Interview

Stuart Harrison of RRR’s ‘The Architects’

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 10th December 2010

Stuart Harrison’s brand new book ‘a Place in the Sun’ published by Thames & Hudson

Layout from ‘A Place in the Sun’ by Stuart Harrison, design by Stuart Geddes of Chase & Galley

One of the amazing homes in Stuart’s new book.  Shoal Bay Bach in NZ – Parsonson Architects.

Image from Stuart’s book – House Hafner, NSW – Tribe Studio

As someone who rambles on often about things I secretly don’t actually know too much about, I have particular admiration for people who REALLY and TRULY know their stuff.  Stuart Harrison is one of these people.  He is probably Melbourne’s best loved architecture nerd.  (I hope he won’t mind me saying that).

Stuart is also what I would affectionately describe as ‘Melbourne Famous’.  He has an architecture firm of his own – Harrison and White (HAW), based in Brunswick, but you probably know him better as one of Triple RRR’s radio hosts – his Tuesday night radio show ‘The Architects‘ has been going strong since 2003 and it would be fair to say has somewhat of a cult following amongst local architecture lovers!  Stuart and co-hosts Simon KnottChristine Phillips (and occasionally also Rory Hyde) strike the perfect balance between entertaining banter and a ‘we seriously know what we’re talking about’ attitude.

Stuart’s passion for good local and sustainable architecture in particular is quite infectious – it’s hard not to be enthused about local design and architecture after a chat with Stuart!  What is perhaps most unique is Stuart’s populist approach to architecture – he believes good building design should and can be widely appreciated by all – not just design buffs!  Much of his work with ‘The Architects’ radio show on RRR has been about bringing awareness of architecture into the wider realm, and making it accessible to everyone.

Continuing on this mission(!!), Stuart has just released a brand new book – ‘A Place in the Sun’, published by Thames & Hudson!  I was super lucky to receive a copy from T&H (thankyou Michelle!) and it is truly brilliant!  So lovely to read about local homes which are unique to the Australian (and New Zealand) landscape and climate.  Stuart has sourced and researched over 40 striking homes – from the sunny beaches of tropical Queensland to the terrace houses of inner-city living.  A Place in the Sun curates a beautiful collection of cutting-edge dwellings that respond to varied climates to maximise the sun’s potential.  A truly great read and an especially great Christmas present, don’t you think?!

Thames & Hudson have also kindly offered a copy of ‘A Place in the Sun’ for yet another Design Files giveaway! To be in the running, just leave a comment on this post before midnight tonight, Melbourne time.  The winner will be selected at random and notified by email.

HUGE thanks to Stuart for his time with this interview (how do you find time for anything Stuart!) and to Michelle Brasington at Thames & Hudson for the beautiful image selection and the giveaway!

Tell us a little about your background – did you always want to be an architect? What path led you to setting up your own firm?

An astronaut at first, but architect from the age of ten or so… I studied first at UWA in Perth then moved over to Melbourne for a year – that ended up as fifteen years, completing at RMIT and in 1999 starting my own firm…probably way too young but I wanted to be involved…

Foyn-Johnanson House in Northcote, Designed by Stuart Harrison’s firm Harrison & White (HAW)

What have been some of your favourite architectural projects in recent years?

Toyo Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque is a great project I got to see in 2007 in the flesh… a new way of thinking about structure and space… it got me into Ito in a big way and I was lucky enough to meet and interview him last year.

In Australia, ARM’s Shrine of Remembrance Refurbishment is brilliant, as is the new Rectangular Stadium (AAMI Park) by Cox. McBride Charles Ryan’s Fitzroy High School extension blew me away – how an ordinary building with a regular budget can be done so well when a good architect is given the opportunity. I go out of my way to ride or drive past it.

McBride Charles Ryan’s Fitzroy High School extension – photo taken by Stuart Harrison

The new Rectangular Stadium (AAMI Park) by Cox – photos from the Cox Architecture website

In addition to running HAW, you also co-host super popular Triple R radio show The Architects. How did this opportunity originally come about, and has the popularity of the radio show had an impact on your own architectural practice?

