Versatility is a valuable skill in the world of modern architecture. We talk to Simon Hanson about what it takes to design for everything from sensitive heritage projects to striking modern homes, multi-unit mixed-use developments and community-style projects such as Myoora Private Hospital.
BD: How do you manage the market’s demand for such a wide variety of design solutions?
SH: I enjoy the challenges and variety that each project brings. For a long period of time very early on in my career, I worked on smaller scale intricate residential projects, and now for the past decade or so the focus has shifted somewhat to larger scale, more community based projects like town centres and hospitals.
I enjoy the scale of these larger projects – I still apply a similar amount of rigour to the design process on my smaller scale projects but it is different.
The amount of effort we go to just to make a stair or window work on a smaller scale project is similar to the amount of effort we put into making the human scale of through site links on urban sites or hospital planning where the program is complex.
BD: Is there any particular noteworthy change in thought-process or approach for you that a certain type of project demands:
SH: The single dwelling design process is different to almost all other building types. It is an intimate process with the owner or end user that is intensely personal.
I definitely feel the weight of responsibility in designing and procuring clients’ homes. Each project is amazingly unique in all aspects, from design requirements to the way each client feels about spending their money and on what particular detail, to the preferred building process and type of builder.
Most larger scale developments such as multi-unit, mixed-use and community projects tend to follow a similar process, particularly in respect to the way in which we manageand interface with our client. The approach to design and procuring, however, is quite different for each building type.
BD: Are there any specific instances where you realise how a detail of a particular home, for example, has impacted some design or finish on a larger scale project?
SH: I think there have been many instances where spatial arrangements and or the way a building connects with the outside have become relevant from smaller single dwelling projects to larger scale residential projects.
The lessons we’ve learnt on the smaller projects, in terms of developing details that relate at a human scale, have most certainly inspired design solutions across some of our larger scale developments.
“having added structural engineering to our practice has certainly made an impact on the way our projects are designed. From a very early stage in each project, ambitious design can be rationalised for a very buildable outcome.”
A modern and playful response to the Heritage context.
A recent project completed in Sydney’s east saw the renovation of a pair of existing Victorian cottages revitalised into a single home for a family of 5.
The brief from the client called for a modern and playful response to the Heritage context. With difficult site access and intricate detailing between old and new, we worked closely with the builder to deliver a unique and extremely high-quality home.
Whilst the two cottages remain intact, maintaining their place within a row of established houses, the bold renovation behind the facades is dramatic and unexpected, a celebration of the creative aesthetics of the client. The clients came to us with a clear vision to establish a relationship between their house, the street to the south and the parkland to the north.
They wanted to achieve a simplification of space through the rationalisation of level changes. We achieved this by consolidating six separate stair cases within the two houses into one central, steel spiral stair. Exploring robust materials, we introduced floor to ceiling glass and steel sliding doors, a cantilevered concrete balcony and sliding timber screens for both shade and privacy.
A playful use of colour provides a contrast to the client’s artwork and attention to lighting ensures these artworks and the house itself is showcased successfully. Working closely with several consultants including the landscape architect, lighting consultant and hydraulic engineer the two houses now function effectively as one.
Simon Hanson is founder and director of Sydney’s prolific architecture firm, Bureau SRH
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