Design partnership Collins and Turner is known for their standout structures which are cleverly moulded into their surrounds.
HUW TURNER IS WELSH and grew up in a 19th century worker’s cottage on the top of a mountain in South Wales. In contrast, Penny Collins was raised in Sydney’s Mosman Bay in a home her architect father and mother had designed in the mid-70s. This iconic, inventive house was clad in fibreglass panels with interior walls of the upper floor lined in black felt while the lower bedroom level was starkly white. Furniture was cutting-edge Italian designs from Angelo Mangiarotti, Vico Magistretti and Alessandro Becchi. Turner laments that, “until the advent of [architect] Richard Rogers’ futuristic Inmos factory, which I saw every day on the school bus, 90 per cent of new builds in Wales were a historic pastiche”. The pair met in the 90s while working for architect Norman Foster in Frankfurt on the team designing the world’s first ecological office tower, the Commerzbank headquarters.
In 1995 while working in London on the ‘Gherkin’ building they took on a project for a friend – a simple retreat in Bombala, NSW. “When we’d get home from working on this huge project we’d start sending faxes to Penny’s dad who was the site architect,” says Turner. The project attracted press, which generated a project in Sydney’s Balmoral. “This was a large-scale renovation mostly designed from our dining table in Pimlico. But it did provide the impetus to move back to Australia and set up our practice,” says Collins. This led to a string of increasingly large houses in Sydney, a pair of twin houses on Boomerang Beach (it was rumoured that Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to acquire one) and some complex renovations where ingenuity and structural acrobatics came into play.
It is fascinating to learn how a couple who also partner in an architectural practice work. Both attend client briefings together. “We hear different things and hear things differently. Later, we debate the intonation of what was actually meant!” says Turner. Then each comes up with a design scheme. “Sometimes they are remarkably alike, at other times completely different,” says Collins. As a practice the pair are extraordinary lateral thinkers and canny problem solvers, which the following three examples make clear.
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