Landscape Designers of the Year 2013: Considered Design
A pair of UK imports exemplifies the best of West Coast design with their collection of smart, simple spaces.
“There’s an appreciation here for a sense of place,” muses Considered Design‘s Alison Magill. Settled in her clean and bright street-level office on Vancouver’s eastside, she’s considering the ever-elusive question of what, exactly, defines West Coast design. Across the communal work table sits her partner (in business and in life) Julian Pattison, sipping black tea surrounded by sunlight and blueprints; under foot, a friendly husky with an imposing title (Head of PR: “Puppy Relations”) stretches out lazily. Even in this low-key space—the headquarters of this year’s Landscape Designers of the Year—the duo’s attraction to simplicity and refinement is evident.
Though the pair originally hails from the UK, they’ve quickly embraced the sensibilities of the West. “We started our practice here four years ago because we speak the same design language as the contemporary architects and designers,” says Pattison. “We can sit around the table and not baffle each other.” Judge Kelty McKinnon of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg calls their take on West Coast modernism “crisply detailed with a refined sensibility,” and Vancouver’s design community clearly agrees: Considered has collaborated with acclaimed design firms like Evoke and D’Arcy Jones on private residence spaces. They’ve been commissioned to design some of the city’s most influential sites, including the rooftop garden at the Rennie Collection Gallery, a quiet, open space that references the building’s past and present with a mix of birch trees and poppies, chrysanthemums and steel.
The pair met after completing their master’s degrees in landscape architecture at the University of Greenwich; they worked together post-grad for a former teaching assistant, fell in love, and collaborations followed. Their personal relationship deeply affects the direction of their work. “Because we do this as a couple, it has to hold something that isn’t just work for us,” Magill explains. “It has to hold an interest for us. Something has to click. It might be the client, the architect, an amazing site—there’s usually something specific.”
“Our ideal client is a charming eccentric,” adds Pattison, laughing. “The more interesting they are, the more interesting we can be.” From the looks of Considered’s portfolio, they’ve been in cahoots with the right kind of people. It’s a fascinating mix of simplicity and detail: a vintage pool is retiled in matte black to allow the water to reflect the sky; galvanized steel trellises and basalt cubes are juxtaposed against soft and fragrant magnolia blossoms; a felled Douglas fir becomes a bespoke outdoor dining table perfect for late-night cocktail parties.
Magill and Pattison play liberally with light, colour and scent (lavender, sage and thyme planted by the entrance of a busy family home; in-ground LED strips installed to draw the eye toward the twinkling city skyline), and seeing these sensual elements come alive is one of the perks of the job. “In architecture, as soon as the building opens, that’s the best it’ll ever be,” Pattison reflects. “For us, when we finish a space, that’s when it gets better. Plants grow, the site evolves; there’s a history being developed.” wl