is the only female Australian artist to be a finalist in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman in the same year, being 2016. A visit to her home and studio at Bibbenluke in NSW rouses feelings of belonging and constant associations and exchanges of meanings through use of perspective and energised exchanges.
It’s Lucy’s ability to express her affection for people (and animals) and place, that makes her art immediately interesting. Her ability to see deeply and clearly into the things she loves, predominantly landscapes gardens, people and pets, makes them not only places and objects of beauty but they take the viewer beyond the picture to strike up emotional connections between ‘canvas and life’ in a similar way to good gardens.
Lucy’s work can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery NSW, Australian Parliament House, Canberra, the National Gallery Australia, Macquarie Bank, New England Regional Art Gallery and Tamworth Regional Gallery.


Hugh Main – Spirit Level Design

Hugh MainFor Hugh Main of Spirit Level Design, gardens should offer ‘the ultimate simplicity of a pastoral paradise; a harmonious retreat from the pressures of everyday life and provide an escape into a relaxed, dream-like circumstance’. Calmness, serenity and quiet are the qualities Hugh considers essential to any truly exceptional garden.
Hugh, in his time away from garden design and the bustle of city living, is a highly competent horseman. He grew up in the Glen Innes district of NSW and retains his rural roots at his farm near Gloucester where he rides Australian Stock Horses. His work is characterized by a deep consideration of the use of space to evoke emotional responses as one moves through them. Hugh’s presentation will explore compression and movement, terms usually more commonly associated with architecture than garden design.


Peter Shaw – Ocean Road Landscaping

Peter ShawPeter Shaw, along with his wife Simone, is the Director of Ocean Road Landscaping which creates, designs, constructs and maintains ‘thoughtful, sustainable gardens connected to the natural landscape’ along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Peter’s design focus is in ‘making gardens belong’ by melding the garden into broader landscape. In doing so, the landscape and garden connect visually and emotionally using vertical and horizontal structure, with massed plantings at ground level of generally endemic plants.
Peter’s first book ‘SoulScape’, which was launched in October 2021, sold out of its first edition in the first month of release. It features ten gardens including his own ‘Sunnymede’.

Presentation for Land Escapism
Peter’s presentation will respond to his own question; ‘How do you build a garden that belongs to where it is planted?’. During his presentation he will use multi-sensory techniques, including music and drawing, to demonstrate how he attunes his mind to be observant to what’s around him, or in his terms ‘noticing what’s around’. He utilises these observational skills to design gardens that are responsive to their surroundings and embrace the novelty of exploration.