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Architect Will Smart on what inspires his work and keeps him sane

Architect Will Smart on what inspires his work and keeps him sane


The project architect on the fantastic Backyard bungalow project by Wolveridge Architects, Will Smart tells us what inspires his work and keeps him sane.

Designer/architect/artist who inspires your work?

I grew up in Christchurch and the school I attended had a number of buildings designed by old boy Sir Miles Warren, who was a founder of Warren and Mahoney. I didn’t appreciate it at the time; however, coming to study his work, particularly in housing, it was and still is very inspiring. One my favourite projects of his was a home he designed for his parents (as so many young architects start). It’s a version of the cottage form seen throughout Christchurch and New Zealand, but stripped back, introducing strong gable ends, cutting off the eaves and using raw materials such as concrete block to create a semi-brutal, modernist home. It was pretty out there for the mid 1950s, but it inspired many architects – you now see versions of this throughout Christchurch, such was his influence.

I also follow Fearon Hay, another New Zealand firm. The way they use a restrained palette, often not more than one or two materials externally, and their minimalist forms, are beautiful. I love Storm cottage, although I can’t tell if it is because I love the design or I just really want to live there.

Storm cottage by Fearon Hay

Storm cottage by Fearon Hay

Favourite book or film?

I can’t go past a great comedy, especially awkward comedies, and the Kiwis and British are pretty good at them. There’s a Kiwi film called Eagle vs Shark, which is one of my favourites, as well as the UK movie Death at a Funeral. On a slightly deeper level, Into the Wild, because of its message to appreciate the small things, and its fantastic sound track. More recently, with a little beauty of a two-year-old in tow, I’m sitting down to enjoy the likes of Moana and Happy Feet… and loving them!

Most inspirational space or place?

Coromandel bach by Ken Crosson. I think the first time I really sat up and took notice at uni was when Ken came and lectured us. He’d just completed this small bach (New Zealand beach house) and it was so simple in concept and form, with a palette of one material – timber. The concept was based on the idea that when you arrive on holiday you open your suitcase and when you leave you close it. The Coromandel bach does this, with the northern and southern decks folding down to open the home, and back up to close it. When open, it promotes views and physical connections from inside to out.

A lot of the projects that inspire me have pared back palettes, and having a father and grandfather in the timber industry, timber was in my blood. In this case, the texture and warmth of the timber gives you a sense of being away from the suburban home. I also remember loving the really basic concept of having the bath on wheels, so you roll it out onto the deck and fill it up out there. That just epitomised a holiday to me – ultimate relaxation.

I still reference this project when working through designs today and it was probably the start of my interest in small footprint architecture. Much like the Storm cottage, it’s my love of the design, but also just the idea of living somewhere like this, or creating these spaces for our clients, that excites me.

Coromandel bach by Ken Crosson

Coromandel bach by Ken Crosson

Favourite item in your home?

My surfboard. I’m terrible but it makes me feel younger and much cooler than I actually am!

Something you can’t live without?

A great pair of sunnies – the ultimate summer accessory. Or a comfy pair of trackies, because everyone enjoys watching a movie on a rainy Sunday arvo in a pair of trackies!

Photography by Patrick Reynolds and Jr Hammond

This article originally appeared in Mezzanine Volume 12, which is available now on news stands. 

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