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Life Through Design With Andy Carson

25 Jun 2020 |  Design

Life Through Design


In the Life Through Design series, King Living explores the landscape of Australian design – both current and future – through the eyes of Australian designers, and how they interpret the Australian aesthetic in their work. In the second instalment, King Living interviews the award-winning architect, Andy Carson from Atelier Andy Carson. The architecture studio is one of the most exciting designers to come out of Sydney, with projects across Australia and internationally, establishing itself as a leader in high-end residential and commercial architecture.

King Living have extensively engaged with the breathtaking homes Carson designed for several of their campaigns – specifically the Range and the Headland both situated in the rolling hills of New South Wales’ south coast, Gerringong.

Life Through Design

The Headland - Photographed by Michael Nicholson, Tom Blanchford, Kate Ballis

The Headland was recently awarded the HIA-CSR Australian House of the Year 2019, a 400-square-metre residence consisting of three pavilions that form an open U-shape structure designed to embrace the challenging elements whilst protecting the central courtyard where a pool and fire pit resides. High atop the property, the minimalist-style home has a sharp angular façade clad twice in stone and zinc and cantilevered to create a gravity-defying illusion.

Life Through Design

The Range - Photographed by Michael Nicholson, Tom Blanchford, Kate Ballis

King Living: Do you have a signature style?

Andy Carson: I wouldn’t say I necessarily have a signature style, but I do have a specific approach. I use Modernism and Minimalism as a basis, but the designs are very much a reaction to the site conditions and client. I guess you could say modernism is a basis that is then distorted or manipulated toward particular problems and opportunities. I am always seeking to give clarity and a finer focus to the landscape, light, and passing of the day or season. I see Architecture as a filter for viewing the world and creating a calm sanctuary and point of reflection for the occupants.

Where does your inspiration come from?

AC: First and foremost, the site! Once I meet the client and visit the site, ideas naturally start to bubble up. It’s really a mixture of instinct and experimentation and grappling with solving the puzzle. My biggest driver is not wanting to waste an opportunity and never wanting to feel we didn’t ask enough ‘what if?’ questions. I am constantly inspired by other architects’ and designers’ work throughout history and of course from the natural environment.

Life Through Design

What do you think defines Australian design?

AC: I think it’s an interesting blend of European sensibilities with the more pragmatic concerns and a certain relaxed and informal approach. We have a great history of ingenuity and innovation, and there is a certain timelessness and restraint evident.

Life Through Design

We have shot campaigns at the range and headland Dovecote properties you designed, what was the brief for that project and how did you approach it. Each building has a very distinct style.

AC: Both houses are a reinterpretation of the modern farmhouse but on different scales and with different objectives. The clients had quite a developed brief of what to accommodate, and they did stipulate that the guest house should be far simpler and have the appearance of a ‘farm shed’, but other than that we had much freedom to explore.

The Headland is the main 4-bedroom house and is perched high up on an exposed section of the property taking in all the expansive views, it was a no holds barred high-end reimagining of a modern farmhouse and gives a sense of being connected but floating within the landscape. It consists of three pavilions that form an open U-shape around a protected courtyard, which includes a pool and fire pit, it is set up so you can move around the space and always find a sheltered spot no matter what the season or conditions.

The Range is the smaller two-bedroom guest residence, a more simple rectangular form with a pitched roof mirroring the steel dairy sheds of the farm, it offers a completely different experience to anyone staying at the property, a more contained grounded connection to the farm with stunning sunset views of the Illawarra escarpment. Its palette is darker, moodier and it doesn’t hide its steel framework, whereas Headland house is very clean and minimal and bright with nothing to detract from the outstanding views.

Life Through Design

What do you think the future holds for Australian design?

AC: It’s pretty bright currently. We are definitely part of the conversation internationally and there is a wave of interest and respect for our work. I’m often amazed at all the new designers and independent makers popping up all the time with a high calibre of design and craftsmanship. It’s usually in international articles and journals that I see these fellow Australian designers for the first time – it’s great to see. Not too long ago it seemed we were in a fishbowl looking out at the world and we often felt somewhat separate. I think there is some level of ‘the exotic’ or a specific defining character to our work that is appealing. It’s not always easy to see from the inside!

Life Through Design

Do you think this pandemic will change the way people view their homes? More integrated working from home solutions etc.

AC: Yes, I think it undoubtedly will, already I have had requests from clients to include more dedicated office and study areas in our projects. I do think we will still be working together in offices physically but the split between office and home will increase rather than being more rigid.

If you had to articulate the Australian Design aesthetic in 5 words, what would they be?

AC: Independent, Confident, Endemic, Pragmatic, Accessible!