Landscape Designer of the Year 2017: Straub Thurmayr
Dietmar Straub and Anna Thurmayr bring creativity and a little wildness to their architectural landscape designs.
A quip on Dietmar Straub’s favourite T-shirt sums up his and his business partner/spouse Anna Thurmayr’s approach to their work: “Because good enough isn’t enough.” It’s unlikely that either landscape architect in this duo needs the reminder to strive for perfection. Ironically, one of the guiding principles of Straub Thurmayr Landscape Architects is to “find beauty and spontaneity in imperfection.” Turns out that takes brilliant planning and ingenuity.
Straub and Thurmayr came to Winnipeg from the northern slopes of the Bavarian Alps nearly a decade ago in search of balance. They both teach at the University of Manitoba, in part so that they can spend less time thinking about the commercial viability of their landscape-architecture business and more time adroitly solving problems with beauty and innovation.
As they had done in Germany, the couple has built their business here by approaching every project with high levels of curiosity, pragmatism and capacity for creative risk. Their clients are pre-emptively asked about their comfort with risk and experimentation in relation to the design process. “To us, the question of risk is: ‘Are you okay with us identifying and testing out new materials and ideas within your project?’” says Straub.
For those who have spent time in a Straub Thurmayr garden, the answer to that question is an exuberant yes. The couple has won more than two dozen national and international landscape-architecture awards—and with every project, says Thurmayr, they aim to create an appealingly “humble” garden that “does not make a spectacle of itself but gives everyday spaces their own energy by injecting a sensual feel.” It’s an aesthetic that has often resulted in spaces that DOTY judge Misty March calls “expressive…lively…ephemeral…wild.” (Straub, as humorous as he is eloquent, put it another way: “Bloody cheap but sexy!”)
Straub Thurmayr’s Folly Forest transformed a section of one of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods by reclaiming bricks and cracked asphalt as imaginative design elements intended to draw visitors in to think, play and relax. Locals are delighted—no matter that the pair are characteristically critical of their work. “It’s a constant cultivation of doubt,” says Straub. “Without that, you give up seeking something that might be new or different.” Wisdom that could, with a little editing, fit onto a T-shirt.