Douglas Snelling was a Sydney follower of Frank Lloyd Wright's principles of organic modernism – integrating landscapes with buildings rather than modernism's European alternative philosophy of separating (elevating) buildings above their natural terrains.
Like Wright, he was inspired by traditional Japanese garden design. Regular features of his residential gardens were compositions of large stones, amoeba-shaped fishponds stocked with expensive koi carp, indoor-outdoor ponds (flowing under window glass), waterfalls over rock retaining walls, mood lighting at night via concealed and sculptural lamps, gas flares, and trios of Melanesian totem poles.
Swimming pools were often a central highlight of Snelling's residences. He built the southern hemisphere's first 'infinity' (spill-edge) pool for the Kelly House II ('Tahiti') at Vaucluse in 1965 – only a couple of years after Los Angeles architect John Lautner built the world's first infinity pool. (Lautner advised Snelling by mail on the technicalities of his water recycling system.)
Admitted to the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects shortly after it was founded in the late 1960s, Snelling sketched his landscapes in 3D pen and ink perspective formats, with recognisable species of plants artfully composed. These sketches were faithfully realised by his landscape contractors. One of his preferred plants experts was Verner (Wern) Kuchell.
Almost all of his architectural projects and many of his commercial interiors included gardens but he also completed several small individual landscape compositions. These, like many of his larger landscapes, still are in good condition today.
LANDSCAPE DESIGN (small ensembles)
Clayton Fishpond, 27 Wallaroy Road, Double Bay, NSW, 1967.
Hesky Pool, 53 Headland Road Castle Cove, NSW, 1969.
K13 Memorial, Pennant Hills Road near Carlingford Rail Station, Carlingford NSW, 1963.