“In Australia there is still some level of freedom in architecture, and I found this freedom intriguing. And nature is just so beautiful here.” The component of nature is essential in his design work, in constant pursuit of a balance between the natural environment, from which he draws energy and inspiration, and the urban context in which he builds things. “Given today’s political and social pressures, we need to design buildings that are more sustainable and future-proof, to bring nature back into cities.” The way to do this is not only through materials and colors, forms permeable to wind and light and awareness of the impact of human presence, but also and above all through the idea of ‘climatizing’ architecture that adapt to the cultural, social and climatic context of reference, giving rise to the contradiction of an ‘invisible architecture.’ “We are very conscious of the future, and nature has a big claim on this. Architecture needs to be almost invisible. In this way, we give a ‘platform’ to people to enjoy and take part in the spectacle of nature. Architecture may be ‘not visible’ while giving you the means to engage and interact from the inside out. This was the philosophy we wanted to promote from the start of our practice.”
One of your key design concepts focuses on ‘humanizing architecture.’ Where did it come from and how do you reconcile tall buildings with the human scale?
When we were commissioned to design high-rise buildings we were quite intimidated by the height. The tallest one we designed is 70 stories, which would be too many for Sydney, for example. We asked ourselves: how can we bring the idea of human experience, of human scale into high-rises? This is one of the fundamental questions of the concept of ‘humanizing architecture.’ For the 1111 South Hill Street (read the feature dedicated to the project) high-rise in California, where you have the tallest tree in the world, massive, as big as a building and more than a thousand years old, we took our inspiration from the trees. When you look at nature there are so many sources of inspiration; in urban concepts, we’ve forgotten how to create a relationship with nature, and this is the most important aspect of humanization or ‘naturalization.’ While people talk about ‘greener’ cities, we need to consider our wellbeing inside those cities. This is how we started to first pose a more philosophical question before addressing the architectural design, especially given today’s context where everybody wants to translate their business model into architectural expression; we were quite intimidated by that, and we really thought that there must have been a different way to look at it, to find a balance. This is where the question began.