Some background

After graduating from the University of Sydney, I spent seven years in architectural offices in England and Australia working on a range of projects, including the restoration of heritage buildings in London and The Rocks in Sydney. I have travelled in Europe, India, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and the USA and South America. I have worked on voluntary building projects in Northern California, Hawaii and NSW. Since the 70s I have been in private practice as a sole practitioner, working from my home office in Hunters Hill. My practice is mostly domestic, both new houses, and alterations and additions to existing ones.

I am a member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, a registered architect in NSW and a licensed builder.  I have built a number of the houses that I also designed and I continue to be involved in building my own projects.  As well, with dedicated group of volunteers, I remain involved with the construction of a meditation centre near St Albans, which is an on-going project (see Kodoji-a Zen Temple).  Because of my building experience I have a good understanding of the practical implications of architectural design, particularly in relation to building budgets. 

I have written articles and given presentations on the conservation of architecture in Hunters Hill, the impact of the Modernist Movement in Australia and the sustainability of adaptive reuse.  Click on Talks and articles to view.  

I am married to Gillian, who is a film-maker, writer, bush regenerator and Zen Teacher.  We have been living in and working from the old boatshed since the early 70s (see A house by a river).  Our son Gully, with whom I have built a number of projects, lives nearby with his partner Julie, daughter, Imogen and son Harper.

Heritage and Community

I have been involved with a number of heritage listed houses, including my own and I am currently vice president of the Hunters Hill Trust after serving 7 terms as president. I am also the editor of its journal.  I represent the Trust on  the Conservation Advisory Panel of the Hunters Hill Council having previously represented the Institute of Architects for many years on the same panel.   I am a member of the National Trust.  Click here to view the Hunters Hill Trust website to read editions of the journal.

Through my work at the Hunters Hill Trust I have been involved in various campaigns, have written submissions and appeared as a witness in the Land and Environment Court in a number of attempts to save the heritage and local amenity of the Municipality.   We have been successful in saving Hunters Hill High School from closure, stopping the amalgamation of Hunters Hill with Ryde City Council and in various attempts to preserve the character of Hunters Hill as “Australia’s oldest garden suburb”. 

I was awarded a North Sydney Community Award in 2006 in recognition of outstanding service to the community for work on the Conservation Advisory Panel and for the Hunters Hill Trust.  

Sustainability

I have have been involved in green building practice since the family bought the beach house at Killcare in 1978 (see 30 Grandview Crescent Killcare ) when its only connection to any service was to the electricity grid.  For a more detailed description of my response to the challenges of making places more earth-friendly, see Sustainable and Green


My approach to architecture

I see myself as both a facilitator and a collaborator in working with my clients.    This is in contrast to the idea that “the design of all buildings, large or small, aims to become a "gesamtkunstwerk", a totally integrated work of art, with interior design, furnishings, equipment and selected artworks receiving equally dedicated attention to become a cohesive whole”. 

The quote is from the late Harry Seidler’s website and is a statement of his belief that the architect should be in control of all aspects of a building as well as the life of the people who inhabit it.  From the chairs they sit in, the pictures they hang on the walls through to the colour of their table napkins, the architect should, according to this view, be the stylemeister (see more on this at The World Wide Church of Modernism).


By contrast, I celebrate the fact that the needs and tastes of every client are different and that these differences will inform the building we plan together.  I have no desire to arbitrate on the pictures that go on the walls and I am willing to be pleasantly surprised (or not, as the case may be) when the choice of a wall colour or floor tile is radically different from what I may have chosen for myself.


A boss of mine once said that “architecture is the art of good manners”.  Too often the houses and buildings published in style magazines and newspaper supplements are not so well-mannered.  Magazine photos rarely show a building’s context so that it is presented as a stand-alone thing which has no relationship to its neighbours and no relationship to the character of the surrounding streets. A real life inspection reveals a scant regard for the neighbours and a building that stands out like a sore thumb. 


It follows from my involvement in heritage and conservation that a building should respect its context.  If the work involves alterations and additions to an existing building, the new work should respect what is already there.  It should not stand out as a “look-at-me” statement of the architect’s or owner’s ego.

As well, the fashionable and esoteric details of many “look-at-me” buildings together with the structural athletics required for such things as corners-without-columns add tens of thousands of dollars to their budgets.

Collaboration


To ensure that a job goes smoothly, it is important to have a good relationship with the builder.  This relies a lot on clear documentation and a solid understanding of the building process and a respect for the professionalism of the various trades.   I like to remain open to suggestions from builders about ways of doing things that may well be better than what was shown on the documents.


The collaboration on any building is not only between architect and client, it is also between the architect, the client, the builder and the community.  The community is represented by the local Council and its requirements are documented in its planning controls. 


I seek to facilitate the possible rather than to push a proposal that extends the planning envelope beyond Council’s ability to sign off on it.  As a consequence, I have only once appeared in the Land and Environment Court to (successfully) appeal a Council refusal and I have, to date, a 100% success rate in getting Development Approval.


I am happy to take on almost any job, no matter how small.  Because I am a sole practitioner, the client always deals directly with the principal, not the office junior.