Some More Work In Progress - Victorian Auditor General's Office Interior

Nearing the end: some not very photogenic photos of an interesting interior now taking shape

We are now at the pointy end of the VAGO journey, with workstations and other joinery having arrived, and our brass, steel, timber and glass inter-floor stair finally being revealed. From this point onwards, a lot is going to happen very quickly, and we anticipate the appearance of the interior will further take shape and change daily as we near completion. The final touches will transform the interior from what you see in these happy snaps to the long-awaited, polished finished product.

Introducing the Team!

As of this morning, we have grown our little team to a not-so-little tally of 9 individuals, including John and Marcus. Here's a Team photo to welcome our newest team member, Amanda Triffon, who joins us fresh out of university. (That's Amanda towards the right of the group.) Welcome Amanda!

2017 is here, our First Really Big Year of Building

To all of our friends and colleagues who stumbled back into their respective offices and workplaces in the last week, welcome to 2017 and Happy New Year! 

Here at BCA the transition to 2017 sees us move into our first REALLY big year of building, with nearly $60 million worth of projects entering their construction phase. Our live projects range from apartment renovations to $25 million plus aged care facilities, with just about everything in between. This will be just the first of what will be hopefully be many years of building, and really signifies the end of our 'startup' phase. Exciting times!

The team has worked hard over the last three years to get so many large and small projects to this point, and now we can begin the fascinating process of seeing our ideas translated into actual building work - something you can kick your toe on!

New Workplace for the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office

Interconnecting stair detail

Interconnecting stair detail

The team at Baumgart Clark Architects is pleased to announce that the practice has been appointed as lead consultant for the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) workplace design project, to be located here in Melbourne’s CBD. Baumgart Clark Architects is delivering the project in collaboration with Nexus Designs and a range of expert sub-consultants.

The project is on a tight timeline, and we are collectively working through a range of unique design challenges. Building the design team’s understanding of the staff’s role in supporting the Auditor-General, who is an Officer of the Parliament of Victoria, has been extremely important. The Auditor-General and his teams’ activities contribute directly to the public good, and the proposed design responds in turn to the organisation’s values as they are applied by the staff in their day-to-day work.

This significant project is Baumgart Clark Architect’s largest workplace design project to date. The design will see the exploration and application of a range of contemporary workplace solutions. The project, which seeks to introduce elements of a new activity-based working methodology to the organisation, will provide a new workplace for staff in 2017.

The project’s timeline has required a level of intense focus and dedication, and Baumgart Clark Architects and the team are working in earnest to deliver this exciting project.

What is the point of an Architect's website?

Really? What's the point?

We have been thinking a lot about our website. The venerable baumgartclark.com.au is pretty rudimentary, although it has served us reasonably well and doesn't owe us any favours. What we have been particularly interested in is a broader question about the purpose of architect's websites, and how they serve the businesses they represent. I am interested in coming to terms with what the websites actually do, as opposed to what their owners assume/hope they will do.

Most architect's websites are about one or two things: the product (a 'gallery' or folio of goodies  - what the architect has done) or themselves (who they are and why they're good). Most architect's websites do not have much to say about the customer (let's not call them clients for a moment), or what they can expect when working with the business. Such sites tend not to discuss the client's businesses, worlds or challenges, and as such offer no insights to the visitor.

This customer/client-ignoring approach is as much about nuance as it is about overt orientation: the whole perspective of most architect's websites is 'let's talk about me/us', and 'what we/us can do' for you. You will notice that 'you' is the last word in that sentence.

What is the result of publishing such a site? What does it achieve? I would argue that it might achieve, at most, a mildly positive impression in the reader's/vistor's mind about the architect and their architecture, particularly if they like the work. That is, if the visitor can get over the impression of the site being like that bore at a party who spends all of his time talking about himself and how great he is. ('He' simply because they are almost always male.)

In the world of web communication analysis, this makes for a very poor 'exchange of value'; which is to say that IF you expect the visitor to spend time at your website, they should be offered something of comparable and reasonable value in exchange for that attention, or at least a seeming acknowledgement of their spending of valuable time. And make no mistake: your customer's attention ('eyeballs and clicks') is of real value in the current economy: actual money.

