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Vale Professor Peter Spooner

It is with great sympathy that I share with you the news that Professor Peter Spooner, founding member of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, passed away in England on 15 June 2014. Prof Spooner was aged 94 years.

Amongst many notable achievements locally and abroad, Prof Spooner established the first Graduate Diploma course in Landscape Architecture in Australia. Prof Spooner was a tremendous advocate for providing unsurpassed opportunities for Australian students of Landscape Architecture, during a time when many students had no other option but to relocate abroad to study.

Prof Spooner's legacy will be long remembered. On behalf of AILA and the broader Landscape Architecture community, our thoughts are with the Spooner family.

Mark Frisby
National President
Australian Institute of Landscape Architects

Peter and Jean Spooner with Meryn Davis circa 1965. Image: AILA Archives.


'Notwithstanding their informality, these meetings, and those of other groups in other places, laid the foundations upon which our Institute subsequently arose... Without all of this, the Landscape Institute of Australia could well have succumbed before it saw the light of day. As it is, our progress since 1966 has been truly phenomenal. Long may it continue!'

From 25 Years of the AILA: Reminiscences of 'The Dark Age' by Prof Peter Spooner, 1991. Read full article.

'Peter Spooner had a profound influence on the early graduates in Landscape Architecture at UNSW. His quiet charm and gentle wit at times disguised his immense design talent and insights.

Peter’s convivial personality and engaging foibles will be remember fondly by those who were privileged to have known him. He leaves a great legacy, most notably through his heroic design work in freeway design and sensitive and influential design within the UNSW campus.'

Ken Maher
Professor UNSW Built Environment

Sculptural Rock Forms designed by Peter Spooner, Sydney-Newcastle Motorway.


'Peter Spooner lay the foundation for studying landscape architecture in Australia. As a young Sydney architect, he studied Landscape Design at the University of Durham in UK in the 1950s. This changed his attitude to architecture and he found himself being as much concerned for context of his buildings as he was in their architectural design. He felt that all architects should be able to study landscape architecture. On returning to Australia, while teaching architecture at UNSW he lobbied for a post-graduate part-time course in Landscape Design which began under his stewardship in 1964. The course was so popular with practising architects, that the University of New South Wales created a Department of Landscape Architecture in 1974 with Peter Spooner as its Foundation Professor. This enabled the introduction of a four year undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture which continues today. In both the post-graduate and undergraduate courses, his genial lectures in landscape history are well remembered as well as his participation in student construction camps where was able to demonstrate his skill with stone work.

Professor Spooner also worked on some major landscape projects including the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway from 1963-67. His contribution to Australian landscape design through this project, where he carefully reconfigured the towering sandstone cuts including the median rock outcrops, continues to generate sublime responses in the many motorists passing by. He also undertook finely detailed design work such as the original design for the Main Walkway at UNSW, now known a Spooner Walk; the remnants of which continue to evoke his presence. This walkway was defined by elegant articulated walls that recalled the fine academic courts of Oxford and Cambridge.

Professor Spooner’s contribution to landscape architecture in Australia will continue to be remembered.'

Prof Helen Armstrong AM
Prof-Emeritus of Landscape Architecture Queensland University of Technology.
Associate, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney.

Prof Peter Spooner reflecting on a hard day’s work constructing a water feature at Burrendong Construction Camp, 1979. Image: Helen Armstrong.


'Peter's personality, legacy and contribution to Landscape Architecture in Australia was immense.

I was a post graduate student in Peter’s Graduate Diploma course along with fellow colleagues such as Craig Burton, Ken Maher, Libby Maher and Helen Armstrong. Peter also lectured us on the History of Landscape Design which he brought to life with his keen sense of observation, engaging wit and humour.

Peter was inspiring not only as an educator but his seminal work on the F3 Sydney to Gosford Freeway will always stand as one of the most outstanding landscape projects in Australia.'

