LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE AOTEAROA – Auckland Council appoints new head of design office

October 7, 2020

Landscape architect Lisa Dunshea is the new head of the restructured Auckland Design Office. But she won’t hold the same power or enjoy the same freedom as her predecessor Ludo Campbell-Reid, who resigned a year ago.

Auckland Council’s planning committee chair, Chris Darby, told Landscape Architecture Aotearoa that after Campbell-Reid’s resignation council management decided to look at restructuring the office. There was also a proposal to disestablish it, which was greeted with frustration and consternation by many.
A year after the departure of Ludo Campbell-Reid the council has appointed Lisa Dunshea to manage the Auckland Design Office.

“There was general discontent from those within the ADO and the design professions when the restructure was proposed,” councillor Darby said. “It was effectively a disassembling of the design knowledge Ludo had built up over nine years.

“In the more than a year it’s taken to confirm the restructure and appoint a new leader the office has been hit by some high profile resignations, redundancies and plummeting of morale.

“Many left, citing no clear backing of design in council’s programme. “We’ve seen a real gutting of the office’s stature and voice. I don’t make a practice of commenting on management staffing decisions but on this occasion, I let the then Chief Executive know of my utter disappointment.”

LAA understands Ben van Bruggen, who was manager of Urban Design Strategy has gone. As have respected designers Cam Perkins and Tim Fitzpatrick.

Dunshea won’t have the status of “Auckland Design Leader”, but will be manager Urban Design, says Darby. And she’ll be a step further away from the executive leadership team, reporting to the general manager plans and places John Duguid instead of chief of strategy Megan Tyler.

“This is a critical time because of the city growth, the Governments new policy on urban intensification, significant changes to the city centre as a result of the CRL and the potential for transformative projects such as Light Rail,” says the Tāmaki Makaurau Design Alliance chair, Henry Crothers. “It’s imperative that design remains at the forefront to ensure high-quality urban outcomes.

“If you look at other cities around the world most of the good ones have influential design units within them that advocate for and deliver good design.

The ADO was beginning to gain international recognition for its bold urban design, like this initiative in Federal St.
The ADO was beginning to gain international recognition for its bold urban design, like this initiative in Federal St.

Others whom LAA spoke to said it felt like Auckland Council had regressed 20 years, to when planners and traffic engineers ran the town, ironically at a time when its reputation for bold, innovative urban design has recently received international attention.

It feels like the design has lost a battle with the planning unit, with its voice pushed further down the ladder,” said one, who didn’t want to be named for fear of losing future contracts with the council. “There are more filters now between the designers and leaders of the city.”

But Crothers says it’s now up to urban designers, landscape architects, and the broader design community to step up and continue pushing for excellence in terms of both process and outcomes.

Likewise, councillor Darby says the council executive has made its call “and now we’ll all have to pitch in and support Lisa to rebuild” the design office.

Dunshea, who’s already started in her new position, has been at Auckland Council for seven years, and took over as acting general manager when Campbell-Reid left, before volunteering to go on a secondment to the Regulatory division. She has a master’s degree in Urban Environmental Design from Leeds University in the United Kingdom, where she also studied landscape architecture.

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