Many years ago when I starting working part- time in an Architectural Practice one of the first things my boss Andrew said to me was that he thought I should have been a nurse. I was completely shocked by this statement as I was in my fifth year of studying Architecture at University and I had been hired for my presentation and design skills to work on one of Sydney's most prestigious projects.
Prior to taking this position I had been working as a student in one of the largest commercial practices in Sydney and after some time became the person that work experience students were sent to for guidance and advice.
Why begin this post here ? What is the point ? I think the point that I am trying to get to is not that I have pursued the wrong career, rather my natural affinity for caring and understanding people are important qualities for an Architect. Designing a new home or an alteration to a home for a client is an intensely personal and emotional process. The better the communication and understanding, the better the outcome.
Looking back now to Andrew's statement and his words resonate, not as criticism, rather encouragement and insight that I certainly didn't appreciate at the time.
Our project was an apartment development designed in collaboration with Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Lend Lease Design Group. The Macquarie Apartments project comprised 62 apartments and 2 penthouses. I was involved in the documentation of all the apartment and public area interiors working with a small yet passionate team.
A pivotal project, both for the City of Sydney and my professional experience, as working on this project led to work on many apartment development projects. I found these projects challenging and incredibly rewarding as they are complex to design and document, often involving a large design and consultant team. However I always found that I enjoyed working on the smaller house projects where immediate contact with the client led to an intimacy and immediacy not afforded on the larger projects.
To understand how a client/ clients want to live in their home, their dreams, inspirations and passions leads to many conversations. To say I enjoy a chat may be an understatement.
Trying to ascertain a clients vision for their new home can be challenging, yet always vital regardless of the scale. Assumptions can never be made and good communication takes time and consideration. Often a client will say they have no idea of what they want or their brief is very prescriptive in terms of function, not form. Drawing out the elements in a home they value can be a wonderfull process of discovery.
Architecture really is about people. Designing spaces and places for people to inhabit. When the space can stimulate and heighten the emotions it can become transformative. The best results both in process and outcome are driven by passion and commitment. Projects can take years to complete, involving many forms of communication. A good relationship is vital to the success of the project where process is equally as important as outcome.
Good architecture does not save lives, but it can certainly help improve them. Blind optimism plays a vital role in delivering a result that is in the hands of many. Without passion the experience can become a mere transaction. Our designs are pragmatic and we do not overly intellectualise our work, yet a singular concept drives every design, aligned to the aspirations of the people we are lucky enough to call our clients.