In Profile: Richard Weller

Richard Weller Talks With Street Furniture

Richard Weller is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is also Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia, former Director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC), and is currently Creative Director of the Not in my Backyard: 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture.

Please, tell us about yourself. What drew you to landscape architecture? And academia?

My father was German born in Palestine – my mother in Manly, Sydney. The British arrested the Germans in 1942 and sent them to Australia – they had started what is now the city of Tel Aviv.

They were put in a camp for seven years in Victoria and when they got out they became farmers on the Hawkesbury and in the Blue Mountains – so for my formative years I had family in the west and on the coast.

This was a strong landscape experience on both fronts.

Do you miss Australia? Differences between landscape architecture in Australia and the US?

I’ve lived away from Australia before and never miss it. I’m too deeply engaged with what I’m doing at any given moment to be homesick or nostalgic.

The differences are not great in practice but academia is very different. Many say Penn is the best school in the world (some would say Harvard) and so it’s a great experience to be leading such a school.

How do you see the future of landscape architecture? How will technology make an impact?

Technology will make an impact, as it always does, but it’s often just more data telling us what we already know … I see a lot of younger designers cheerleading for it as if an app will fix all our problems. The world is too complex for that and a good designer with a good brain is always way ahead of technology.

In your view, what is the role of street furniture in the public realm?

Laurie Olin always says the most important thing is to find a good place to sit down. I guess we can add to that a place to throw your rubbish, power up your phone, have a nap and socialise.

Street furniture is important because our cities are becoming more dense and the street is the new backyard. Much design I see is increasingly about people lounging in public space, not just waiting for the bus.

Why did you decide to take on the curatorship? What do you aim to achieve with the festival?

It was a nice creative challenge and I want to try and set up some conversations that will help the attendees chart their own career pathways as we move into increasingly complicated times.

Why should people attend the International Festival of Landscape Architecture?

It’s an historic occasion. It’s got great speakers across a range of all the issues that are essential to think about for anyone engaged in the future of the built environment and the broader landscape. It has exciting social events and fringe activities. And everyone wants to try and get into something that is SOLD OUT!

#NIMBY2016

www.aila.org.au/notinmybackyard

The Garden of Australian Dreams, National Museum of Australia

Weller is co-designer of the Garden of Australian Dreams at the National Museum of Australia, venue for the Festival Opening Party and AnthropoScene short film screening. Photo: John O’Neill

In Profile is a Q&A series featuring Australian influencers of the public realm.

Interviewees are players in the public sphere with compelling stories, not always landscape architects or affiliated with SFA. 

To nominate a subject, please contact the editor via editor@streetfurniture.com


make an enquiry

Opening hours are from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

enquire now

recent news

Join Us For Tea Time (via Zoom or Teams)

Take a quick (and educational) tea break with us! Customers are invited to book in a 10-minute Zoom or Microsoft Teams chat to learn about new products. Presentations are guaranteed no longer than 10-minutes plus Q&A. Choose from: ChillOUT Tree (recommended) Latest Linea additions. Wood Without Worry. Or request a custom presentation. Each participant will receive a T2 gift box (optional). Book by contacting us on teatime@streetfurniture.com, or via the button below. Win one of three BLUNT umbrellas Tea Time bookings for Australian customers during August and September will go into a draw for a chance to win one of three BLUNT umbrellas, valued at up to $159. Winners will be notified on 1st October 2022. Image: BLUNT.

  • 25 sep 2020
read more

Linea range in San Francisco

Street Furniture Australia products will be on show at the ASLA 2022 EXPO in San Francisco, from November 12 to 13, 2022. Visit Booth 251 to see the sleek and minimalist Linea range, including Cubes, Platform, Sun Lounge, Seats, Curved Bench and Picnic Settings, and complementary Monsoon Litter Bins and Cafe Stools. Check out a variety of durable and low-maintenance materials and colours including five Wood Without Worry aluminium woodgrain batten shades, the new Earthy Pastel powdercoat range, and DuraBright fade-resistant colours. Street Furniture Australia will co-present the stand with California-based partner Spruce & Gander, who represent our products as an exclusive distributor in California, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky. Dates and times:Saturday, November 12, 2022. 9:30am – 6:00pm.Sunday, November 13, 2022. 10:00am – …

  • 28 oct 2022
read more

Murri School receives Linea donation

Street Furniture Australia is donating $40,000 worth of furniture from breakout spaces from the 2022 Festival of Landscape Architecture: COUNTRY to The Murri School, an Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School in Brisbane. The collection of Linea Seats, Cubes, Curved Benches, Sun Lounges and Picnic Settings includes a pair painted by artist Casey Coolwell-Fisher, a Quandamooka, Nunukul woman of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island, Queensland) – commissioned by Street Furniture Australia and Blaklash Creative. Director of Blaklash Creative and member of the Festival Creative Directorate Troy Casey says, “A huge part of the festival was about how we can ensure that community gets something from it. We spent two days sharing our culture, our experiences, and the responsibility to positive impact. We can’t really do that without giving back to mob, …

  • 31 oct 2022
read more

related news

5 Must-See Festivities

With so much to see at the 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture, here are our recommendations for a street furniture experience. 1.  Flower Chairs Designed by former UNSW student Joshua Flowers, three Flower Chair prototypes will feature on the lawn of the National Gallery of Australia during the conference. Venture out from Gandell Hall in session breaks to test this variation on the movable seat: chairs that swivel to your preferred viewpoint. With a design originally inspired by Google office furniture, the seat aims to give people a reason to stop and become involved in public space. WIN $200 worth of flowers from Interflora for someone you love. Post a selfie with a Flower Chair to facebook.com/streetfurniture for your chance to win. Winner will be announced shortly after the festival. Read more on the …

  • 17 oct 2016
read more

#BackyardExperiment

***** Click here for final results of #BackyardExperiment ***** #BackyardExperiment is our most ambitious research project yet. Collaborating with the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, Street Furniture Australia will attempt to activate Garema Place in Canberra through a pop-up park and 60 movable seats. Garema Place was a cosmopolitan hotspot in the sixties and seventies, but has since become a deserted thoroughfare. The open space is largely concrete and underused, however, it is surrounded by great cafes, shops and workplaces. Over a ten-day period, time-lapse cameras will observe how people interact with the park and furniture elements. The first two days will examine no activation, the next four days will observe activities with park and furniture elements only, and the final four days will discover what happens with full activation, which includes …

  • 17 oct 2016
read more

Making Of A Cider Fountain

Crisp apple cider, served via an Arqua Fountain, equals good nights ahead at the International Festival of Landscape Architecture. Street Furniture Australia’s production team have been working on the Batlow Cider Fountain to tour to Canberra this October. Production Manager Christopher Morgan took time from his busy schedule for the serious task of fountain testing, with a keg supplied by Batlow Cider. “It is safe to say our cider has never been served through drinking fountains before,” says Batlow’s Rich Coombes. “We are excited to partner with Street Furniture Australia to bring good times and great cider to the festival.” At our Regents Park factory, Morgan and his team are challenged with delivering the bubbly liquid in a steady, controlled stream, while preserving the dignity of waiters and esteemed guests. (No sudden spurts.) “After experimenting with several valves …

  • 19 sep 2016
read more