Dec 09 2021, by Fleetwood Urban

Q&A: The secrets of unlocking a great project outcome – Part 2

Three leading Australian landscape architects share their recent experiences of working with Fleetwood.

Welcome to Part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with landscape architects Darren Taitoko (Landsite), Esther Dickins (Scott Carver) and Melany Masel (GbLA). This week we dig a little deeper into the specific ways Fleetwood has been helping them get the very best results for their projects, clients and stakeholders. 

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Darren Taitoko, Landsite

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Esther Dickins, Scott Carver

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Melany Masel, GbLA

Obviously, the primary reason for engaging with any external partner is because you want them to help make your project even better. Where do you feel Fleetwood adds the greatest value to your projects?

DARREN TAITOKO (Landsite – Byron Bay): Fleetwood’s expertise is very useful when we’re trying to set up an initial style suite of items on a project. Your ideas and assistance really allow us to engage confidently with our client and give them a vision which they know we can carry through the entire project. As a designer, that’s really important for me, and our company. It’s about setting up a style that’s going to be carried all the way through and has real continuity. Most of our projects run for a long time, we have some right now that are going to keep us going for 15 years.

ESTHER DICKINS (Scott Carver – Sydney): I think it’s your ability – and willingness – to genuinely take our input and ideas on board. You don’t just dismiss our concepts and go, ‘we think that’s terrible, this would be better’. You really try to understand our vision and find ways to make it work. For example, Mark Jol knows so much about play, he’s always thinking about the different moments of play and how we can enhance those even more. This brings so much IP and value into the process.

MELANY MASEL (GbLA – Melbourne): Being able to explore various options and talk through the different ways our concept design could be built is always extremely useful, especially in the earlier stages of project. It ensures we don’t waste time and money pursuing a design that can’t be built practically or within our budget.

Esther Dickins, Scott Carver - Early Engagement

What about things like communication and flexibility? Do you feel Fleetwood is good at keeping you in the loop during projects and working well with your team?

DARREN TAITOKO: Yes, definitely. In the very early days of us working with Fleetwood, there was probably a little bit of standoffishness. But that’s really softened over time and now there’s a lot more creative toing and froing. I think that’s actually quite normal at the start of any new relationship, everybody stands off a bit and sizes each other up. But as you warm to each other’s abilities, you start to collaborate a bit more, then a lot more. That’s when great things start to happen.

ESTHER DICKINS: Absolutely. Working with some companies you tend to get flick passed after the sale, often to people who really just churn with an attitude that ‘every client is the same’. It’s not that we expect ridiculous attention, drive for crazy deadlines or demand we’re the only priority. We completely understand there’s always lots going on, but Fleetwood is always happy to speak and work with us, to try and fit things in, to try and get what we need, and just make it all work really smoothly.

MELANY MASEL: We’ve always found Fleetwood to be good communicators, as well as being friendly and approachable from start to finish on our projects. Overall, Fleetwood are very professional which makes the whole engagement process simple. 

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You’ve been in the industry for a long time. Compared with your experiences of working with other businesses, are there any things Fleetwood does differently?

DARREN TAITOKO: I don’t think Fleetwood necessarily does anything differently. But the big thing for me, certainly based on some recent experiences, is that what you say, you follow through with. That really builds the trust and confidence, which is incredibly important. 

ESTHER DICKINS: There’s just so much passion for what you do. If I compare that to other groups, you might ring them up and say ‘we have a project, we want to start working on this’. The salespeople are very helpful because they want to sell you something. But afterwards you quickly get passed on someone else, then you can’t get them on the phone, things arrive late, it can be a real mess. Everyone at Fleetwood seems genuinely motivated and engaged, from beginning to end, which is the one the joys of working with you guys. You’re as excited about the project as we are. You just want to see something great.

Just finally, do you have any advice for getting the best possible outcomes when engaging with Fleetwood (or any partner) on a project?

ESTHER DICKINS: This might seem too simple, but I’d just say call them. Whether you already have some ideas or even if you don’t, pick up the phone to talk it all through. The other thing we find is Fleetwood is very good at is working out the right time to bring in the client. The experience you have and the way you explain how clients can go about procuring is really clear. ‘You can sign us up for the entire project. You can sign us up for a particular element or structure. Or you can sign us up to do the design and then go to tender – and this is how you pay for it.’ Having these types of conversations up front is really helpful and we usually bring Fleetwood in directly for that. The way Adrian (Fleetwood Project Lead, Adrian Trimmer) walks through it all, it’s just so simple and low risk. It fills everyone with confidence. 

MELANY MASEL: Ensuring there is clear documentation of the final design is very important, particularly as there is often a bit of back and forth as the design of a custom structure develops. I think it’s also good to allow some time contingency for more complex custom structures, to ensure they are delivered on time. Working with Council to achieve approval on custom structures as early as possible can really help to meet tight deadlines too. It means Fleetwood can commence their shop drawings much earlier in the process – something that usually leads to a much better end result.

Did you miss Part 1 of this exclusive Q&A? Like to read it again? Click here.

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