Talking Design with Simon Perkins

The exclusive architects for InForm, Pleysier Perkins is a busy studio based in the heart of Prahran. We sat down with Simon Perkins, the head honcho when it comes to all things architecture at InForm, to talk about the design process and some of his favourite works across the globe.

What is the most exciting aspect of designing a home to a client’s brief?

It is a privilege to be entrusted the responsibility of designing someone’s home. There is much practicality to consider in the design of a house, but ultimately it is a place for our clients to live in and enjoy, a place to share with family and friends that represents them and is an extension of them. This is why the design process must be collaborative and architects must be good listeners. It is very exciting to be part of such a meaningful and quite often, a once in a lifetime project for our clients, that will bring them much comfort, joy and pride!

What is the most challenging aspect of designing a home to a client’s brief? 

The successful realisation of home is often challenging – building costs are high, regulatory issues are plenty and there is much complexity in the structural and technical aspects of a house. However, our job as architects and builders is to navigate all of these issues in a local, efficient and intelligent way such that our clients are involved and informed but not overwhelmed or stressed.

What is the most common feature or design element a client requests in their brief? 

Light and aspect. It is not always expressed explicitly in a client brief but it is always paramount. Light and the play of light gives space life and a sense of optimism. Aspect is also fundamental to our sense of well being, which is why ocean views are so expensive!

In the absence of ocean views we must consider how an interior relates to its external context and how its potential is maximised. In the urban or suburban context the garden is critical, not just for its lifestyle potential, but also because it provides an outlook to enjoy from inside. A beautiful tree, a garden wall, a courtyard, water and sky can all add enormous value to the interior experience. Houses must be designed with consideration for the entire property – they are lived in and looked out of, as much as they are looked at!

Tell us a little bit about Pleysier Perkins’ partnership with InForm and what are some of the valuable things you have learnt from this and InForm has learnt?

InForm and Pleysier Perkins are united in a desire to produce superbly designed and constructed houses in the most efficient and intelligent way possible. As a committed team with a vast array of skills that are all fundamental to that goal, we are continually learning from one another. We are all passionate about what we do with a common desire to perfect our craft, hence it is a rewarding and successful partnership. A successful house can only be realised through the productive collaboration of a good architect, a good builder and a good client! I believe that the projects we have completed with InForm so far are a testament to that!

Which architect’s work do you admire most? 
John Pawson is working at a level of philosophical and technical rigour that is very inspiring. Although I have never experienced his spaces and I know I couldn’t live in one of his houses, (not with my family at least!), reviewing his projects is always enlightening and calming – great therapy at the end of the day. Locally I admire the rigor, technical dexterity and authenticity of Sean Godsell’s work.

Three favourite houses of all time?

Impossible to answer! Discovering Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in a book at the university library, when studying art history, was a major influence in changing my career path. It awakened me to the power of architecture and broadened my understanding of what a house could be. The  Neuendorf Villa in Majorca by John Pawson and Claudio Silvestrin is the tectonic opposite of the Farnsworth House, but again expresses the emotive power of simplicity and challenges one’s perception of a ‘house’. Harry Seidler’s Rose Seidler House, for his mother in Sydney, is modest but hugely influential in the history of Australian architecture. I also love his Killara House in Sydney.

If you could tour any house in the world, which would you choose?

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is an obvious choice but compulsory for any architect or client! To witness this incredible site and experience Wright’s architectural response is an example of what money in the hands of a genius can achieve! Frank Lloyd Wright’s clients, the Kaufmanns, obviously had impeccable architectural taste – they also commissioned the Kaufmann Desert House by Richard Neutra in Palm Springs, a seminal mid-century modernist work, which would also be on my list. But where would I like to stay? Marcio Kogan’s Paraty House in Brazil. Perhaps the ultimate beach house, and again an example of money spent in the right hands. Also, on the list would be Glenn Murcutt’s Marie Short House in New South Wales. This considerably less ostentatious house is apparently on Renzo Piano’s (designer of the Centre Pompidou in Paris) list of his five favourite buildings. An early classic Murcutt work, it is a lesson in structural elegance, simplicity and environmental sensitivity.