Enki Magazine, Vol.17 (Sept 2019)
Emerging Architecture Practice - studioplusthree


Simon Rochowski, one of the three directors at this award-winning emerging architecture studio in Australia talks about their ethos

Where and when did the story of studioplusthree begin?

It began whilst Julin and I were working in London and Joe was in Australia. Julin and Joe had studied together in Sydney and the three of us had always had the aspiration of forming a practice together. A couple of potential projects in Australia came about that we could do under our own name and it seemed like too good of an opportunity to miss. The name of our studio comes from the time difference between London and Sydney that we used to schedule work Skype chats.

How would you describe your ethos?

Architecture can be very complex – it draws on so many facets of our lives; cultural, financial, chronological, and so on. Negotiating these factors is a necessity of any project and it is easy to let these complexities manifest themselves in a design. However, one definition of good design is the finding of elegant solutions to complex problems. We see our approach as searching for this path. We often try to focus on more intangible aspects of the design – the quality of light, an emotional response to a space – as being the drivers of the architectural experience.

When you begin a new project, what do you always set out to achieve?

Architecture is in a sense an art form, but one heavily rooted in society and dependent on clients. We’re always conscious of our responsibilities in this area, but successful projects rely very much on the relationship between the client and ourselves. We may arrive at an unexpected outcome, it is very much a journey we take with our clients, informed by their personalities. As architects, we have a strong sense of the public realm. The contribution that our architecture can make to the city or society is something we also take very seriously.

How do you combine excellent craft and innovation? These two ideas may initially seem antithetical – craft is based on knowledge accumulated through experience, and innovation is based on curiosity and experimentation. We are very careful to balance our position in regard to these two forces. Both have potential benefits, but without each other can lead to banality. In this regard we see our work as cyclical – learning from the artisans and craftspeople we work with, but then considering how these skills might be applied in a new or different context.

What measures do you take to be environmentally conscious?

We always seek to adopt passive environmental strategies, such as shading, additional insulation and rainwater collection, to reduce the energy footprints of our buildings. Taking the notion of sustainability more broadly, we try to consider how our designs may be adopted in the future, for instance, making it easy to partition or convert a house for additional rooms or dwellings, as family requirements change over time. We find this long-term adaptability is crucial for a dynamic and multi-generational urban environment.

Regarding materials, our preference is for simple and natural materials for a number of reasons. Firstly, they tend to have a natural beauty that is very hard to achieve through artificial means. Secondly, they tend to need less processes, and hence less energy along the way.

Finally, we have always felt that in environments made primarily of natural materials, there is a feeling of calmness or serenity that is something we are always looking for within our work.

What will the next 50 years bring?

There was a statement recently from a large group of prominent architects in the UK calling for a paradigm shift in response to climate change. We strongly support this position and agree that profound changes need to be made, particularly in the use of resources. In this way, we see densification of cities as a big opportunity for collective, more socially engaged architecture – with smaller but better spaces. There are economic systems that discourage people from this way of thinking, particularly in Australia that has had historically large houses and low density, but there are an increasing number of collective housing examples around the world, and here in Australia, that show that these alternatives are both possible and popular, and we feel that as architects we have a responsibility to advocate for possible futures that respond to these challenges.

Photography: Brett Boardman

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