Kevin Taylor: Tributes and Funeral

A great, humble and exceptionally beautiful man has died.


On Sunday morning, 7th August, Kevin Taylor, Principal of Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Landscape Architects, Designers and community consultation specialists, Adelaide and Melbourne, was killed instantly in a vehicle crash in Darwin.


He was 57.


His passing is mourned by many, many friends all over the world who valued his quiet brilliance, his talent and design skills, his compassion and his love for his friends, colleagues and family.


Kevin was one of the brightest students I ever had the blessing to teach.


As an undergraduate in architecture at what was then the S.A. Institute of Technology, in 1977 he produced a stunningly radical and perceptive final-year thesis on “Ecological Awareness and the Practice of Architecture”, co-supervised by me and Doug Swanson, with remote advice from environmental activist Strider of Humpty Doo.


As the submission deadline approached, Doug and I were terrified that he was too bright — and the thesis too radical — for the dusty academics at SAIT. They’d either fail him or give him the medal.


They gave him the medal and he went on to work in architecture with David Yencken at Merchant Builders in Melbourne, to teach at RMIT, to become a landscape architect, to found an award-winning firm, father two great children (now adults) — Emily and Danae — and to find in his second wife, artist Kate Cullity, a soulmate and partner in both his personal and professional life.


Those of us who knew him and love him are devastated by this tragic news.


We share our grief with Kate and her family, Emily and Danae, their mother, his brother, his sister, his step-brother, his extended family, his business partner, Perry Lethlean, many professional colleagues and numerous clients and all the staff of Taylor Cullity Lethlean in Adelaide and Melbourne who respected and loved him so dearly.


Tribute from the Planning Institute of Australia


For a beautiful tribute from the Planning Institute of Australia, go to:


Funeral   arrangements


Kevin’s funeral will be held on Thursday 18 August at 9:30 am for 10 am in Adelaide Town Hall,   128 King William Street.


For details, see:


Vale Kevin Taylor.


Kevin Taylor





Trouble in Paradise: Dual Occupancy at Jarlanbah

March 15, 2010 – 9:59 pm


Trouble in Paradise


Tomorrow evening my neighbours are meeting to decide whether or not to try to ban dual occupancy (commonly called accessory dwelling units: ) in this eco-village of 43 dwellings on 22 hectares.


The whole process has me mightily confused.


Imagine the contradictions


Imagine the contradictions. Here we are living on half an acre in a Permaculture community committed to self-sufficiency and sustainability principles.


We live in a low-income community (Nimbin, population 350) with a desperate shortage of housing, especially for lower income residents. And most of us do not grow much food – if any – on our properties. I think every lot has at least one car. We’re highly automobile-dependent and we’re certainly not secure in terms of food production.


Designed by Robyn Francis


But we’re trying. The Jarlanbah community, designed by formidable Permaculture designer, Robyn Francis, who lives down the road at the Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre (see:, was established in 1993 and the first residents moved in in 1994. We’ve been here since 2001, actually living here since early 2006.


Now many of us are ageing and looking for opportunities to age in place and to have the possibility of a caregiver living on our house block.


Or to have an income stream from renting a small dwelling on our land.


Recently, the Jarlanbah Review Sub-committee rejected a proposal by one of our neighbours for a dual occupancy arrangement on his block. In North America, this is generally called an “accessory dwelling unit”.


His house is very stylish and modern in its design and I wondered what role “aesthetics” played in the decision.


Arguments in favour of dual occupancy


In any case, this case, which is likely to go to a formal mediation session, has caused a huge amount of discussion in our community. Some of us, citing global sustainability principles, Peak Oil, automobile dependence and the needs of an ageing, rural population, want to be able to have two dwellings on a lot. We can’t see how this would differ – in planning terms – from, say, a house with four or more bedrooms for a large family or shared household. We don’t see that the impacts on our road infrastructure would be that dramatic.


Not everyone would want to have another dwelling on their lot (perhaps half might – eventually) and those who did could pay extra to reflect the wear and tear that another vehicle might cause (assuming that vehicles would not be shared).


“It will open the floodgates”


But not all residents feel this way. Others are afraid that having a few more dwellings will open the floodgates. “It’ll turn Jarlanbah into a slum and a ghetto,” remarked one of the long-term residents, while another claimed that she did not move to Nimbin “to live in cluster housing.” “This is not inner city Redfern,” claimed another.




As a Jarlanbah resident who has spent a whole career (since 1967) working in housing and planning, I am curious to understand what this really means.


Where would these road-wrecking new slum-dwellers come from?


How could a ghetto emerge as a result of density increase?


I can’t help but think of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) or better still, BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone).


Nevertheless, this small village community on 43 lots is about to embark on an open, democratic, community discussion on this matter. In the Jarlanbah community centre, subject of an equally acrimonious debate that featured bullying and recrimination, broke hearts, shattered trust, offended aesthetic sensibilities and still rankles”¦


The Jarlanbah Community Centre


Watch this space!