So what?

Well, we rethought the entire purpose of the architectural website, and built a speculative new one around the concept of the fair exchange of value between our business, and the visitor. Importantly, we also acknowledged that it is not wrong to include the 'folio' function - obviously - which remains important: only that it shouldn't be the principal focus of the website. Part of the package; not the point.

So our new website puts the customer front and centre. When you land on the site, the homepage asks in bold text: "Tell us about you." Below this are a range of links (to complete the phrase: I am from...) which encourage the visitor to identify themselves through selecting the appropriate line/link. This takes them to a page that offers the initial exchange of value: reflections on the customer's world (from our perspective), their businesses and their challenges, and how their concerns can potentially be addressed by our processes.

From this client/customer orientation starting point ('TELL US ABOUT YOU'), the site navigation moves left-to-right through the headings 'SERVICE' and 'DESIGN', and only then 'WHO WE ARE', 'TECHNICAL' and finally, after all other categories of information, the folio: 'PROJECTS'. 

So that's it: an experiment in resetting the orientation of the architect's website, while maintaining the 'architect's perspective'. It's not about changing what architects are, or what they represent: it's about swinging their point of view around onto the subject, the customer.

Keep an eye on baumgartclark.com.au, we go live in the near future.

The Ripe Fruit of 'Bad Design'

When we design objects such as furniture, joinery and buildings - in fact, almost anything with utility - we attempt to anticipate the circumstances of its use and shape the object or form accordingly. We all know this, and assume that it should be so. It is certainly a practical approach; and yet, no matter how hard we try to anticipate the future lives of our design products, the attempt frequently fails, in part if not in whole. 

Our world is littered with the fecund evidence of such failures, scattered about our lives like so much fallen and rotting fruit. The question I am interested in is this: what becomes of these failures? The language of design is imbued with morality. We hear of 'good' design and 'bad' design, rather than 'useful' or 'useless'. The greater good is always assumed to be design that is fit for its purpose - design like a glove that fits a hand. Anything bad, on the other hand, is summarily dismissed from consideration. 

Nevertheless, if you look carefully at these mistakes - these orphans of intention - they possess shape, form, colour and materiality. They typically also have pattern and proportion, scale and very possibly a mysterious utility outside of their original intended purpose. In fact, these errors possess all the qualities of their more successful cousins, the 'correctly' designed element; they have merely been cut loose from their moorings, drifting from their intended purpose into a no-man's land of extraneous or needless things. 

The example shown below is a perfectly round hole cut through a serving bench at a local café. The hole was evidently intended to allow passage of the cash register's cables into the joinery, but times have changed, and the register has been moved 400 millimetres to the left, making the hole superfluous. I find this hole fascinating. It is so carefully made, and so materially satisfying - there is something delicious about a nice, even hole cut through laminated materials. The edge of the hole as it passes through the stainless steel skin has been filed smooth, and the ply substrate is visible beneath, with its tooled striations. 

Nevertheless, this particular hole is currently useless. One can take all manner of lessons from the position of this hole, and pontificate about the unwise nature of some decision-making processes in detailed design, but really, who cares? Perhaps, as the hippies did to the barrels of the guns, we should put a flower in the hole. Then again, perhaps not. Ultimately, the world has another hole in it: all is well. 

Happy Second Birthday to Baumgart Clark Architects!

Hello there. In the last week, we passed our second anniversary! Yes, Baumgart Clark Architects opened its doors in July 2013, and we are now several days into our third year of operations. No time to celebrate; we are too busy to stop! Stay tuned for more news soon.

Another new team member!

This week we are pleased to welcome Patrick Hurley, late of Queensland, late of Westfield and now down south for the second time in his career, to join our team. Pat is a gun on Revit and a great all-rounder, and we are very pleased to have him on the team.

Welcome Pat! 

Check out our new website!

Another financial year is coming to an end (well, soon, anyway), and with our move to new premises complete, we decided the website needed a refresh. New look, new content - check it out here. Let us know what you think by emailing marcus[at]baumgartclark.com.au.