Simon Knott and I were asked to do a few architecture segments on a summer fill-in show back in 2003, this led to a regular gig on Bruce Berryman’s show. We were then offered our own show by RRR out of the blue… we were surprised but we saw it as a great opportunity to get architecture into the wider realm, so we took it, not knowing really what we were doing…. But it has helped me as a communicator, and architecture is often about that. In terms of the practice, it has added another dimension to why we might make good architecture….

Stuart Harrison (far left) during a live radio broadcast at Federation Square – alongside him are Simon Knott, Paul James, Shelley Penn and Dimity Reed. Photo by Rory Hyde.

AND in addition to HAW and Triple R, you somehow found time to write a BOOK this year!? How on earth did you manage that!? Has ‘A Place in the Sun’ been simmering for some time?

Yes since last year – Thames & Hudson were keen to get some new voices and I was keen to continue the process of getting good architecture out there… to make it less abstract and elitist, something for all. I did most of the writing last summer when we were a bit quieter in the office, but it did dominate my whole life for a while – we had a great designer in Stuart Geddes and it was great to work with him again.

Page from ‘A Place in the Sun’, designed by Stuart Geddes

What do you think defines a uniquely ‘Australian’ design aesthetic when it comes to residential architecture?

I’m a pluralist at heart so like a diverse range of approaches, but there is something about the sun and how we chose to deal with it – and the book is about this. Historically Australian houses have been pretty good at protecting themselves – verandahs, screening, and later on orientation – but air-conditioning ruined the necessity for that. The book looks at houses that innovate, and that’s what I like most.

Another stunning Australian home from Stuart’s book – this is Ivanhoe House in Victoria by Kerstin Thompson Architects.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Each one is different and that’s what I wanted a life in architecture to be.  Most of them have a bit of everything that I do, work at the office on projects, media stuff with the radio show and writing, and then teaching often at night. There are often a little frantic, but that is better than not having stuff to do – that stresses me out.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration in your own practice – books, international magazines, the internet, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?

All places – architects I admire and yes books and magazines, but also that which surrounds us – the ordinary stuff of the city. I’m also pretty sure Star Wars has had a big influence; I seem to reference it all the time when talking to students.

Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Robin Boyd continues to inspire both as a great architect and communicator – he talks to us all I think.  I draw from my fellow Melbourne architects – Rob McBride, Kerstin Thompson, Nigel Bertram. Peter Corrigan and Ian McDougall showed me how engaging architecture in this country can be, how its more than just making things look good, it’s a cultural act.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Having energy to keep being an Architect, it takes a lot.

What would be your dream project?

Would love to see that Sydney to Melbourne fast train line get up; to be involved in that someway would be great. My post-grad research was into suburban and regional public buildings and this where I would like to work in practice over the next few years – where architecture can make things a bit better.

What are you looking forward to?

Doing bigger buildings, working with exciting people, travelling and seeing architecture being widely appreciated and for all.

Melbourne Questions –

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

Brunswick – I live and work here, it’s a place in transition but right now it’s ideal – capturing both the old and new versions – the bars and mechanics, the apartments and fabricators – a truly mixed-use environment. I still love my old haunts of Collingwood, Fitzroy and St Kilda but they have lost something.

Your most admired architectural icon in Melbourne?

National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road by Sir Roy Grounds (1968)

Your fave bookstore in Melbourne for design reference books etc?

Brunswick Bound

Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Tonight at the Rose Garden BBQ Shop (Elizabeth St, Melbourne) – I took three people there for the first time. Get the spicy chicken ribs.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

The Melbourne Uni underground carpark.


by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 10th December 2010

120 comments

  • Kylie D 4 years ago

    Great book!

  • Maree 4 years ago

    A book chockers with well designed homes – what’s not to like about that!

  • pete 4 years ago

    The facade of the Northcote home looks unreal.

  • liz 4 years ago

    What an amazing xmas gift

  • Lee 4 years ago

    This book would be great company on my summer holiday!

  • Miss Scruffy 4 years ago

    Looks great!

  • Belinda 4 years ago

    If the contents of the book are anything like the cover, this is a very good book!

  • Emma Durbridge 4 years ago

    I want I want I want! Thanks Lucy for the inspiration… and of course Stuart!

