July 25, 2011

Peter Zumthor has been one of my heroes  for a long time now. He works from a small studio in the village of Haldenstein, Switzerland and over the past 30 years or more has consistently produced buildings that whilst reduced to only the most relevant essentials, embody a most extraordinary richness – the results are always emotionally moving, buildings that belong completely to their place and will do so for time eternal. Through their subtleness and masterful refinement, they all posses a most extraordinary strength, presence and memorability.

Zumthor won the Pritzker Prize in 2009 – there is no bigger award for Architecture, and to my mind, no architect more worthy of it. So as I sat on the plane, planning a few-day visit  to London, Hyde Park Zumthor’s summer Pavilion at the Serpentine, Hyde Park, was top of my list. A temporarary structure, built to a tight time frame and an even tighter …

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The Bachelor Flat.

To my mind, Episode Two hinged on gauging contestants’ capacity to organise themselves into a structure that would allow a theoretical project to become a reality. This is so much a part of the reality of the design process, and a challenge to even the best architects and designers, at times.

The client brief is, by necessity, one of the first layers of project constraint, but one that also creates a lot of opportunities. As I’ve said on many occasions: No matter how good a designer, a project will always be a reflection of the quality of the client. In the case of Top Design, of course, our designers had no choice of client, yet it was still incumbent upon them to get the most out of their client. That starts with asking the right questions in order to get the best brief. On the show, questions were limited to three …

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July 18, 2011

New Zealand. We’re very close to a place called Arrowtown, a delightful gold rush village. Today is the first time I’ve actually visited this site. It has a beautiful aspect – views to the South through trees (the Japanese call this aspect Shirawage and it’s more highly valued than views without trees.) We’ve spent the morning getting to know the site, the earth, the local materials and crafts available. The local stone is Schist, which will certainly feature in the structure and will assist in creating “thermal mass”, a part of the building that can retain the sun’s heat during then day so it can be released again when the outside temperature cools at night. We will embrace local materials and crafts so the building is as much “of its place” as possible. We’ve been researching a geothermal heating system that can be done on this site. It will involve bore holes (about 10cm …

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July 13, 2011


Okay, in the debate of whether I should participate or not, the pros obviously won. Of course, I was the ultimate adjudicator, and there were several reasons I voted to act as judge on this prime time TV program dedicated to architecture and design. Firstly, I was really impressed by the rigour of the recruiting process. Production company Granada went out of its way to locate highly credible architects and designers from around the country, all at the beginning of their respective careers – that is, the kind of folk most likely to bring fresh ideas and solutions to the curveball problems thrown at them every week of the show’s existence. But also, the kind of people who understand how to make a project viable in real terms, not just come up with fantasy propositions. I’m a notorious anti-DIYer, and the fact that Top Design wanted to include me, a trained, award-winning architect …

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July 7, 2011

As it stands today, Tobias Partners has 27 projects up and running. And each week we plan to give you an insider peek at one of these, at various stages of development. Of course, we love seamless finishes, best quality material and the streamlined, clean lines of our finished homes and commercial sites. But we also love the process, the getting there, with all the grime and dust and sweat that comes with it. Architecture isn’t just about glamorous homes and glossy mag lifestyles; it’s about finding real solutions to everyday issues – and making life better along the way.

Project:  A five level home, and an adaptive re-use of a post-war apartment block Location: Ben Buckler Point, Bondi Handover date: mid 2013

So, that’s it for today. All that remains to be resolved is the great cappuccino debate. But we’re on it, trust me.

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July 6, 2011

Why a blog? And if a blog, why now?

The question is an obvious one, but one that any person about to give over a significant chunk of his time to recounting his professional – and even private – life must inevitably ask himself.

Here’s the thing: After nearly 12 years in the business and with over 100 commissions to its credit, Tobias Partners has evolved to a point where we’ve broken through the cloistered walls of the architectural profession and begun to put down roots in the culture at large. At any one of our weekly meetings, my team of 17 architects, designers and I get together to discuss what’s on our minds:  anything from media reaction to our controversial conversion of a heritage-listed harbour-side homestead (read the story here), to our latest coastal site with heavy challenges – Whale Beach. Or any one of the twenty-seven projects we’re working on right now. …

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