Profile

O2 Landscapes Ltd. is a landscape design firm (based in Auckland, New Zealand) with a strong focus on the context of the environments in which we work, and a research-driven approach. Conservation, of both our native flora and cultural traditions, plays an important role in our work. We believe strongly that tradition and progress are not mutually exclusive. This is reflected in our planting ethos, and in our approach to the design of our projects’ built structure.

One of our primary interests is the integration of exotic flowering species into a framework based on native ecology. We believe that this approach can provide a future for New Zealand gardens and public plantings in which a greater range of native species are appreciated, and in which the seasonal change and colour provided by flowers are not lost.

We are heavily influenced by vernacular landscape within New Zealand – the everyday features that make up the greater fabric of our built environments. Whether from our cities, rural areas or wild places, New Zealand contains a great diversity of forms and patterns stemming from everyday use, which merit investigation as the basis for design truly founded within our own culture.

O2 Landscapes is made up of owner Philip Smith, Cole Cochran, Trent Hicks & Laszlo Reynolds. We also have established links with a range of sub-contractors, for carrying out specialised work and moving effectively through larger projects. Individual profiles of Philip, Cole, Trent & Laszlo can be found below.

Our people

Philip Smith

Philip Smith is the lead designer and proprietor of O2 Landscapes. One of his chief interests is in integrating natives with flowering perennials, to produce a different kind of ‘native’ garden; one in which the effect of native plants is amplified by association with selected exotic species which bring a greater range of flower colour, form and scent to the garden.

He has a special interest in the extended use of a greater range of native plants, particularly threatened plants. He is also especially interested in the preservation of the widest possible range of gardenworthy perennials for use in gardens (they are disappearing from gardens due to fashion), with a particular focus on trialling suitable perennials for Auckland’s difficult, warm northern climate.

Philip studied horticulture and landscape design at Massey University, Palmerston North, between 1995 and 1998. He worked in the landscape industry in Auckland following graduation, and in 2001 travelled to Europe. In Europe, Philip spent six months in Germany, where he worked for three months at Europe’s largest export plant nursery, Bruns, in Bad Zwischenahn (a small town in the northwest of Germany). From this base, it was possible to view the work of several twentieth-century German and Dutch garden designers, whose work focused on more naturalistic styles of planting (notably, the integration of grasses and perennials to create gardens with considerable seasonal distinction). This included visiting the gardens of the Dutch designers Mien Ruys and Piet Oudolf, and the garden of the great German plantsman, Karl Foerster (all of whom are strong influences).

Following working in Germany, he spent three months in the Spanish city of Granada, where it was possible to study the remarkable Moorish gardens of the Alhambra palace complex at length. Upon returning in February 2002, Philip established O2 Landscapes, working in a style based on plantsmanship and locally-inspired design.

After working on the 2006 Chelsea Flower Show project, Philip travelled to Italy, to spend a week studying the work of the Venetian architect/architectural professor, Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa is an important influence upon the design ethos of O2 Landscapes, as he believed in combining modernism and forward thinking with tradition. More information and photos on Scarpa can be found within the ‘Essays’ section of the website.

In addition to the design and installation of gardens and public plantings, Philip has written a wide range of articles for a number of publications; including ‘The Garden’ (the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society), Urbis Landscapes and Landscape Architecture NZ magazine – for whom Philip was the regular contributor of the planting guide for 8 years, up to 2015 (including a series of regional planting guides for New Zealand over the last three years of that time). In 2015, Potton & Burton Publishing released ‘Vernacular’; a book that Philip collaborated on with David Straight to bring more attention to New Zealand’s everyday landscape culture. Since 2010, Philip has lectured in planting design as part of Victoria University’s Landscape Architecture programme.

Cole Cochran

Cole started working with O2 Landscapes in the middle of 2017, following completion of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from Elam School of Fine Arts (University of Auckland) in 2016. In addition to his background in fine arts, Cole has always held an interest in plants, gardens and nature.

Growing up in the Waitakeres (where playing in the forest was a normal feature of Cole’s childhood) had a significant influence on Cole’s interest in ecological networks and associations. Later this was to inform his approach to his work whilst at Elam. Cole’s interest in the natural and cultural history of places (applied with a critical eye) sits well with the role that context occupies in our design approach.

Cole is especially interested in the adaptations that plants evolve in response to specific conditions, as in the case of plants growing in aquatic environments or the epiphytic communities that perch amidst the canopies of our forest giants in our native forests. In addition to being involved with all aspects of our work at O2 Landscapes, Cole has taken on responsibility for the development of a phenology database for the provision of information to assist in the design process.

Trent Hicks

Trent started working with O2 Landscapes at the beginning of 2019, having completed a Diploma in Landscape Design at UNITEC in 2018.

Growing up in rural Pukekohe, Trent was exposed to a varied landscape; one of suburbs, market gardens, farms and remnant forest. He takes an interest in balancing different land uses alongside one another through conservation, ecology and regenerative farming.

Trent initially studied commerce, later focussing on the impacts of commerce upon our environment – specifically our food system. After completing his degree, Trent travelled through South America and India, taking a keen interest in agricultural systems that regenerate and sustain communities and ecosystems in the long term.

Upon returning, he spent a year working and volunteering on an organic vegetable farm on Great Barrier Island and a biodynamic vegetable farm on the Mornington Peninsula, Australia. A keen desire to connect with NZ landscape drew Trent back to New Zealand permanently, where a passion for biodiversity and our native flora & fauna developed further.

Trent is interested in a land ethic based upon a sense of guardianship. He believes landscape design can help build strong connections between plants, soil life, beneficial insects (and other animals) and humans – hoping to add to the inter-connectedness which gives natural systems their strength.

Laszlo Reynolds

Laszlo started working with O2 Landscapes in early 2020, having worked for several years building valuable experience within gardening. Aside from his interest in plants and landscapes, music is a major strand of Laszlo’s life, with years spent performing and recording within Auckland.

Laszlo’s connection with native plants and whenua has undoubtedly been deepened through a longstanding family association with a patch of Auckland’s West Coast, near Anawhata.

With a strong grounding in horticulture and a developed interest in digital modes of representation, Laszlo is involved with both site-based and studio work.