  • ruth hickson 4 years ago

    Looks like a great book

  • Adrian 4 years ago

    Probably the best collection this year for our local style and design of our homes/buildings. What a handsome looking book too!

  • Craig 4 years ago

    This book is a real eye-catcher, great question & answer section on the blog!

  • kathryn 4 years ago

    the perfect time of the year to be thinking about places in the sun – whilst still stuck in the office!

  • Kim 4 years ago

    I LOVE light I LOVE beauty I LOVE this book

  • Melissa 4 years ago

    Wonderful to see Robin Boyd’s legacy preserved through the work of briliant young Australian architects. Can’t wait to open the cover!

  • Libby 4 years ago

    Architecture porn at its best!

  • Amanda B 4 years ago

    After the weather we have been having this book might be the only way I will get a place in the SUN!

  • Millie 4 years ago

    Looks like a great book – love that its Australian!

  • Anna 4 years ago

    what an inspiration for summer

  • Elizabeth 4 years ago

    Strategic arcitecture is going to become incrasingly important in Australia over the coming years as our landscape and climate chages.
    Its always so great to see Architects taking this into account and working with instead of against the natural environment of the project they are working on.
    Congrats to Stuart – the book looks amazing!

  • thomas 4 years ago

    Looking forward to some time in the sun over this coming holidays !

    fingers crossed

  • Edwina 4 years ago

    Looks so beautiful but the thing I love about quality architecture books is the inspiration I get for my own little pad. Also, love it when there are lots of Melbourne buildings so we can go on lovely sunday afternoon drives for a squizz!!

  • Georgie 4 years ago

    Lots of inspiration for my new extension.

  • Natalie 4 years ago

    This looks like the perfect chrissy gift book – though i think it would be hard to give away…!!

  • Andrea 4 years ago

    looks amazing..

  • Carol 4 years ago

    Very inspiring, thank you for sharing!

  • TJ 4 years ago

    A great Christmas present!

  • Annie Bowen 4 years ago

    oooooo! Lucy, that book has just made my Xmas wish list. I file images away for the ‘one day’ house, the cover has just been added to my file. Beautiful.

  • Jessica 4 years ago

    Sturat is such an incredible architect, all these images are so inspiring, love it!

  • Ami bassett 4 years ago

    This is really exciting! Thanks for bring me so mch food for thought! X X

  • Taj Alexander 4 years ago

    Another one for the collection…looks like a great day dream book to me!

  • Denise 4 years ago

    That school building looks wonderful and so joyful.

  • Ann 4 years ago

    I would love to have this book. I listen to The Architects often.

  • Tamzin Rollason 4 years ago

    I’d like to give this as a Christmas present to the neighbours who are about to knock up a faux Georgian McMansion in inner north Melbs.

  • Lauren 4 years ago

    Looks like a really interesting book, I would absolutley love to have a good read from cover to cover. Stuart mentioned that his dream project would be working on a fast train Sydney-Melbourne, I’m sure if he was involved it would be truley amazing.

  • Matthew 4 years ago

    What a great book!

  • melanie 4 years ago

    how lovely.

  • Michelle 4 years ago

    Looks wonderful

  • Kerry Smith 4 years ago

    I like the energy and passion for good local architecture expressed here. And now I will tune in to 3RRR Tuesday nights.

  • Shelley Panton 4 years ago

    I am a fan of the RRR segment and follow Start’s work, so count me in!

  • shka 4 years ago

    i love The Architects.. and this book looks brilliant! Congratulations Stuart!
    ps. that shoal bay bach is incredible…

  • Vicky 4 years ago

    Fun interview. Looking forward to get a copy.

  • Luci 4 years ago

    Great looking book! Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Chris 4 years ago

    Just got married last month and finally purchased a new home with the love of my life. Our humble digs aren’t exactly what’s in this stunning book bur hey, we can all dream right? :) Great writeup and keep it up!

  • Mel 4 years ago

    loving a new architectural book !!!

