Vale Andras Kelly | 1943 – 2022
Andras Kelly was born Andras Kollo to a distinguished and well-educated family in Transylvania (then part of Hungary) on the 25th of January 1943. Growing up behind the Iron Curtain, he well remembered the Hungarian Uprising against their Stalinist government in 1956, and experienced its brutal suppression by an invading Russian army.
In 1967, having qualified in landscape architecture at the University of Horticulture in Budapest, he escaped to Western Europe on his third attempt, becoming a refugee in Italy. From Italy, he emigrated to Canada in 1968 where he practised landscape architecture with D. W. Graham and Associates in Ottawa, completing, among other projects, the masterplan for Ottawa University. Returning to Italy and France on a study tour in 1970, he re-emigrated to Melbourne in 1971, briefly practising with Earle, Shaw and Partners, where he met architects John Denton and Bill Corker.
He was appointed head of the landscape branch for the Sydney City Council in 1972 but, frustrated by the inertia of the public service, he formed design firm DCKM with John Denton, Bill Corker, and Barrie Marshall in Melbourne and Canberra in 1972. This firm became the internationally acclaimed DCM, and Adelaide’s Rundle Mall is among Andras’ major projects.
In 1975, Andras had accepted a position with the Department of the Environment in Britain as a regional landscape architect, responsible for the landscape planning and design for ten counties of England, with projects that included major sections of the M11 Motorway and the full Oxford-Swindon Corridor. Returning to Melbourne as a senior landscape architect with the Country Roads Board in 1977, he had responsibility for corridor planning and landscaping of all major highways in the state of Victoria. The introduction of dual carriageways on the Hume Highway to reduce environmental impact is an enduring testimony to his influence.
In 1980, he was appointed as a senior lecturer to the new, innovative School of Environmental Design established by Barry McNeill at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education (TCAE) at Mt Nelson in Hobart, Tasmania. This ground-breaking school pioneered the holistic concept of environmental design as the primary core of design education across Australia. Andras was the perfect match to complement this approach; he understood landscape and architecture as one and brought us all, staff and students, to the same determination.
With the absorption of the TCAE into the University in 1981, some courses remained with the retitled Tasmanian State Institute of Technology (TSIT) on a new campus built at Newnham in Launceston. Andras, who already lived at nearby Evandale, moved with the school to Launceston, though the course was also taught from the School of Art in Hunter Street on the Hobart Docks. This split created some serious contention within the profession.
In 1991, the TSIT in Launceston was also absorbed by the University of Tasmania, becoming its second campus. Andras took over the School of Environmental Design and Architecture as Head of School in 1994. With extraordinary depth of understanding and empathy, he nurtured and generated what became accepted as Australia’s number one school of architecture.
During this period, the school had a major impact, becoming an international leader in exploring the expanding capacities of computing in design, while also generating active experiences for students in the processes of ideation, design and construction through its innovative Learning by Making program. After completing his Doctorate in Hungary in 1998/9, he returned as Head of School before his retirement in 2003.
Andras, a man with a vast lived experience of political, social and cultural upheaval, created a platform which celebrated otherness. He effectively defended staff and students from the implacable, grinding forces of institutional bureaucracy.
“He gave us the courage and the space to express both individuality and community. The education delivered at the school was as much about the endless games of cricket played in the courtyard as it was about the challenging teaching of our extraordinarily diverse staff.”
“He constructed space that allowed difference, and as such supported the richness and diversity of passion. A man of immense intellect and encyclopaedic knowledge – assisted by a photographic memory – he was himself an immense educational resource.”
Andras passed away in Melbourne on the first of March 2022.
“What greater legacy than to have created a space of learning that so many still reflect on, along with its lifelong bonds and friendships; to have left a world which the thousands that he mentored and taught strive to make a much better place.”