INTERVIEW: Meet Andrew Piva from B.E Architecture
George Fethers’ Melissa Morphet sat down with renowned architect Andrew Piva from B.E Architecture and talked emerging trends and why Australia needs more iconic buildings.
How long have you been a designer/architect?
I have been working in architecture for architect for 15 years and have been with B.E Architecture for more than 10 of those years.
What sparked your passion for design?
Architecture was always the only career path I was interested in. I think I engaged with it at an early age, when my family renovated my childhood home and watching my brother do technical drawings in school. I went straight into architecture courses in university and really identified with the creative and methodical aspects of it.
What has been your most satisfying project to date?
It’s hard to pick a favourite. I was particularly close to Cassell Street Residence, Hopetoun Road Residence, Siglo Bar and Walsh Street Apartments and for all different reasons those projects have a soft spot for me and reflect the different architectural styles we were exploring at the time. However if I have to pick a favourite it would 57 Tivoli Road.
For us, 57 Tivoli Road was a conscious effort to really our work farther than ever before. The strong modern form, shifting bluestone cladding, geometric timber staircase were really challenging what we could create and in the process we learnt quite a lot and began developing many new custom details that have a major impact on the work we do today. After 10 years, the house is still quiet, yet strong in the way we hoped it would be from the start.
What are you working on right now?
We have quite a few houses as well as some interesting multi-residential and commercial projects currently in construction and developing in the studio. There are a couple new houses including one built from lava stone blockwork in Toorak finishing up right now – Canterbury Road Residence – and the chisel-faced granite stone is just going up on our Hampden Road Residence which is always fun to see. St. Vincents Place is one of the largest restoration and addition projects we have going on in Albert Park where we have developed a new series of details. Some of the projects on the go in the studio include a new house for our delightful client from Café Latte, Luca Lorusso and his family and a larger multi-residential building we are working in collaboration with Studio 505.
In my spare time, I’ve been working on restoration to my own house at the moment and my family is looking forward to having it all finished.
How do you balance your artistic flair with engineering/construction realities?
I strongly believe that you cannot do anything of particularly interesting in design if you cannot work out the logistics of how to make it work. We have quite a few ideas that develop across multiple projects in order to make the most use of our previous experience so that there is a vast range that use similar construction and engineering principles that we have found successful in the past.
You have to know when it’s appropriate to push the limits of engineering and buildability and when to pull back. Budget can always be the determining factor.
What do you believe are the emerging trends in materials?
We like to use enduring materials that are not based solely on trends – natural timber, stone, poured concrete, etc. Within the current trends there have been a few newer materials that have been coming out that have more of a natural weathered look to slot into that palette such as weathered organic metal finishes to tapware and door hardware as well as the more aged grey tone timbers in flooring and veneers and even the use of dusty colours more like Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. Those are the updates we are excited to see right now as they were things we used to have to work hard with craftsman to achieve and are now more readily available.
At what stage in the design process do you consider materials?
Second to site, we consider materiality at the very beginning of the project. You can’t consider the appropriate form without having an idea of what materiality will suit that form. We start the design process with working with the clients to see what they need and enjoy particularly the materials like and excited about and use that as one of the main factors. We continue to develop the materiality through the project as we are constantly sourcing new things and incorporating the best of the materials, suppliers, techniques and craftsman. There are some materials and techniques we have in mind that we are just waiting for the right client to use so in those cases we consider material even before the project starts.
What is your “dream” brief?
I hate to be cheesy but our client briefs are very close to my dream brief. If there was a new aspect of that work that interests me it is that we work really hard to create designs that have a sense of time that will have a positive legacy and I would really like to see that approach in a larger scale.
We have been developing some multiresidential projects at the moment – drawing from our bespoke residential experience but a bit bigger. The dream project for me would be to combine that with our multidisciplinary approach where we were designing everything from the building form to the door handle. It would be exciting to benefit from the economy of scale in things that take a long time to develop.
What building is “missing” in Australia ?
With the obvious exception of the Sydney Opera House Australia does not have many iconic buildings – the type of buildings people travel to see and one that will be in history books for years to come. The buildings I reference from early Modernism that have been around for more than a hundred years and still look modern such as the work of the greats Mies Van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer, or Pierre Chareau. The modern counterparts Chipperfield, Ando and so many more are regularly making these types of buildings that are current and relevant but will also be awe-inspiring forever. I want to see that quality of building as common place in Australia as it is in other places in the world.
What has been the most exciting project that you have partnered with George Fethers on?
We used George Fethers American Walnut at Cassell Street Residence in the kitchen and joinery. The grain, colouring and sense of timelessness fits perfectly with the design objectives for the project and Peter Clarke’s image of that kitchen is one of the favourites in our portfolio.
Recently I have also had the pleasure of developing a custom floorboard through the Bespoke range for my own house which has allowed me to get a raw, dusty coloured blond look. I’ve got the colour and brushed grain of a raw board bu the durability and ease of an oil finish. Having just recently seen it installed, I am thrilled with the result.
Describe George Fethers in three words?
Refined, natural, innovative.