“Let’s dream for a moment that colour might change the world!”
What’s your favourite colour?
Colour. I love it! Every aspect of it—boldness, its subtlety and nuance. I like knowing about how it’s made and how it has been used over the centuries. Colour is the carrier or signifier of great messages or stories. And sensations. I like to also stand back and read compositions—colour journeys you might say, like El Greco or Gerhard Richter. If I were to cite a particular colour as favourite (don’t tell the other colours!) it would be orange. It both ignites like a flame and glows like an ember.
Would you paint your house gold, silver or bronze?
Gold, definitely. But only if I could have the entire interior upholstered in exotic mohairs!
Tell us about your most unusual design.
A few of us at ARM worked on a flat-pack boat with Jill Orr, a performance artist. We settled on a boat shape that was reminiscent of a walnut shell. It had an incredibly human scale to it, not that dissimilar to James Cook’s Endeavour, really. I actually helped to reassemble it in Venice on one of the most famous harbour fronts favoured by Canaletto. That was marvellous!
Which city would you describe as an architectural heaven?
That is always a shifting focus. At the moment, I love Bologna for its 67 kilometres of loggia and the sensational terrazzo pavement that it covers.
What gives you the edge?
I come from an art background. That passion is an invaluable resource. That aside, I also enjoy researching materials—by this I mean following through with a thorough line of enquiry. If you understand the investment made in properly researched and developed materials, it makes it easy to tell the difference between quality materials and knock-offs. Interestingly though, better quality does not always come with a higher price tag. When we’re asked to design buildings to last a very long time, this type of knowledge makes a difference.
What will you be looking for as a Dulux judge?
I am interested in active engagement with colour. I’m not interested in what’s aesthetically pleasing or on trend but how designers might use colour to create compelling colour stories and environments. Let’s dream for a moment that colour might change the world!
Tell us about some interiors you’re proud of.
They’re quiet spaces that people haven’t noticed yet in big buildings. The Melbourne Room in Hamer Hall and the auditorium at the Shrine of Remembrance Education Centre and the powder rooms on Level 1 at MTC Theatre all contain a sense of discovery. For me they’re successful because I feel that when you enter any of them, you’re transported into another world. I love that. I reckon the blue stairwell flanking in the Melbourne Recital Centre is jawdropping. The whole thing throbs and vibrates colour. The recessed backlit make-up mirrors in Hamer Hall are about making people feel like a performer in front a make-up mirror, understand the sense of occasion. I’ve done it to encourage people to love themselves, to remind them that the audience members are as important as the performers. What sets those rooms apart is their extraordinariness, not any stylistic similarity. They’re all different.
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t doubt yourself—explore with proactive outcome.
Photo by Hannah Moriarty