Collaborative, Creative Design

Oxigen

With a team of 18 fulltime employees, Oxigen keeps its design professionals busy designing award winning works of art. The company boasts a team of highly skilled architects, landscape architects, planners, industrial designers, graphic designers and project managers, some with over 15 years experience; yet the company wasn’t always a team game…

Director James Hayter spent upwards of ten years working in the public sector as a manager of public infrastructure for procurement works. Prior to that, he gained his experience working in the United Kingdom and the United States before moving back to Australia in 1996 to establish his own design practice.

James was able to apply his knowledge to building his own company, at first working hard as a one-man firm, and gradually growing his team to where it is today. Oxigen is now an award winning design firm with offices in Adelaide and Canberra. Now with 25 years of experience under his belt, James continues to bring his keen eye and unique design perspective to diverse community projects.

Oxigen works primarily as a landscape practice, and also does architecture, urban design, and urban planning. This crack team of designers works in a collaborative and creative studio environment. With formal qualifications in fields such as landscape architecture, urban design architecture, urban and regional planning, industrial design and urban horticulture, the team has a breadth of experience which enables it to conduct master planning on a large scale; Oxigen, for example, was involved with preparing the master plan for South Australia’s new General Hospital.

The firm also embraces large scale city planning as well as smaller scale project planning and even object design, which includes the design of furniture and lighting elements. Even offering unique outdoor furniture, Oxigen designs its own benches, drinking fountains, rubbish tins, lights, fences and shelters. This means that within the company’s walls are people who could, in theory, design the furniture to fit out a building, the building itself, and, impressively, the city which the building calls home.

“We just have a real interest in design in its broader sense, and what we’ve done is gradually scaled the company so that we’d be able to pick up those aspects of design which we are interested in. For example, we employ a number of planners within the company to help us with strategic planning; having said that, we are a design-based practice,” explains James.

Oxigen has built a niche for itself in the marketplace by making sure that every element of a project is uniquely and thoughtfully designed and executed. With its depth of experience in landscape design, the company draws inspiration comes from each site itself, ensuring the uniqueness of each project. The practice is heavily influenced by Australian design features and local character.

Another attribute that sets Oxigen apart from the competition is its unwavering commitment to integrity of design. The company takes pride in a well-designed project that is appropriate to its environment, and never compromises on bringing a client’s vision to life. Oxigen was commissioned to design the Caroline Chisholm Memorial, which commemorates orphan children. It is located in the Adelaide cemetery, one of the nation’s oldest cemeteries. The company’s work here is a very modest, understated piece but is considered by James to be one of its greatest achievements. The firm has also designed a number of iconic bridges, one of which, being completed in Canberra, is called the Kingston Four Shores Bridge, and explores new ways of creating a bridge structure aside from the traditional truss or post and beam methods.

For James, much of the enjoyment he gets from the practice comes from mentoring a new generation of landscape architects who have a fresh way of looking at urban environments. He encourages them to re-evaluate and explore how the built environment is constructed and how design can be pushed in every instance, keeping a sense of scale and local identity top of mind. Perhaps above all else, James emphasises that it is critical to maintain an understanding of how a space or feature will actually be used, such that the end result is meaningful to the people who will see it or use it day to day.

Over the years, Oxigen’s thoughtful designs have been honoured repeatedly by the industry; interestingly enough, some of the company’s most recent awards have actually been for its own new studio in Adelaide, emphasising the importance of creative minds working in a creative space. In 2012, the studio was awarded the Australian Interior Design Award for Best of State in Commercial Design for South Australia; The Robert Dickson Award for Interior Architecture, SA State Awards, AIA; The Colourbond Award for Steel Architecture, SA State Awards, AIA; a Commendation Award, Adelaide Prize, SA State Awards, AIA; and a Commendation Award, Commercial Architecture Award, SA State Awards, AIA.

In the works at present is a new billion dollar project which is a redevelopment of a 61 hectare, post-industrial site called Tonsley Park. The project will see the former Mitsubishi plant transformed into a vibrant and integrated precinct boasting a Sustainable Industries Education Centre, Flinders University teaching and research facilities, and the clever re-use of the iconic Main Assembly building, a striking reminder of the site’s heritage. The precinct will utilise ecologically sustainable infrastructure, energy, water, and waste systems, and will serve as an incubator for green technologies. Oxigen has been commissioned to develop the master plan, design the interior including internal streets, and design the exterior landscaping.

Other innovative Oxigen designs can likely be found right in your own back yard: the Playford Civic Centre saw a thoughtful redesign of the former buildings on the site including the Octagon Theatre; the Pauper Memorial. in the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide, honours the unidentified and in some cases destitute members of the community who were buried there; the Elder Park Shelters in Adelaide serves as a fantastic venue for cultural events; the conversion of a massive stormwater culvert in Unley, South Australia, provides an accessible path into the residential suburb of Unley; and the Canberra Central Parklands, a prize winning master plan, saw the company “respond positively to the principles of the site, revealing the historic layers inherent… and building on to the existing positive qualities and attributes of the site.”

Ultimately, says James, “Landscape architecture in Australia is an emerging profession. It’s probably only been around for around 20 years, but it’s a profession which is taking its models from countries in South America and some of the more central European countries rather than the traditional model from the US and the UK. It is an emerging profession that’s become much broader in that aspect and perhaps more relevant in the way it’s been influencing urban environments in Australia, so it is a wonderful profession to be part of because of its newness, its innovation and the way that it’s something that is emerging rather than being a very traditional institutionalised profession.”

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June 1, 2020, 5:44 AM AEST