Designed to impress
Best known locally as The Advertiser's Monday cartoonist, Ross Bateup for many years has had successful, parallel careers as an urban designer and political cartoonist. Ten years ago the two careers came together in a new business, and now their convergence is the subject of a unique PhD.
Ross Bateup's cartoons were launched in the University of Adelaide's student newspaper On Dit at a time when there was plenty of material to sharpen his pencil on.
It was the late '60s, John Bannon and Peter Duncan held the On Dit helm, and student activism over Vietnam and a myriad of other issues was rife.
It was the start of a tremendous career which has seen his cartoons published in the New Yorker, New York Times, Playboy and The Bulletin among many others. His cartoons have strong political messages and have, at times, sparked controversy.
He tells of one instance during his time as a postgraduate student in the US where student activism, government crackdowns and rioting reached a peak during the Vietnam years. "The University of Pennsylvania had a daily paper called the Daily Pennsylvanian and I had cartoons published in that. One of my cartoons upset the US Government enough to the point where the FBI made enquiries about it to the editor."
Ross's cartoons are still syndicated around the world through the New York Times / Cartoonists Writers Syndicate and Cagle Professional Cartoonists Index and he publishes a weekly political cartoon in Monday's The Advertiser.
Ross's other career has been similarly successful. He is a senior urban design consultant, having held director positions with large firms involved in major urban developments in Australia and Asia. He currently consults on a project by project basis.
He graduated with First Class Honours in Architecture at the University of Adelaide in 1968 with three scholarships under his belt, including a Fulbright scholarship which funded the postgraduate study in urban design and city planning at the University of Pennsylvania on a graduate scholarship.
In the US he studied under Louis Kahn - "widely acknowledged as the last of the modern masters in architecture" - and was employed in the office of famous environmentalist and landscape architect Ian McHarg, world-renowned for his philosophy of incorporating environmental concerns into designs. There, Ross was employed on the design of new towns and, back in Australia, he also worked on the new town developments of the Whitlam era - Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Orange and Monarto.
Ross is still practising both his architecture and cartooning and, 15 months ago, started a PhD back in the School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.
"I'd always kept the urban design and cartoon work really separate but about 10 years ago I started to bring the two together in community consultation," Ross says.
"Community consultation is an important component of major urban projects. Over the years I've observed a lot have ended up in a bun fight, partly because of completely different aspirations but usually because of a lack of understanding on both sides."
His business, Bateup Urban Graphics, produces simple urban design graphics, sometimes with cartoons and sometimes with humour, to express complicated urban ideas for communication with the general public.
He came back to the academic world six years ago when appointed as a Visiting Fellow in the School and has recently been asked to prepare a course of introductory drawing for new Architecture students.
His PhD is exploring the parallels in the creative process between cartoon drawing and architecture and the possible application of cartoons within architectural education.
"It's raised some eyebrows within the academic world," Ross laughs. ■
STORY ROBYN MILLS