Andrea Wilson
Principal

“The best moments are when I present materials to clients. I like people to pick them up and feel them and understand their tactility and I see that as a moment of celebration.”

Way back in Grade 5, I was into The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. It’s a very old, now redundant, study book of art for kids. It includes architecture, but I didn’t realise this was a profession because there wasn’t an architecture firm in the country town where I grew up.

I had my own studio as a fine artist for eight years and I lectured in painting and print making. But after a while I realised I wasn’t going to change the world as an artist so I decided to study architecture because I could contribute to the cultural fabric and earn a living, still in the art world. I bring to architecture a background of fine art and cultural studies. At ARM, I have the opportunity to explore those ideas and help others tease them out.

I’m very proud of the cultural connections in ARM’s work. Architecture provokes. People can walk past and choose not to see anything but if they actually stop to look and question there is a visual language there.

Because I’m an interior architect, I’m probably more interested in built form than most interior designers. My primary focus has been on materials. As an artist, I was working with oil paint and bees wax and the tactility of materials and I’ve simply transferred my interest in that to buildings.

I’ve developed a very strong knowledge of how different materials perform, and I always go to Australian products first. I’ve also built a lot of relationships with a network of interior detectives—suppliers who are searching for products on our behalf. I’ve learned that better quality materials do not always come with a higher price tag. When we’re designing buildings to last a very long time, this type of knowledge makes a huge difference.

The best moments are when I present materials to clients. I like people to pick them up and feel them and understand their tactility and I see that as a moment of celebration. Each project has a story that unifies the spaces and the material selections. Not everyone’s work has this, but ARM’s does. Without the story, all you have is an aesthetic.

Experience has taught me that if I look at the abstracts of an idea, I’ll know whether it’s good or not. I can look at a selection of materials and know whether they’ll work together and, over the years, I’ve put together some very atypical selections. And they work.”