John Van Gemert
Senior Architect

“The directors come up with concept sketches and the moment I see one I’m analysing it, tearing it to pieces, sitting with them and nutting it out and coming up with options and making it work.”

“My father was a carpenter and construction foreman. He always had time to make stuff with me—billy carts and things. He taught me that there’s only one way to use tools and that’s properly.

He liked building things and I loved it too but I wanted to get involved with the design process right from the start. I wanted to think about building something, design it, solve the problems and then create it with a builder and that’s what led me into architecture.

I’m totally at home on site with contractors and fabricators. I talk their language and I understand the pressures they’re under and I’m usually very pragmatic about how to achieve our aims. But I make sure we never lose the vision behind a design.

When I go to site, I bring a whole lot of perspective drawings and I pin them up on the walls because sometimes builders are focused on their timber deck or glass wall and they’re not seeing the bigger picture. But if it you show them perspectives and discuss the options with them, they’re much more engaged and they make suggestions and say ‘John, do you really want to do it that way?’ and you solve the problems together.

At ARM, I work from schematic design onwards. I love to work with Howard Raggatt or Ian McDougall because they come up with concept sketches and the moment I see one I’m analysing it, tearing it to pieces, seeing how I can build it and if it’s going to work. I come back to them very quickly with sketches and ideas and methodology and construction and materials and budget estimates for how we can build it or change it. I’m sitting with them and nutting it out and making it work and coming up with options. And I’m saying, ‘Have you thought about this?’ I really love that part.

For us, design is not a linear process, it’s a big circular process. You keep revisiting the original concept as new things come into the mix.

I like it when you’ve envisioned a space and you’ve shown the client the perspective images, but when it actually turns out even better than they expected and you’ve solved their problems along the way—they’re the best bits.”