In the second interview of our Member Spotlight series we are sitting down with Gavin McWilliam. Sir Gavin hails from the UK where he runs his award-winning garden design garden design practice with Andrew Wilson, Wilson McWilliam Studio. Their keen interest in Fine Art shows through their hand drawings while their passion for plants is displayed in the bold plantings that bring both their residential and urban gardens to life.
It is with great pleasure to put Gavin in the spotlight…
How did you discover Landscape Architecture?
Following the death of my father and a serious operation I chose to reevaluate my life and sought a new direction that was more tangible and grounded. I wanted something that linked me more directly with the natural world and society and where I could utilise my creativity. Landscape Architecture offered all of these things.
What is your background? (Where did you study?)
I studied a degree in Fine Art at what used to be known as the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University). Then I went on to work as a graphic designer which led to a position as an art director for a number of years. After I decided to become a Landscape Architect, I pursued a masters degree in Landscape Architecture at Greenwich University.
Who is one person that has influenced you?
Tony Edwards FLI has had a huge influence on my career. He invested a considerable amount of time and energy into mentoringme on my pathway to chartership when I didn’t even work for his company. Such is his belief in Landscape Architecture and the importance of education. He continues to be a source of great support and wisdom and is an ambassador for the industry.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Literally, everywhere. Life is inspiring – from nature to the man made. I am quite fascinated with light, colour, form, sound, movement and atmosphere. I draw references from everything.
If you could work with anyone person (past or present), who would it be?
I am very fortunate that I already work with Andrew Wilsonwhose lateral creativity, outstanding design ability and vast planting knowledge make working with him a delight. Not to mention we share a passion for good coffee, motorbikes and generally have a laugh when we work.
What has been your greatest challenge to date?
Overcoming bureaucracy and mediocrity in the UK planning system and convincing clients, architects and the design press the value of good landscape design. Sadly this is an ongoing challenge but one I will not give up on.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
Delivering the Savill rose garden, (the construction was deceptively complex) and having HM The Queenopen it in 2010.
What trends are you seeing in LA, good or bad?
Sadly, with the exception of a few practices, we appear to be seeing a demise in planting knowledge and it’s application. There also does not appear to be enough importance given to good spatial design.
What’s your favorite material to use?
I wouldn’t look to identify one particular material as they are all components of the whole and have equal importance. However if pushed I would list water (I’ve checked and apparently it can be considered a material) and planting. Their ability to animate a space and captivate a viewer in a moment of time make them fascinating to work with.
What’s your favorite color?
Similar to the answer above, colour is dependant on its context.
Where is your favorite place to eat?
This is subject to change as there are always new places to try, but for now it’s Barrafina in Soho.
Who is your favorite contemporary designer/artist?
Thomas Heatherwick, Olafur Eliasson, Kathryn Gustafson, John Pawson, Herzog & de Meuron to name but a few…
My favorite ____ is ______.
My favorite day, and happiest moment, is the day I married my wife in a vineyard in Waiheke, NZ.
What advice do you have for students and those entering the profession?
Stay creative, never lose your sense of inquiry or belief that things could be done differently or better. And drawdraw draw, it gives you the freedom to communicate ideas no matter where you are and what situation you are in.Published in