My architecture career began when I was eight years old. Dad used to always say, “I’m not going to be around much longer” and I started to have concerns about where Mum would live if Dad died. So I designed her a simple A-frame granny flat complete with subterranean passage to my house so Mum could visit during inclement weather.
Fast-forward 10 years and I’m working as a draftsman kit home company because I failed my HSC. I applied to architecture school every year for the next 11 years. I learned enough to be an architect after those years of working in firms and attending TAFE, but I still wanted my degree because I was tired of drawing up cookie cutter designs that people ordered out of a book. I always believed that all architecture should be bespoke because no two people are exactly alike and no two sites are exactly alike.
When I finally got into architecture school, it was a huge let down. I quickly realised that I wasn’t learning anything that would make me a better architect. Dissatisfied with my situation, I applied for an exchange. Thinking I would attend one of the great architecture schools of Europe, my hopes were once again dashed when I was told it was Washington State University in America or nowhere. I took it and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I tell all students to take a year abroad as it will change your life. It certainly changed mine. It was there that I met my wife who would prove to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I finally graduated with my architecture degree at the age of 32. My new bride and I moved back to Australia full of hope for what would be my stellar architectural career. As it turned out, I remained what was essentially a slightly higher paid draftsman. Downhearted, I decided to become registered five years later in the hopes that I would finally be given the opportunity to prove my worth as a designer. All it did was increase my pay minimally. At this point, I decided to go out on my own; be the boss and show the world what I could do. I don’t think the world was ready for me and I didn’t know a thing about the business side of things.
After a failed attempt to move back to the U.S. with the family, I found myself in need of a job. But the underlying frustration of not being able to design anything environmentally conscious or less mainstream began to get to me. When I was told to put a rangehood on an outdoor kitchen, I knew I couldn’t take it much longer and when the firm downsized me a week before Christmas, it was for the best.
I took some time to feel properly sorry for myself and then at the urging of my wife I decided the world was ready for me to go out on my own and the world is also a great teacher and I knew a bit more going in this time.
I can’t say it’s been smooth sailing, although wouldn’t that be boring. I’ve always been a little bit different, even as an architect. I have a real passion for design that is exciting but practical and always environmentally conscious. I prefer to build relationships rather than business contacts. I believe all architecture, be it a chicken coop or a high rise, should be unique to the site and the occupants. And if I can help you realise your dream, every bit of my journey will have been worth it.