Matthew Harbut - Landscape Architect
Matthew Harbut is a Landscape Architect and Senior Project Manager who specializes in parks and recreation design.
Matthew (Matt) works in Binnie’s Landscape Architecture, Sports and Recreation (LASR) Division. His role on the team is to oversee the site design aspects of Binnie’s parks and recreation projects.
Matt’s portfolio includes work at Spencer Smith Park and Kelynak Horse Racing Stables in Burlington, Ontario, the award-winning Nottingham High School courtyard in New York, and the gateway plaza to the Downtown Burlington Waterfront.
For Binnie’s parks projects, Matt is involved in all aspects of conceptual and detailed design, as well as master planning which guides our clients’ future site design projects. He particularly enjoys problem solving challenges inherent in conceptual and preliminary design work.
Matt works in a tight-knit design team that specializes in parks and recreation; he describes how each person on the LASR team understands they have a distinct role to play on each project. As a busy dad and a professional, he finds there is a fair work life balance in his division.
There’s a healthy respect for people’s family time outside of work and we try to keep to business hours. When deadlines hit we do what needs to be done.
Growing up in Surrey, BC, on a rural acreage that is now a subdivision, Matt spent a lot of time outdoors. It was in his back yard when he first realized he was keenly interested in changing the space around him.
My dad loved gardening, he gave all four of us [brothers] an area of the back yard that was ours to do with whatever we wanted. That’s when I started planning outdoor space. I was definitely the most into it. I created planting areas and more manicured spaces.
Matt completed a Landscape Architecture degree at the University of British Columbia, then went on to work in the profession in Ontario and then New York, before taking a few years off to be a stay at home dad. He did pro bono Landscape Architecture work while at home, designing school courtyards and keeping his mind active in landscape design.
While he is enthusiastic about all types of design, Matt leans towards modern, contemporary designs and studies “the built environment”. During his travels, he takes the time to see European and Scandinavian design.
Sweden and Denmark have a really progressive design community. Whenever we go there I check out new parks and see exhibitions. Recently I went to the “Century of the Child” exhibition in Varnamo, Sweden, a children’s play exhibition where I found new inspiration for kids play spaces.
With Scandinavian design, even the smallest detail is thought out. They don’t just rely on the old way of doing everything. Even with a really basic plan, or low-cost design, they still look for details that are engaging. Bursts of colour – their landscape can be bleak with the long winters – colour provides contrast. There’s always an effort to get away from what’s expected.
Sustainability is often a guiding principle and efforts are made to use recycled, repurposed, and locally produced materials which not only limit a project’s carbon footprint but also provides clues about the local context.
Back in BC, Matt enjoys taking his two young kids to John Lawson Park at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver.
I like parks that mesh the natural play opportunities (balance logs, sand, water, stepping stones) with more traditional manufactured play equipment. It’s all designed but intended to replicate playing in nature.
[Photo from “The Playscape Chronicles of Frode Svane” by Paige Johnson]
Matt recently published an article in Sitelines, a magazine published by the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architecture.
I talk about how a lot of our park spaces available for kids and teenagers to use are sports parks – baseball diamonds, soccer fields.
Sports clubs are the primary driver behind a lot of development that happens at our community parks. While not a bad thing, we need to think about how to make these parks more multi-purpose for other users. If we don’t plan for multi-purpose, kids are going to find their own ways of using what is there, which may be unsafe or harmful to the park.
We want to create spaces that are intended to be used in a whole bunch of ways. We need spaces for teenagers particularly, outdoor spaces where they can hang out and feel included, and can use without being told they shouldn’t be doing that there.
I have a weakness for Hollywood blockbuster action – I appreciate good art but also like to see a movie where you don’t have to think.
I enjoy woodworking and carpentry. I built the kids a playhouse last summer, building some planters for the back yard, gardening in containers.
I’ve set a goal to ride the Grand Fondo up to Whistler next year. I used to cycle a lot before I had kids…
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery