Andrew Lilleyman

“Design is a mental knot: if you try to pull on one thread, it will pull on all the others.”

“When I was studying architecture at the University of Western Australia, Ian McDougall and Howard Raggatt came to Perth for a semester to run studios for us. I could tell that the work their students were doing was very different from what else was happening at the time: challenging, exciting, humorous, fun even. I realised that I wanted to be doing that sort of architecture.

I teach at UWA now, and I’ve taught at RMIT University in the past. I always try to bring the same elements into my teaching that Ian and Howard brought.

I’ve been at ARM since 2002. My main role is to establish the design direction for projects, fusing the bigger-picture ideas or design concepts with the planning. I’m road testing concepts to see how I can turn them into workable architectural propositions. Concepts need to be robust and durable. A good design, or the right design, will hold up against the rigours of testing and, therefore, the practicalities of being built.

I often work quite closely with Howard and Ian. The process is often high-level discussion about ideas and concepts that interest us as well urban design, planning and massing, and chatter about constructability and so on. Designs for buildings are not independent things—they’re tied into a greater world of culture, communities, society, philosophy etc., which is always fascinating.

For me, those discussions evoke a way we can design something in order to achieve the big-picture objectives. It’s usually supported by a lot of research into different design techniques (usually new software), making sure that the element we’re discussing is integrated with all the other issues of the design. Design is a mental knot: if you try to pull on one thread, it will pull on all the others.

We have a constant stream of software research happening. We’ll often tackle new software for a specific design concept that we want to develop, and a lot of the time we’re appropriating programs that weren’t intended for architecture. If there’s an idea about drapery, for example, we’ll research whatever software is most suitable for exploring and manipulating that idea. Then we have to learn to use it really quickly.

At ARM, we are always innovating where we need to, or bringing something new to our work. It’s great when we’re pushing the work beyond our clients’ expectations and, better still, beyond our own.”