During the 1960s Jean Verschuer worked with the architectural firms of Forbes and Fitzhardinge and Summerhayes and Associates and was consultant to large public companies, private firms, government agencies and local councils on a range of projects. These included standard-gauge railway stations, the Salvation Army village in Hollywood Western Australia, and the design of major mining towns and their surrounds.
Jean Verschuer attended the inaugural meeting of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 1966. After the incorporation of the institute and her admission as a founding member, she opened a private practice in Kalamunda, WA.
In her role as the consultant landscape architect to Western Mining Corporation, she planned the site for Kambalda East, a company town and mining operation 50 kilometres south of Kalgoorlie. Her brief described her aim, which was to establish the town and operation in the existing woodland setting of the arid area. By careful protection of the site vegetation, the development had the advantages of established, low maintenance vegetation and a visually appropriate setting. A nursery, propagating local vegetation available for restoration projects and for residents’ gardens, supported the ongoing plantings.
In 1969, she was elected a federal councilor of AILA and remained for 10 years, during which time she was also Australian delegate to the International Federation of Landscape Architects for five years. For the last two years of her term, she was President of the AILA.
In 1970 Jean Verschuer was employed by the University of Western Australia, initially to report on the changes to pedestrian and vehicle movement caused by the recently completed underpass from the north of the campus. On the retirement of the curator, she was appointed the inaugural University Landscape Architect in 1974, responsible for planning, design and maintenance of the campus, in the office of the University Architect.
Entrance to University of Western Australia after redevelopment by Jean Verschuer in the 1970s. Photo from http://www.csiroalumni.org.au.
In 1978 she remarried and in 1981 took early retirement from the University of Western Australia. From that time, she continued with her professional interest but in a predominantly honorary capacity. She re-planned the site of the WA School of Mines in Kalgoorlie, incorporating a pedestrian precinct exhibiting Eastern Goldfields vegetation; extended the usable site for Agricola College, the student hall of residence for the School of Mines; carried out work for the State Energy Commission and completed other small projects. In 1994 she began a five-year project to review the site of one of the private boys’ schools on the outskirts of Perth. The work culminated in approval for areas of flood plain fringe being rezoned to accommodate school buildings.
In 2000 she resumed her association with the University, sat on an advisory committee, and with others set up the UWA Friends of the Grounds and became a Patron of the UWA Centenary Trust for Women and the inaugural Patron of the UWA Friends of the Grounds and served on relevant committees.
Awards and Honours
1980 Fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
1981 Fellow of Curtin University
1990 Awarded the Medal of the Institute of Landscape Architects
2001 Member of the Order of Australia
2004 Chancellors Medal UWA
Contributed by Sandy Forbes, with kind assistance from Lady Brodie-Hall