Learning Curve
Belle Magazine Australia|May 2021
Relishing the chance to be part of an industrial suburb’s rebirth, William Smart sculpted a former factory into a spectacular headquarters for his architecture practice, Smart Design Studio. This hybrid workspace melds utility and poetry, crested with an apartment where intersecting arches reach for the sublime.
WHO HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR ENDURING CREATIVE INFLUENCES?

William Smart: The architecture of [Portuguese architect] Álvaro Siza: it’s so original and confident (without shouting). I also love abstract sculpture, from the 20th century to now.

IS THERE A COMMON ELEMENT, AESTHETIC OR APPROACH THAT RUNS THROUGH ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK?

I believe in functional modernism and rigour. However, I know that emotive connection to architecture is real, so our work considers light, volume, harmony and delight. In our priorities, we put this above, say, structural expression.

WHAT WERE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR NEW HEADQUARTERS, AND WHAT INITIALLY APPEALED ABOUT THE SITE IN SYDNEY'S ALEXANDRIA?

We loved our last studio but, having been there 15 years, we had outgrown it. It was important to us that we find a space to comfortably fit the team of 40 on one level. We wanted to have dedicated spaces for the way we work – ample pin-up space, a model-making area and an organised material library. The character of the North Alexandria industrial heritage conservation area was a huge drawcard for us. We were excited to be a part of the regeneration of this neighbourhood.

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE IDEAS AND INFLUENCES THAT SHAPED YOUR ARCHITECTURAL CONCEPT?

It’s a contemporary version of an industrial building. Creativity, structural innovation and sculptural form are embraced in the new components that are built-in materials that are in keeping with the original construction. This project has developed our studio’s ambition to make, test, model and prototype new ideas, structures, technology and compositions. Constructed with durable materials, we hope that this will be our home until at least 2050, and for each element to last until that time.

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF THE SITE AND HOW DID YOU RESOLVE THEM?

Our vision for the vaults involved large panes of unusually shaped continuous glass that bridged the gap between the vaults. It was a challenge to have these cut to size, and the craning in of these pieces was really nerve-racking. We also embarked on making a comfortable home and studio without air conditioning. It was a true challenge to design and make compliant to current regulations.

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