  • Cleo Ryan 4 years ago

    Good architecture and good design has such influence on our lives in so many ways, some we don’t even realise. That’s really the special thing about it, when you don’t notice the effect because it makes living/working so easy. I would love to learn more about the innovative ways people are dealing with how much sun/warmth they allow in to their homes and when they allow it. Congratulations on the book.

  • Jane 4 years ago

    Ooh looks like a gorgeous inspirational book…. another thing for my Christmas wish list!

  • Libby 4 years ago

    I love the Foyn-Johnanson House.

  • John B 4 years ago

    Great looking book. If I don’t win it I guess I’ll have to buy it.

  • Lisa Di Crescenzo 4 years ago

    An inspired and inspiring book.

  • Clare 4 years ago

    Looks really interesting. I’ve never heard of him, being over the west coast, and he sounds like a most fascinating guy. I strongly agree that good design is for the masses.

  • Megan 4 years ago

    Ooohhhh. I’d love a copy of that. It would be a great xmas present for my husband who wants to design a beach house for some land we have in Vic.

    meg

  • Bridie 4 years ago

    Looks like a lovely book!

  • emma 4 years ago

    Very inspiring! love love love

  • Beth 4 years ago

    Lucy you’re spoiling us!!

  • Emma Reilly 4 years ago

    Brunswick and Brunwick Bound too are both sensational.

  • ix 4 years ago

    Great book!! (Glad it has nothing to do with the “place in the sun” British tv show… )

  • okologi 4 years ago

    the book looks great, and just in time for the big family building project next year!

  • Brian 4 years ago

    looks amazing

  • Lizzie 4 years ago

    i’d love to go in the draw! Such a beautiful book.

  • Annalisa Giudici 4 years ago

    As a Brunny girl I’m smitten by the book , Stuart’s responses and his RRR show. Kudos!

  • Erin 4 years ago

    Oh this is a prize i would really love to win!!! What a beautiful book. Pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaaassssseeee pick me.

  • victoria McKenzie 4 years ago

    love and adore the look of this book….

  • Jessica 4 years ago

    This book looks just amazing, would make a perfect christmas present for my parents!

  • Claire 4 years ago

    Hello… beach reading!

  • Elise 4 years ago

    I have an architect student in my family I am looking for a present for, this would be perfect. Stunning book.

  • Blano 4 years ago

    I can hardly keep up with all these amazing giveaways! Maybe one day i will be a happy recipient.

  • Clare 4 years ago

    listen to ‘the architects’ every week.
    and this looks like a beautiful book.

  • Jelena 4 years ago

    Wow how inspiring! Always great to see designers and architects who are trying to incorporate interesting designs into the mainstream. I love it already! Thanks for the opportunity Lucy.

  • Chhaya 4 years ago

    Cool stuff, another inspiring giveaway! Fingers crossed x

  • Jeremy 4 years ago

    I have already purchased two copies – one from Brunswick Bound. One for me & one as a gift. Great work Stuart.

  • Mark 4 years ago

    another book to obsess over – count me in!

  • Jo 4 years ago

    I love that such amazing architecture is happening out there in oz land, but I love even more that beautiful books like this are made to showcase them. Thanks for another great giveaway.

  • Beem 4 years ago

    Great stuff Stuart – all that work must have cut into your social life! (But did you have a good editor to eliminate typo’s?)

  • Prue 4 years ago

    We really are so lucky to have such talented and inspiring designers and architects inthis country – there really is no excuse for McMansions!

  • Emily 4 years ago

    I love the Fitzroy High School too. This book looks like an eye-widener!

  • catherine 4 years ago

    these sneak peeks into the book are stunning. please count me in the running!

  • Kimbalee 4 years ago

    …has my place in the sun, but am ever voyeuristic…… :-)

  • Nicki 4 years ago

    May my obsession with beautiful books on houses continue…

  • Jane 4 years ago

    Loved the comment about protecting ourselves without a/c !

  • Catherine H 4 years ago

    Please – I would please love this book please! I really need something to convince my beloved that we need to build a house like those shown here ……

  • Claire 4 years ago

    What amazing pictures of amazing houses. I’m inspired!

  • Meaghan 4 years ago

    Lovely. Such a smooth and calming book – also a wishlist!

