“The ultimate test of whether a building works is watching how people are using it—if they’re using it as we intended. You can tell if they like it.”
“I think the most satisfying part of my job is when I see a project built and used. The ultimate test of whether it works is watching how people are using it—if they’re using it as we intended. You can tell if they like it. If you watch for long enough, you see how people start to use buildings intuitively and sometimes they find uses you hadn’t imagined. I love the surprises that are sometimes revealed in built outcomes—how the spaces we’d envisioned often turn out even better than we’d expected.
My role is to take the directors’ concept designs and flesh them out—work out how each one can become a building. There’s an ongoing conversation between the concept and how we turn it into a real building. My task is controlling the design process and making sure the integrity of the concept is maintained throughout design development and construction. Our projects are always design led, as opposed to business led or builder led.
Being a great architect is not always about your skill, it’s about your judgement. You constantly have to ask yourself, ‘Is this a good idea?’ and ‘Do I need to show it to someone else?’. I think doubt is good. It proves that you’re considering and questioning what you do. At ARM, we constantly judge our designs and we pursue the ideas all the way through until the project is finished. We’re not the sorts of architects who spend a few weeks designing the building then they document it and that’s it. They’ve finished. We’re on the job delivering the building until it opens, designing our way out of the issues that inevitably arise during construction. Our project architects are constantly going back to the designers to discuss how we can solve a problem in a way that’s true to the design concept.
I teach single-semester design studios in the RMIT Masters of Architecture but I learned my own design skills mostly through practice. I’ve spent long hours just sitting with experienced senior colleagues who are the knowledge base of ARM, working on and through projects together, immersing myself in the culture of the office, asking why we do something as opposed to just accepting it.
I see myself as a design all-rounder. I can chip in and do anything, if need be. And whether it’s a new technology on the computer to make something or a new kind of building type or building technology, I’m still learning every day.”