DP | I don’t come from a creative background. I grew up in a typical suburban context, in a typical suburban home. At the end of high-school I really didn’t know what I wanted to do so I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts. It was there that I learned about visual culture, sociology, the Renaissance and philosophy – and that exposure is what ultimately led me to study architecture. It was a pathway I saw to marry these interests into a single profession. It’s for sure why our practice maintains a pursuit of cross-disciplinary dialogues and broad research agendas. Most of my heroes are not architects at all.
Pier Pavilion | A proposal for Barangaroo Pier Pavilion; a shelter to express multiple layers of history.
The profession however offers a unique and compelling interplay of tangible and philosophical breadth; it’s the ideal mess to immerse oneself in and one that continues to sustain me. Architecture is at once a specialised and generalised practice which I find immensely purposeful.
OJ | What do you see as the responsibility of architects today?
DP | To be more critical. Being critical means, you also have to be brave; it’s not a profession for the faint-hearted.
Context, whether social, political, cultural or phenomenological weighs heavily on us in our pursuit of meaningful expression and thoughtful outcomes for our clients.
OJ | Can you please tell me a little about the current renovation to your Gertrude Street office space? Why is it happening? What are the key design intents and how do you plan to address them?
DP | Architecture Associates has been quietly bubbling away since 2017. In that time, we’ve worked out of our homes, we’ve hot- desked and we’ve shared various studios with others. We needed to put some roots down.
Architecture Associates studio. Artworks by Cameron Robbins.
We purchased a commercial Victorian terrace house on Gertrude Street late last year to create a home for the practice. We were attracted to being an active workshop on the street. From this space we work, and teach – utilising the front room for ad-hoc lectures, student presentations as well as for client presentations, staff meetings, sketching, model-making and researching. We have a large communal table here that is covered in samples, sketches, models and books. It’s a record of our current thinking at any given time that we share with the street.
Architecture Associates studio.
I actually have somewhat of a disdain for Victorian terrace houses. Having lived in five of them over the past ten years I consider myself reasonably qualified to judge them! It is part defiance that convinced us to go ahead with the project; its attractive for architects to work in old factory buildings or other unadorned commercial premises; we wanted to buck the cliché and work hard to ‘un-pick’ and inhabit a type that is quintessentially Melbourne.
We are currently undertaking a small renovation, part 1 of a larger plan to turn the building into a community of diverse voices and activities.
Architecture Associates studio. Artworks by Vera Mōller and Marc de Jong.
Architecture Associates will be housed on the ground floor, where we are somewhat awkwardly positioned at the moment amongst the partially demolished ruins, and we are transforming upstairs into spaces for other businesses, practitioners, researchers and/or creative practices. A central shared kitchen is being installed downstairs and there are plans underfoot to host events at the office once works are completed later this year.
We are using the space as a testing ground, utilising materials that we’ve wanted to work with and haven’t had the opportunity – like unpolished stainless steel with exposed welds, things that seem somewhat ordinary or even ugly interest us and, when composed in the ornate setting of a Victoria terrace, provide us with the type of juxtapositions we find interesting. It’s not about being reductive – but we are generally uncomfortable with over- production.
Möller Hunter Studio by Architecture Associates. Photography by Rory Gardiner.
OJ | Your work has a strong focus on collaboration. How does this exchange of related disciplines inform your work? Where do you see this dialogue going in future work?
DP | All architecture is an act of collaboration, there is no such thing as a single genius, we build on the work of others and we cooperate in order to realise our own work – I think that’s one of the most profound overt realisations to come out of the recent generation of architects. We collaborate with other architects sometimes where we seek partnerships with practices that share overlapping interests as well as complimentary skillsets.
We also collaborate with related and periphery fields of practice; the tension that is created through this relationship can make for unexpected and compelling outcomes.
Being open to collaboration is fundamentally about being open to new ideas. We are not interested in style, that can be copied from a magazine; we want to make projects that push boundaries and are evidenced by discourse and conversations that challenge and provoke us.