Oi Choong
Context Landscape Design


'Peter Spooner is remembered and respected for his outstanding contribution to the recognition, establishment and development of landscape design as a professional discipline and activity in Australia. His appreciation of Fine Arts and practical skills enabled him to create some memorable landscape designs, record buildings and environments in superb crayon and pencil sketches, perform many artisan skills with stone and timber including the restoration of beautiful antique furniture. His many friends and colleagues always enjoyed receiving correspondence and cards hand written in his beautiful copperplate script. His encouragement to architects and subsequently landscape architects, to have an appreciation of the environment and the ability to design with utility and beauty, will be remembered by many since the early 1960’s. His over-riding achievement has been in the educational development of the professional landscape architecture discipline at the University of New South Wales.

Peter studied architecture at the Sydney Technical College graduating with a Diploma of Architecture (Honours) in 1942. After service with the army during the war years and practising as an architect, he joined the staff of the School of Architecture and Building in 1948 at the Sydney Technical College. In 1949 the NSW Institute of Technology was proclaimed, subsequently becoming the University of Technology, which allowed the architectural staff of the “Tech” to create the new program. Peter was awarded the architectural Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship in 1954 and undertook Graduate studies in landscape design with Brian Hackett at the University of Durham in England. This reinforced his strong belief that architecture should include consideration of detailed spaces around buildings as well as the general environment. Upon returning to Australia these feelings were heightened by his many bushwalking trips with fellow architecture lecturer Myles Dunphy, one of the founders of the landscape conservation movement in this State. In 1958 the University’s name was changed to the University of New South Wales. In 1960/61 he returned to teach at Durham while Brian Hackett was on leave. Whilst overseas, he became interested in highway design and researched the developments in both England and America.

His consultancy work in Australia between 1960-69 included the Sydney-Newcastle and Warringah Expressways in NSW, Adelaide Hills freeway in SA, and the Glen Helen Highway in NT. On the Newcastle Expressway design he paid particular attention to the landforms whilst selecting on-site alignments for vistas and construction as well as considering future driver experiences. He became closely involved with the detailed engineering and design of the massive and spectacular rock excavations during construction. Other landscape consultancies included designs for the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board in NSW, quarry design and rehabilitation in Victoria as well as road and highway designs for the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. During 1967/68 Peter undertook a world-wide research programme sponsored by the Australian Road Research Board to examine and report upon highway landscaping throughout the world. His major contributions to the developing landscape in the early years of the new University campus at Kensington were the Main Walkway, the Chancellor’s Courtyard and the Electrical Engineering embankment.

His environmental awareness and recognition of the diversity of professional landscape courses overseas inspired him in 1963 to create an extension course in Landscape Design for architects at the UNSW. This proved so popular that a two year part time post-graduate Landscape Diploma course was commenced in 1964. His experience and enthusiasm for landscape design together with his promotion of education and contacts with like-minded individuals in the mid 1960’s saw the establishment of the Institute of Landscape Architects with Peter elected as Foundation President in 1968/69. The establishment of an undergraduate course in landscape architecture became one of the aims of the Institute. The University of New South Wales approved the first University undergraduate degree course in Australia, leading to a B.L. Arch., which commenced in 1974 with Peter appointed as Professor of Landscape Architecture. In 1978 he was appointed Head of the School of Landscape Architecture.

Peter retired from academia at the end of 1979 and the University awarded him the title of Emeritus Professor in 1980. Peter and his wife Jean moved to Cornwall, England where he enjoyed detailed renovating and improving both a dwelling at Fowey as well as a small cottage in the French countryside. He passed away in England on the 15th June 2014.

Peter always found positive attributes in student designs and was extremely supportive of their endeavours. He was always encouraging and promoted their career opportunities to a public that was becoming concerned for the health of our environment and required landscape quality plans and designs in our urban and rural settings.

His contribution to the establishment of academic courses in landscape architecture, the creation of the Institute of Landscape Architects and his consulting work opened many opportunities for landscape architects to contribute to a quality environment. He will be remembered as one of the Founding Fathers of Landscape Architecture in Australia and above all a true and gracious gentleman.'

Finn Thorvaldson


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