Work-life balance allows young Australian architect to design out of the box

Work-life balance allows young Australian architect to design out of the box

He has been hailed as the “next big thing” and has been heaped with accolades for his wildly creative, playful and unorthodox designs.

Work-life balance built into fun homes

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    He has been hailed as the “next big thing” and has been heaped with accolades for his wildly creative, playful and unorthodox designs.
    But all that this brilliant young Australian architect wants is to continue having fun doing what he loves best – designing, drawing and building houses that people live in by combining great concepts with creative technical applications.

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    Among Maynard’s most recognised works is Hill House, an adventurous home built in 2011 for a family of five in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

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    A little hill clad in artificial turf is topped with a cantilevered box that cleverly acts as a passive solar eave that effectively cuts out the harsh summer sun but allows the winter sun to flood in.

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    “Each time I produced a good design, I’d go ‘whew, I pulled that off’. And when the next project comes along, I’d go into a panic of ‘how do you design again?’ It’s not like we have a template,” explains Maynard.

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    “We only work with one or two strong core ideas; not take a weak idea and patch up the holes around it. I don’t rush into a project or rush through it. There is always a rationale behind every idea we propose to our clients.

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    A translucent film in the shape of slender trees that reflects heat and glare and yet allows in sunlight was applied to the entire rear elevation of the building.

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    Within Tattoo House are spaces and elements that have multiple uses. For example the kitchen bench is incorporated into the stairway. These multi-functional spaces were to become a principle in Maynard’s designs.

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    In May last year, Maynard wrote an impassioned opinion piece on the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance in a field that was known for just the exact opposite of what he advocated. It created a buzz among young architects.

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    Maynard credits his varied interests in popular culture, including George Lucas’ Star Wars and Japanese comics, as what makes his work unique.

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    “I refuse to become the type of stereotyped architect who has to stop doing the things I love to become an architect. I like the variety of storytelling in comic books; it presents a different view of life and stimulates thinking.

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    “I think that the biggest challenge, regardless of age and experience, is to avoid cynicism and negativity. Architects can be such cynical creatures. I tend to be very hard on myself and I hope this keeps me grounded.

But all that this brilliant young Australian architect wants is to continue having fun doing what he loves best – designing, drawing and building houses that people live in by combining great concepts with creative technical applications.

“It’s really lovely that people say all these things about me. But frankly, it terrifies me. I earnestly do my best with each project but it’s not helpful to have all these expectations. Because at the end of the day, I just like designing houses and having an office with  just five people in it. I doubt I will be the next big thing! I am not interested in growing bigger. I am having fun with what I do and that’s to me the most important thing,” says Andrew Maynard, 38, at the KL International Architectural Design Conference 2013 (Datum KL), which took place last month.

A horde of mostly architectural students swamped Maynard after his presentation. Dressed in a blazer worn over a T-shirt, the young architect was approachable and friendly, fielding questions ranging from his design discipline to his hobbies which are reading comics and skateboarding.

At a time where homogeneity tends to dominate, Maynard slants towards what he terms as “urban eclecticism”, producing edgy, dynamic designs that offer intelligent solutions and are ecologically responsive without the slap-on labels of being “green”.

Online design blog Inhabitat has perhaps put it best: “Maynard’s work offers a flash of illumination toward the next generation of smart, compact, elegant home design. Each project begs a long, awe-inspired look and makes the future look like a very nice place to live.”

The Tattoo House first whispered Maynard’s name as an architect to look out for in 2007. A translucent film in the shape of slender trees that reflects heat and glare and yet allows in sunlight was applied to the entire rear elevation of the building. As much as Maynard’s exterior designs are always eyecatching, the interiors showcase the architect’s talents for practicality and efficiency.

Within Tattoo House are spaces and elements that have multiple uses. For example the kitchen bench is incorporated into the stairway. These multi-functional spaces were to become a principle in Maynard’s designs.

The Ilma Grove home, which was an extension to a 100-year-old brick home, was built from bricks obtained from the demolished rear section of the existing house that had previously blocked out the sun. A roof terrace that doubles up as a deck is clad with artificial turf selected equally for its vibrant softness, as well as, effective insulation.

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