With his successful practice atelier aura, Richard combines his down to earth Australian larrikin style with many years of study and experience from Europe. He offers an unpretentious, no nonsense approach to designing buildings in the Coffs region.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
The Coffs Coast abounds with many opportunities for an architect. People need anything from a bathroom or kitchen designed, to a dwelling or commercial space; the Coffs Coast is expanding, and I am part of this. Did I mention the real reason my family and I am are here? Lifestyle … “the great aussie mobiliser”… for the work life balance – it is here in abundance, coupled with the countryside, pristine coastline and magical hinterland. All this, combined with a community created from an eclectic mix of people from different nationalities and backgrounds that live here – I feel lucky.
You had an interesting journey before your first arrived in the area; can you tell us a bit about that?
As a family we arrived 10 years ago now …in style in a vintage French campervan, having travelled for a year overland from Holland. We dusted ourselves off, found schools for the children, and set up Atelier Aura. I brought my experience from the past: a degree from Melbourne RMIT, further studies at Leuven University in Belgium. In Holland I restored a 200 year old heritage farm (it was like an episode of Grand Designs), raised three children with Dutch partner, Anke, and worked for many years with one of the top architects in Maastricht (Arno Meijs and Jo Coenen) on large commercial projects in heritage settings – a wonderful education, that I now bring to Coffs.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I head up Atelier Aura: Atelier for Urban & Regional Architecture – a small diverse design practice, specialising in residential, urban, rural and coastal, but also heritage conservation and restoration, alterations and additions … locally and some internationally … such as freelance public works in PNG like the Kaviang Local Government Assembly building, to a luxury family home in Curacao in the Caribbean, to a large shipping container extension. Basically, I love designing different buildings and the challenges this brings.
Why did you choose architecture?
As a kid, I was always building tree houses. I had about six at one stage, all interconnected. I even made drawings and site plans. Contact my parents for advice about what I did to their swimming pool!
How would you describe your approach to a project?
I try to listen and understand what my clients would like first and foremost, and combine this with my skills I have developed over the years of designing many different buildings. It’s a very collaborative process. In essence, for me the best design lies in simplicity, combined with appropriate, pragmatic and simple solutions, while being mindful of the budget and costs.
What makes a great architect?
Much of the architectural language in modern and post modern architecture has, to varying degrees, been reduced to planes, volumes and materials devoid of texture, patinas, division and subdivision of scale … think a glass box – a language without embellishment. A great architect not only masters the process, but also creates a unique language defined and expressed in a physical form and a form that survives generations.
Most buildings in a sense become a “public good”, as successive owners occupy and reoccupy.
The aim then for an architect is to create a building that has a “timeless” quality.
What are some of the environmental factors that must be considered when designing a building in 2016?
My designs are always site specific, where “the elements” of nature and landform need to be carefully considered. There is, however, a vast new layer of complexity to the equation. With escalating climate change, population growth and depletion of natural resources, it’s absolutely critical at this juncture to be resourceful and prudent in specification and application and use of material, as there are huge differentials in “embodied energy”.
Likewise, minimising energy or “giving back” can be resolved through appropriate use of technology such as solar PV, energy efficient fixtures, recycling water etc.and more importantly, the strategic placement of materials in solar passive design can eliminate active heating and cooling systems. It’s become an imperative. Every architect, designer and consumer is obliged to weigh in here.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of getting into your field?
Study! Go travelling! You need to do both. Look at the architecture in different cities.
Buildings are volumes, but start thinking in terms of the space they create.
What are your plans for the future?
We are in the process of finishing a hill top pavilion style family home in Gleniffer, which has been a great experiment in applying my design ideas. I love the bridges, the outdoor bedroom and the timber triangulated alcove bookshelves … and in keeping with a tradition of all architects and builders, it will soon be up for sale! I am also looking to study more and have also recently developed an app for building inspections. This is a great tool to assess any property you are thinking of purchasing or developing.
For an introduction, call Richard on 0433 690 073 or visit www.atelieraura.com.au