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Vale Professor David Yencken AO_____

Vale Professor David Yencken AO

Vale Professor David Yencken AO

The Tract Family sadly mourn the passing of co-founder Professor David Yencken AO, after a long and resolute battle with illness. A true renaissance man, for he was a pioneer and visionary in every respect, working within the arts, culture, environment, construction and design industries, for government and in higher education. His distinguished career has left an indelible legacy upon this nation.

As part of David’s diverse, remarkable and long distinguished career in the built and natural environments was his singular vision in the formation of Tract Consultants.

During his early 20’s he developed a love for architecture and design which was sparked, as he has written, from a road trip through Canada where he discovered “several wonders of the new world: hamburgers, three minute car washes and motels”. These influences, coupled with his visionary spirit, led him in 1956, to open one of the earliest Melbourne art galleries devoted to Australian art, then building and running one of the first Australian motels in Bairnsdale between 1957-60. This led him to commission architect Robin Boyd to design the architecturally significant “The Black Dolphin” motel in Merimbula.

His foray into the development and construction industry led he and John Ridge to co-found Merchant Builders, Merchant Projects and Merchant Design in 1965. It is here they set about pioneering new project housing developments in Victoria, integrating progressive architectural design within the Australian landscape, working with landscape luminaries Ellis Stones and Gordon Ford. Over the course of their history, Merchant Builders et al were awarded 3 Victorian Architectural Medals and the inaugural Robin Boyd Environmental Award (1972).

It is during this time in the early 1970’s that David founded Tract Consultants, a firm of town planners (Statutory/Strategic) and landscape architects. David’s vision for Tract was, at the time, totally new in Australia – a fully integrated planning and design firm to provide better outcomes for the natural and built environs. With his insightful vision and sharp intellect, he achieved remarkable outcomes. This vision and thoughtfulness is a legacy that Tract carries through to this day.

Even after David departed Tract in the late 1970’s he maintained a constant interest in its people and its many projects. After departing Tract, David took up a significant role in establishing the Australian Heritage Commission, which he then chaired from 1975-81. It is during this period that he was appointed the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and represented Australia twice as a joint leader of the Australian Delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
This then led to one of his most significant roles as the as Secretary (Chief Executive) of the Ministry for Planning and Environment for the Victorian Government, a position he held from 1982-87. He and the Planning Minister of the time, the late Evan Walker, set about transforming Melbourne and beginning its renaissance into a global city. Significant among this transformation was the development of Melbourne’s Southbank but his most audacious project vision though, was the “Greening of Swantson St”. Over the course of a weekend he transformed Swanston St into a “pop up” public park by covering the length and breadth of Swanston St for 4 blocks with natural grass.

David’s career then took him into academia where he became the Elisabeth Murdoch Chair of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of Melbourne in 1988. A role he served in until 1997. His influence over the student planners and landscape architects was profound with many of his former students successfully building their careers at Tract. I, being just one of the many.

David continued his association with Tract, returning in a more formal role as a specialist advisor in 1998. In his new strategic overview capacity, he instigated the biennial forums involving all Tract offices and staff to critically examine the cultural, environmental, design and planning issues of the day and for the future, as they related to our built and natural environments. He facilitated the full agenda for the first 2 Forums which run to this day, the latest being held in March 2019. Throughout his latter years, David always maintained an interest in Tract’s activities expressing a profound fondness and delight for the staff and their achievements.

David’s quiet but authoritative manner was such that he could engage, inspire and draw allegiance and respect from people, even those that may not have initially agreed with him. He was a true collaborator, who saw the outcome as more important than any individual self-interest.

A true visionary, full of spirit and determination with a passion for design, culture and the environment, who strove to make the world a better place in whatever way he could and who’s legacy upon Australia is indelible.

David will forever remain a part of Tract, whose legacy is born of his vision.

Deiter Lim
Managing Director
Tract Consultants
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