Celebrating the life of Jim Sinatra FAILA

"If you don't see it, hear it or feel it, then you just don't get it." Jim Sinatra


Landscape architectural practice in Australia has been significantly shaped by the unique leadership and practice of Jim Sinatra. His was a practice where the process of design, was just as important as the outcome. He valued relationships and cared deeply about the intersection between culture and environment. Listening to people talk about him is to hear of his exceptional talent, infectious enthusiasm, compassion, and dedication to embracing change and progressing the landscape architectural industry.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Master of Landscape Architecture and was awarded a Professorship in 1976 at Iowa State University. Jim was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by RMIT in 2013 in recognition of his incredible contribution to the University and to the profession of Landscape Architecture.

From 1982 until the late 1990s, Jim led the newly established undergraduate landscape architecture program at RMIT University. He initiated and led design studios throughout regional, rural and remote Australia (from Tasmania to the WA Kimberley) as a means to grow the course. Through this work, Jim encouraged staff and students, both domestic and international, to engage in community-led development projects locally and across the globe.

Jim had a unique and unrivaled leadership style that influenced and shaped Australian landscape architectural practice and many of the leaders in our industry today. He taught his students to think, to value compassion, to challenge the common narrative, and listen deeply by immersing ourselves in culture and landscape.

His practice of deep engagement and compassionate design extended into his award-winning practice Sinatra Murphy established in partnership with Phin Murphy. This partnership and practice resulted in shared authorship of reports, books and journal articles which shaped the profession.

Internationally recognised through his projects working with various communities and people across Australia. He was a pioneer in working with indigenous communities co-authoring with Phin Murphy the book Listen to the people, listen to the land changing how we see and hear the stories of the Australian environment.

Jim continued to be an active contributor to and leader of the profession through his projects, teaching, mentorship and involvement with AILA. The AILA Jim Sinatra Leadership Award recognises his contribution and celebrates those that follow in his stead. Beyond his accomplishments both in academia and professional practice, Jim was a beloved friend, colleague, and mentor to many in the industry. His warmth, generosity, and connection to the country will continue to inspire.

On behalf of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, the membership, and the community you embraced, we thank you…for your leadership, mentorship, and friendship, may we continue to be inspired by the world around us, embrace change, and to lead with purpose and compassion.

Vale Jim Sinatra


Image: Cover image from Listen to the People, Listen to the Land