Architecture is the most inescapable of art forms. We live with it and in it, – buildings are the backdrop of life. Twenty-five years as an architect has also taught me that buildings are more than the bricks and mortar.
As British architect Rowan Moore says “…the space we occupy is not neutral to us. We cannot look at it with detachment. We are in it, we make it, and it makes us.” Our spaces and places matter to us. Buildings have a powerful effect on our feelings, efficiency, health, and happiness.
Homes in particular become a part of us. They cradle our lives and during the pandemic home has a heightened sense of sanctuary. For most of us home is safety – emotional as well as physical. We grow attached. Memories tangle with the places where they happen. Home and identity mingle in ways that are deep.
I help my clients dream up homes or alter them. My aim is to create places with heart and soul – a home not a house. Designing this way takes thought and intention and a close collaboration. At the first client meeting we dig for what matters most to them – a central idea that will drive their design. I’m not talking a look or style here but something deeper; values and hopes. Profound notions like sanctuary and welcome, warmth and love, nature and beauty.
Here are a few of our projects with the people behind them with a big ideas:
Not long ago we designed a house on the Fleurieu peninsula for a burly big-hearted journalist who wanted a second home on his property to accommodate his bubbly brood of grandkids each summer holiday. For him and his wife, family is everything.
I’ve had several clients who’ve spent a good chunk of their building budget on the kitchen. For them love is feeding people and their home was designed around hospitality.
There’s the classical pianist who’s transforming her living space into a ‘salon’ where her recitals will be a total experience of sound and place.
And the GP who spent up on the street appeal of his shopping development because he wanted to give something to the neighbourhood.
There’s the scientist and teacher with modest tastes who love the natural world. Their currently evolving design is all about seamless connection with the landscape.
And lastly… the ultra-cool, inner-city couple, both interior designers who live for art and design and have such good taste it hurts. They consider every detail – the look of their spaces, the art, the furniture, the fireplace, the cat, the plates they eat from. Beauty is everything with this couple and I loved working with them.
Realities played a role in all these buildings; there is never a perfect situation. Sites bring constraints, priorities can differ (sometimes I feel like a marriage counsellor!), costs can curb dreams, councils have rules. But that is the work of an architect to use the tools of design – proportion, volume, light, flow and connection – and develop creative solutions while preserving the big idea.
Regardless of their traits and challenges, the lesson from all of these projects was the same: good architecture is personal. A reflection of the people who dream it, create it and live it.