  • Yvonne 4 years ago

    this book looks so amazing! thank you for letting us know about it!

  • Artezen 4 years ago

    We promise to find our place in the sun to read it this summer.

  • elle 4 years ago

    wow this looks amazing…would make a fantastic christmas pressie for someone i know!

  • Amie Mason 4 years ago

    oh wow! I really need to keep an eye out for this book~!

  • Laura 4 years ago

    What a great book – and a really interesting interview too.

  • Anna R 4 years ago

    Perfect timing! My sister is looking at designing and building soon.

  • Michael H 4 years ago

    What an inspirational looking book! Yes please!

  • amydoll 4 years ago

    Will definitely be putting this book on my christmas list. Lovely!

  • Gemma 4 years ago

    Great interview with such an interesting subject!

  • Sam 4 years ago

    Great book- will buying this most certainly (unless I get lucky here!) :)

  • Alice 4 years ago

    I love ‘The Architects’ ,I love RRR, I love Brunswick and I love the Uni Melbourne underground carpark. I reckon I will love this book.

  • Jess 4 years ago

    Lovely! :) Greaty name.

  • Elizabeth 4 years ago

    I’m broke & would love this as a chrissie gift!

  • trish 4 years ago

    swoon…

  • rob 4 years ago

    I am a long standing fan of “The Architects” and a fan of local Australian architects featured in this gorgeous book,I have brought three copies as Chrissie presents for friends, so I would love to win a copy to read and enjoy over my summer holidays!:)

  • Heidi 4 years ago

    love seeing such a great read!

  • Gina Ropiha 4 years ago

    Great to see the AAMI stadium and Fitzroy High got a plug in Mr Harrison’s interview … architecture might just be for everyone after all! The book looks beautiful and is a credit to both the author and designer -definitely a “new voice” worth listening to.

  • Cherie 4 years ago

    Wow. Absolutely inspired creations that show the amazing diversity of the Australian suburbs. Yellow brick 1960s spectre begone!

  • JacQueline 4 years ago

    Love to put this on my coffeetable

  • Stephanie Darling 4 years ago

    Oh I hope I could be so lucky! (although I would drool on every page)

  • Gerald 4 years ago

    Inspired article punctuated by consistently outstanding examples, illustrating the strength of Australian architecture.

  • caro 4 years ago

    oh i love the architects radio show – great to see stuart featured here. the book looks so inspiring too!

  • Jackie 4 years ago

    Ooh I love The Architects! It would be great to have a little piece of my own!

  • Matthew Collins 4 years ago

    Tripple RRR, Melbourne, The Architects, all worthy reasons to move here from the UK. Oh thats me!

  • Amber 4 years ago

    Walk through Melbourne Uni every day and never knew what a gem the car park is!

  • Andy 4 years ago

    Can’t wait to check out this new book, sounds really interesting.

  • ness 4 years ago

    Hot diggity!!!! What amazing vision and talent.

  • Myf 4 years ago

    It is always good to see Australian (and NZ) designers supporting Australian (and NZ) design. With energy bills and wether patterns getting more and more extreme its always exciting to see what innovative and often crazy solutions designers are developing.

  • Megha 4 years ago

    So going to be my BIBLE on good architecture!!……would love to have a copy!!…..:)

  • Cat 4 years ago

    Great looking book, I hope I win it!

  • Trinity Wilbourn 4 years ago

    Seriously incredible design. My husband is a LEED-certified consultant and this is right up his alley.

  • Raewyn 4 years ago

    Fantastic book, I dream of owning a home like one of these….

  • Sophie Travers 4 years ago

    At last- beach style! These umbrellas are so beautiful

  • hailey mc 4 years ago

    beautiful! x x x

  • Catherine 4 years ago

    Incredible house designs, beautifully designed book – thanks for introducing us non-Melbourne people to such an interesting and talented architect.

  • Tamara 4 years ago

    So nice to see T & H taking pride in our brilliant local architectural gems – very inspiring!

  • Jen 4 years ago

    Does this come with a coffee table worthy of putting this book on?

  • MS 4 years ago

    Looks like a good selection of projects, can’t wait to read it.
    I better get the office to buy it in case I don’t win. .

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