- Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim
Tamsin McLean has been named ASPECT Studios’ Chief Operating Officer, leading one of Australia’s most revered landscape architecture practices into a post-pandemic future.
McLean has previously held key managerial positions at Woods Bagot and Bates Smart and was a principal at Activate Strategy Group where she collaborated with service-based businesses facing critical organisational change.
It was in this consultant role that McLean first developed a relationship with ASPECT Studios, working with the practice since 2017 on a series of long term strategic projects.
As Chief Operating Officer, McLean will leverage her intimate knowledge of ASPECT Studios, working alongside CEO Ivan Ross to build upon the practice’s recent growth.
ADR spoke to Tamsin McLean about her vision for the future of ASPECT Studios and what role urban design will play in a post-pandemic landscape.
ADR: What sense of kinship with ASPECT studios attracted you to this role?
Tamsin McLean: The kinship I feel with ASPECT Studios is our common purpose. Our combined passions link ecology, people, place, art, architecture and design. We have our feet in the dirt, our heads in the clouds and our hearts in the same place. That’s how we can make a difference – we have the passion, ideas, knowledge and the opportunity to collaborate and create to enhance the lives of others.
For me, being connected is as much about the ‘how’ as the ‘why’. They are a collaborative practice and approach ideas and change with passion and engagement. It’s a terrific environment – having fun working hard with smart people you respect. When it became apparent the work we were doing needed full time attention, it was an easy decision to join the global team.
ADR: What excites you about the future of ASPECT Studios? How do you hope to bring this to fruition with Ivan Ross?
TM: ASPECT is in a really interesting place in time. There’s a very solid foundation of teams, purpose and quality built work. The leadership are clear about the direction we are heading in and they are not shy about experimenting and taking on challenges. It’s that combination of openness and focus that excites me.
I worked with CEO, Ivan Ross, at Woods Bagot during their period of significant global growth, and through the challenge of the GFC. We already knew how to work together and crucially, how our strengths balance us out as a team. We both focus on purpose, people, business in that order, so it is really easy to co-create value.
Realising the vision of the practice will see us reaching new markets and growth around opportunities that align with our purpose and speak to our values. Our one studio model enables us to expand, but at the same time commit to understanding the local climate, people and culture in which our projects reside. ASPECT builds its business around the passions of our people so our leaders have the drive and motivation to build teams and relationships that have deep roots and a global reach.
ADR: What do you see as the potential of landscape and urban design to meet post-2020 challenges?
TM: I think climate change is our toughest challenge. In Australia the rise of private enterprise and some State Governments initiating change is heartening. Many of us would like to see a green recovery and Federal support for industries to pivot and adapt to change. A more immediate challenge is living with uncertainty. There are so many unknowns about how long COVID, or the next pandemic, will impact globalisation – health, migration, trade and the economy.
COVID has shone a light on several areas of our society. The economic divide, access to nature and space, access to job security and the inequitable distribution of work. We know that giving people in dense urban areas equitable access to nature and safe open space is essential for mental and physical health and wellbeing. We also understand the interactions of these systems are connected and complex.
Landscape and urban designers are in the best place to apply their knowledge about people, ecology and space to design places that contribute to healthy people, environment and the economy. ASPECT has a particular interest in space that is valued, and contributes on a number of dimensions in an enduring way.
Earlier this year, ASPECT Studios completed a multi-level linear sky park filled with curved pools and impromptu performance spaces in Chengdu, China. Explore the HyperLane project here.