Atkinson Pontifex takes Chelsea gold


It’s no surprise that Cheltenham-based builder Atkinson Pontifex was part of the Australian team that won the 2013 Best In Show gold medal at the world’s most prestigious garden event, the Chelsea Flower Show in London.

After all, directors Dean Atkinson and David Pontifex met when they were four years old playing in a kindergarten sandpit in a Melbourne suburb. They became mates and went to the same primary school. Then in the ’80s, they developed a successful business partnership that has built some of the finest homes in the city’s Bayside area.

Their boutique company has won many distinguished housing industry awards, but the Chelsea award is special.

As Dean says: “Chelsea is like the Olympics of the landscaping world. It was a fantastic day for Australian horticulture and design, and also to walk away as the best in the world at what we do. It is pretty amazing that a world-winning design was built from our local factory.”

For these two cheerful perfectionists, their role overseeing the Australians garden’s building and carpentry included building a beautiful transparent studio shaped like a waratah flower, perched on the edge of a stone gorge overlooking a billabong.

This unique design from Studio 505 required asymmetrical encasing petals that Atkinson Pontifex laser-cut from reclaimed timber. The studio appears to float. Louvered windows allow 360-degree views – and this, combined with clear acrylic flooring, catches all light to create a dappled effect inside. Built-in solar panels generate enough energy for the whole landscape, reinforcing the designs strong commitment to environmental values.

As well, Atkinson Pontifex built the sunset platform, a timber deck inspired by the Australian Anzac badge and using sustainably sourced timber. The design allows natural pauses and viewing spaces above the lush garden showcasing Australian plant diversity with ferns, bushland and coastal shrubs, and Queensland bottle trees.

It’s no wonder that David and Dean were among the few members of the Trailfinders Flemings winning team to be asked back to contribute for a fourth time. They are renowned for their calm and nerves of steel, absolutely necessary attributes in this highly competitive flower show. They also have a “nothing is too hard” attitude. The world-winning design took a team – including 17 volunteers  – 2500 man-hours to complete.

Each year, Queen Elizabeth and members of the Royal family visit the show. This year, a milestone 100th anniversary, the Queen was told she had no time to stop at the Australian garden. But she ignored this. Instead she asked to enter, walked around the site and chatted.

All of this fits nicely with what we know about Atkinson Pontifex. Their stated mission is to deliver results that exceed expectations every time. Two men with passion.

David sums up: “I believe that ordinary people can achieve extra-ordinary things. To be involved and showcased on the world stage is just mind blowing. It’s wonderful to represent your country and come home with the best prize of all.”

Posted in Building Awards