Ariel Utz Wirnsberger


Meet Ariel Utz Wirnsberger





Meet Ariel Utz Wirnsberger

Associate: Landscape Architecture & Urban Design Ariel Utz Wirnsberger has worked at Ratio for more than five years. Formerly an architect, he brings a people-centric lens and technical skillset to Ratio’s Urban Design team and global perspective on good urban design outcomes.

Meet Ariel Utz Wirnsberger

How did you become an urban designer?

Two months before I graduated as an architect, a big earthquake and tsunami (top 6 in recorded history – 8.8) hit the region I am originally from in Chile. Before that, I hadn’t thought about working in the urban design and landscape architecture fields, but the circumstances at the time required architects to be involved in the reconstruction projects in the affected cities. This is how I ended up working in the urban design and landscape architecture fields! Sometimes, life sends you down a path you have not planned.

It’s no news to say we are facing big challenges because of how cities have evolved, with huge implications in people’s health and the environment. Working in the urban design and landscape architecture disciplines has become a passion, especially considering the big and positive impact some of these projects can have in the natural environment and in people’s lives.


What is your favourite part of the job?

Working on various projects, sometimes on entirely different scales, keeps me enthusiastic and inspires me at work.

Can you give us an overview of your specific skillsets?

I graduated as an architect, I have a masters degree in urban design, and I have worked for more than 15 years in urban design and landscape architecture projects locally and in South and North America. My architectural background gave me the tools to shape spaces from the ‘inside’ from a pedestrian’s eye level that prioritises people’s spatial perceptions and balances the scales of built forms, open spaces, and nature within urban environments. My skills and interests have been crucial when designing ‘places for people and nature’.

How does your area of expertise assist the wider Ratio team?

At Ratio, we often work on complex projects that need a holistic approach. Our multidisciplinary processes, including planning, urban design, landscape architecture, and transport in one cohesive team, lead to a better understanding of the challenges and the best outcomes for a project.

Urban planning processes can be very time-consuming, with various stakeholders involved and many technical issues to solve. However, when working collaboratively with my colleagues, we increase the efficiency and efficacy of a project’s entire process. I am happy that my technical skills and experience, covering architecture, urban design and landscape architecture, have been helpful in the different projects Ratio has been involved, from big infrastructure projects to small scale design elements.

Can you illustrate via a case study how your work has been of particular benefit?

The Wyndham Stadium Precinct Masterplan is a good example of a planning strategic project with a focus on placemaking where our urban design, planning and transport services worked together.

The teams worked on a vision for the area, which included main open spaces, transport connections, bike paths, and a mix of land uses to provide an overall framework for the site.

In a different scale, I have enjoyed working in the ‘Streets for people’ project we developed in Spotswood for the Hobsons Bay City Council, which was a collaborative effort between our urban design and transport departments. At present, we are continuing to design the Hudsons Road concept streetscape masterplan. Now we are in the process of collating all the valuable information we gathered during the community consultation phase of the project.

What is the biggest challenge or change you’ve made in the course of your career?

The biggest challenge of my career has been to move between different countries. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as urban designer in three different continents. Of course, each place has it’s own way of dealing with planning regulations, planning schemes, standards etc but, fortunately, good urban design principles are universal and translatable to different contexts. More than being just a big challenge, these experiences have been a fundamental part of my growth as a person and as an urban designer.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself

When finishing my first project as an architect, I ran a bit late and didn’t sleep for three days to meet the deadline (disclaimer: no stimulants of any kind were involved!). As a result, I suffered jetlag for months afterwards. Not recommended!