Meet Kirsten Bauer

Meet Kirsten Bauer - Master of Architecture (Landscape Architecture), Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (Hons), RMIT Adjunct Professor, and Director of ASPECT Studios

Given your extensive study at RMIT, and now your appointment as an Adjunct Professor, what do you think makes landscape architecture and design at RMIT so renowned?

Although my student experience was over twenty years ago, as a current adjunct professor I think it is still true that RMIT produces a certain adventurous spirit in its undergraduates and postgraduates.

In the landscape architecture courses you learn about independence. You also engage in a lot of design through digital process, often using the latest technology. This push for innovation is something RMIT has consistently prioritised.

RMIT also has a strong tradition of driving design quality. I guess that is why it has the reputation it has. To put it into a professional context, when I look across the industry and take note of highly regarded landscape architects, many are from RMIT.  

ASPECT Studios boasts an enormous number of projects both in Australia and abroad; do you have one with which you are enamoured?

We were one of the first landscape architecture firms to get into augmented and virtual reality. We have always been interested in what technology can bring to design. We design through technology to make all of our projects the best they can be, however, the one project that stands out in my mind, because it is so visible and topical, is the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project, or 'Skyrail'. 

This has been a massive project for us and highlights what landscape architects can do and the impacts they can have on a community. Aside from the stations and train tracks, everything you can see in the rail corridor underneath and near the tracks is designed by us: the parks, activity nodes, squares, forecourts, and car parks. I was lucky enough to lead the design for that project. It was momentous, not only for myself and for ASPECT Studios, but also for the communities through which it passes. 

What was the most challenging aspect of having to please both your clients (the state government) as well as the wider community in this project?

There was an incredible amount of work just dealing with government, their advisors, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, local councils, communities and engineers. Fundamentally, our mission as landscape architects was to ask ourselves, "what are the opportunities here regarding city shaping and city thinking?".

We knew there were numerous arguments for and against the rail going above ground and we had to consider them all. Once the decision was made to elevate the railway, our thoughts refocused on making it the best skyrail possible. We then looked towards how public space and its design can improve the health and wellbeing of the community and create a stronger connection to the culture and the environment of the neighborhoods along its lengths

The risk of this project failing, of not working as a public space or not resulting in quality public space outcomes, was incredibly high. So we had to think hard, research carefully, talk with a lot of stakeholders, really understand the community needs, as well as deal with all the engineering. We had to work incredibly hard because there has never been anything like this done before in Australia. There was no existing template to follow that said "do this" or "don't do that". It was extraordinarily challenging. The fantastic thing is that the feedback we have received so far has been great. It seems the community has embraced the vision put forward. This is incredibly rewarding.

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