Wednesay morning update:


Shocking meeting with no facilitation process to help us.


People jumping up and threatening, screaming and swearing at each other, unable to be controlled by the Chair.


I’m now branded as a consultant who’s the same as a dot-com operator – in the pay of the developers, plotting the extinction of all the wallabies, echnidnas and antechinus.


Pretty soon we will have blocks of flats at the bottom of the gully!


More soon!


Wednesday, after the mediation session


This matter has been taken to a formal mediation session through the State Department of Fair Trading. As a trained mediator myself, I know that what goes on inside the room stays insidethe room.


I will post my later thoughts on dual occupancy policy in this blog but for now, I cannot report on the latest events at Jarlanbah.


Except to say that we had a lovely pancake breakfast this morning (responding to advice from American planning theorist, John Forester, that we spend more time together socially and eating together).


So this morning before the mediation, I served pancakes for breakfast in the community centre (after Shirley and I scrubbed it within an inch of its life last night).


And tonight it’s pizza on our deck.


It’s raining softly in Paradise this afternoon. It’s very peaceful.


After a four-hour+ mediation, the local residents have gone home to their families and their gardens.


I hear Gaia, the living Earth, breathe a sigh of relief.


Is she thinking: Hopefully, those pesky humans will relax and simply love what they love.


Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Migrant’s Tale

24 July 2009 at 2:26 pm

This is a story about chocolate chip cookies: a migrant’s tale.


I was visiting a city friend recently.


We have no oven in our shed in the bush, so the sight of someone preparing to bake was deeply satisfying.


“What are you baking?” I asked Bill, as he patted the lumpy, brown blobs. Knowing he was a vegetarian, I was prepared for lentil burgers.


“Chocolate chip cookies,” he replied, hand-shaping the blobs on the baking sheet.


“Those aren’t chocolate chip cookies”


“Those aren’t chocolate chip cookies, Bill,” I offered. “Where I come from, we never make them that way.”


‘I’ve done my research and this is how they were originally made,’ he retorted, slamming the oven door.


I explained what a cookie was. He said he knew all about cookies.


“Bill,” I implored, “if we were talking about chapattis, you’d be interested in my opinion. It’d be ethnic food and you’d be fascinated if I explained the tricks of making them ‘properly’, authentically. I am sure of that. You’d be so respectful of me as a migrant, with my distinctive culture and cuisine. It’s because they’re American and I’m Canadian that you figure they are not important to me.”


He kept his back to me, intent on his dishwashing.


North Americans are not really ‘migrants’ in this country


Retreating to my room, I remembered what I’d known for decades. North Americans are not really ‘migrants’ in this country. I was about to celebrate 40 years of living in Australia. That very week. Forty years!


I could imagine what Bill was thinking: chocolate chip cookies are just part of a global market conspiracy. They are not any one culture’s food. They are certainly not anyone’s ‘cuisine’. A ‘generic’ thing that you make. Or make from a packet. Or buy in a shop.


I remembered learning to bake Toll House cookies as a child, in home economics. I sort of didn’t have a mother (least not one who could cook), so I had to learn to cook at school.They were ‘invented’ in the 1930s by an American cook and the idea took off like a rocket.


Hamilton Junior High School


I learned how to prepare them properly, in the home ec. lab at school, wearing the starched apron I’d made in sewing class. That was in the 1950s at Hamilton Junior High School.


For soft drop copies, all ingredients had to be at room temperature; cream the butter and sugar. Add the sifted dry ingredients. Drop from a spoon using another spoon to guide the dough onto the cookie sheet. Cook only till chewy.


Never crisp


Never crisp.


Before the cookie fiasco, Bill and I were discussing my research into cultural diversity.


Blessedly, the cooking goddess delivered me from any further relationship with the mounds.


Bill rushed out to his yoga class and forgot to turn off the oven.


The charred black mounds went into the compost.


And I took a trip into the city for some Mrs. Fields.


After we finish the roof and get the floors down, and build a toilet and get a shower happening… then I will have a kitchen and an oven.


It’s been 3 1/2 years since we had those luxuries.


And the first thing to come out of that oven will be my old favourites.


Here’s the original Toll House recipe:

What They Should Look Like

Saying Goodbye to a Partner: A Souvenir

29 June 2009 6:06 pm



This week, when the storms came and the rats and python got into the shed, I had to do some quick work to rescue my scrapbooks. I was unprepared for the emotional impact.


But the urgent task became a meditation and yielded a great blessing.


My father’s American Green Card (such a valuable treasure for a Canadian!). His Maui driver’s license with his photograph dated 1973.


