ODS spoke with Josh Byrne, an environmental scientist with a passion for sustainable gardening and innovative environmental design. Read all about it!
Can you tell us a bit about your background - education, employment etc?
I’m an environmental scientist by training, but I’m a gardener at heart. I also have diplomas in both landscape and amenity horticulture. My employment history has been an interesting mix of gardening, research, environmental consultancy, landscape design and media and I still dabble in all of these today. I like this combination – I never get bored and I find that all of the various activities are complimentary.
What inspired you to become a landscape designer?
I’ve always been fascinated by plants and started growing veggies as a young teenager. This, combined with a strong interest in environmental issues, got me thinking about how gardens and public open spaces can be better used for environmental benefits rather than resource drains. I guess this is the underpinning ethic that inspires my work, but I get a huge creative kick from designing also.
Can you tell us about JBA? How long has it been established, what do you specialise in, any recent projects to note?
I established Josh Byrne & Associates (JBA) in 2005. By this stage I had already been working in horticulture and landscape design for around 10 years and had also recently started working with the ABC on Gardening Australia. I wanted to step things up and challenge myself with bigger and more exciting projects and knew that I needed a good team around me to do that. Importantly I wanted in-house skills covering landscape architecture, environmental science, engineering and communications/media and that’s what we’ve got today.
For a team of 10 people we do an incredibly diverse range of projects. We take a unique integrated approach to our work that draws on our team’s skills sets across design, engineering and sustainability, as well as community engagement and media.
Examples of our recent projects include the Perth Cultural Centre activation works which incorporated a roof top community garden, a constructed wetland and nature play ground; the Onslow Community Garden in the remote Pilbara, which is now inspiring community gardens across the north west of WA; and a range of water recycling projects that demonstrate how to better utilize this valuable resource.
What has been your career highlight to date?
That’s a tricky one. I get a buzz out of all of our projects – that’s why we take them on. We look for opportunities to make a difference, try new ideas and push boundaries. The biggest highlight I guess is that people now come to us expecting this.
Do you think people are getting better at DIY?
I think that people are getting more confident. Ready access to relatively cheap materials, combined with inspiration from a string of DIY type programs certainly seems to be encouraging more people to give it a go, but there’s also a lot of dodgy work going on!
What are your tips for creating an edible garden?
Grow what you actually want to eat – especially if space is limited. Focus on veggie crops that are quick to mature (e.g. Asians greens, open hearted lettuce varieties and squash), or can be picked for an extended period (e.g. rainbow chard, celery and cherry tomatoes) to get the most of the space available. When it comes to fruit trees, check what’s already growing in your street and plant something different – there’s always plenty to go around!
If you could re-create a famous garden in the world which would it be?
I’d love to see ‘organoponicos’ spring up in cities and towns around the country. These intensive organic vegetable production systems were a key part of Cuba’s urban agriculture movement following the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped cities like Havana grow over half of their fresh vegetables within the city area. Our ‘Urban Orchard’ project (www.perthculturalcentre.com.au) in the Perth Cultural Centre is an example of how this concept can be applied in Australia – integrating local food production with urban amenity in civic spaces.
What do you have planned/coming up?
A lot of the action in WA at the moment is in the north of the state and it’s no different for us. We’ve just started designing an exciting community garden project in the Pilbara town of Wickham which will be very different to anything done up in the region before.
Closer to home, work is about to start on my sustainable residential housing project that will consist of two 10 star energy efficient homes, which will generate their own power, harvest and recycle water and have common food production areas. People can follow the build via a series of short films and social media updates that will kick off in October. To register in advance, visit www.joshshouse.com.au
For more information on Josh, including his media work, projects and partnerships visit www.joshbyrne.com.au