Yellowed newspaper obituary clippings about my great-grandfather, the charismatic Armenian preacher, Rev. Harootune Sarkissian, describing what could only be called a “triumphant death”, surrounded by family, singing Armenian hymns.


He was in Connecticut, aged 96. I remember visiting his grave.


Then I discovered the letter from my former partner.


It was only a few lines and printed in pencil. I remembered the circumstances. I was standing at the table sorting papers and had to sit down as sweet memories washed over me.


Mixed race boy studying the planet model in classroom



It was a mutual decision to part after eight years and we were both grieving for what we had lost. We engaged a Sydney therapist for four sessions to say our goodbyes.


This tiny scrap of paper was my partner’s letter to me, written as a child would write to a dear friend who was moving away. Printed in his non-dominant hand. That’s what the therapist instructed us to do.


The letter said we’d soon be parting and he would miss me greatly. He asked me to remember the good times we had and closed with an expression of love. I’d printed a similar letter to him, I recalled, tears now streaming down my cheeks.


Yes, I remember the good times and I missed them — and him.


I bless the friendship we have shared since those painful sessions. I count him as a dear friend. In over twenty years, I doubt we’ve said one harsh word to each other. In fact, the therapy sessions were so powerful and effective that, other than a small altercation about lending the car, we never argued or disagreed. From places deep in our broken hearts, we told each other what was important — what needed to be said.


We sang songs to each other and each gave the other a small gift.


Our therapist showed us great kindness and compassion. He even cried with us, perhaps for his own losses…


I carefully folded and packed away the tiny letter, more cherished than photo albums and other treasures.


A plea from the heart for love to be validated and remembered.


My heart opening a simple — and undeniable — recognition of that reality.


An unexpected blessing in the midst of chaos.

Peggy’s Salon

18 June 2009 4:38 pm

Peggy's Salon at the New Otani Hotel, Kaimana Beach

Peggy’s Salon at the New Otani Hotel, Kaimana Beach


Living in the bush has its limitations, to be certain. We have most things in my village of 350, largely due to our hectic tourist trade: a pharmacy, a hospital, doctors, a post office, a hardware store, a garage, great organic food, fine coffee and an excellent hairdresser.


I’m always comforted to hear from my hairdresser that living in a shed is possible with two small children. So what do I need with a toilet, bathroom, kitchen, shower…?


My last trip to the Nimbin hairdresser got me thinking about Peggy’s Salon in Diamond Head in Honolulu, my Mecca on many recent trips to and from Canada.


I can’t wait to get there for my appointment and even though it’s been months or years since my last visit, Peggy, the owner, remembers me. Her tiny decorated dog with a rhinestone collar greets me. The room is full of laughter. And transformation.


Peggy Thompson’s clientele are not necessarily the women who stay at the three-star New Otani Hotel at Kaimana Beach, where she’s located.

They come from a wider group of older women who moved from Canada and the mainland USA to this tropical paradise. Decades ago, many of them.

Sitting in her salon, waiting for my appointment and catching up on the latest antics of the movie stars, I realise I’m witnessing caring on a grand — and intimate scale.


Every woman is precious to Peggy. Every head of hair, however faded, balding, worn, bedraggled, over permed, poorly cut and ill-coloured — deserves and gets her close attention. Every woman who leaves her friendly haven looks beautiful. Every one distinctively different.

Peggy’s not that much younger than her clientele, me included. She knows how to make us look elegant, bright and snazzy.




Peggy always regales us with stories of her trips to Reno and Las Vegas. Lately she’s been on a winning streak.


For every festive occasion (certainly including Easter, Halloween and St Patrick’s Day), the small salon is festooned with decorations.


Halloween and autumn decorations (a season not very evident in tropical Honolulu!) are featured, with turkeys, autumn leaves and pumpkins everywhere.




Green candy is on offer in March.


Over the Christmas season there is barely enough space for the nail polish bottles on counters covered with artificial snow, icicles, candy canes and snowmen. Santa never fails to visit Peggy’s salon.


With global warming, I wonder sadly how many more trips I can make to Peggy’s salon.

Ethically, I mean. Perhaps I could argue (to Gaia?) that I’m making a close anthropological inspection of the qualities of an ethic of caring in practice. One woman. Hundreds of elderly women.


Over twenty years in the business.


Making all of us beautiful and special. Transforming us. Caring for us with the impeccable attention that only a dedicated hairdresser can give.


Peggy and I have talked about this at length. It’s not accidental. She knows exactly what she’s doing. And she was delighted that I’d spotted it.


In Nimbin, our hairdressers have hippies and careworn bush people to care for.

They do that brilliantly and cheer us when the roof blows off and pythons come into our beds. They listen to our tales of woe and commiserate from a place of deep knowing


But for transformation, there’s nobody like Peggy.



Peggy’s Salon, 2863 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu 96815   Phone: + 1 808 924 0422