Mitsuori Architects Interview

We recently interviewed the talented Matt and Mel from Mitsuori Architects to find out a little more about their successful business and why they incorporate hardwood timber in their designs.

1. Please tell me a little about yourself – how did your career develop to now directing Mitsuori Architects?

Both Matthew and myself started our careers in commercial practices. After 8 years working on a broad range of small and large scale projects in Australia, UK, Europe and USA, we decided to start Mitsuori with the aim of creating architecture that is highly personalized and carefully crafted. We are strong believers that a design needs to be resolved at both macro and micro scales.

2. What does it mean to be Director of Mitsuori Architects?

We are small practice and both myself and Matthew oversee the direction of the practice together. Although we are responsible for making high level strategic and design decisions we involve our design team in almost every aspect of a project as they are able to contribute so much to achieving the final built outcome. We are very fortunate to have a team of talented, like minded people to help us bring our projects to life.

3. Describe Mitsuori Architects aesthetic?

We didn’t start out with a particular aesthetic but as the practice has evolved over the years we have tended to focus on creating simple, elegant and thoughtfully composed forms constructed from natural materials.  We like to show off the inherent beauty and qualities of materials such as timber, concrete, glass and metals.  We aim to balance aesthetic values with a high degree of functionality and practicality. As a result our designs often feature composed building forms and well resolved building and interior details.  We have always believed that a building needs to be well resolved at both the large and small scale. Working in our own practice has allowed us to achieve this.

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4. What was your favourite project to work on, and why?

It’s hard to choose a favourite!   Very early on in the practice we had a wonderful opportunity to work with a charity called Animal Aid to design an animal welfare facility that would have been one of the most innovative in the world. The client at the time had extremely high ambitions both in terms of the facilities design and its environmental sustainability and social responsibility.  We had a wonderful experience learning about their people, the organization and their values.  It was an honor to be able to create a vision for development of the site for them.

As the practice has evolved to what it is today we have found that we really enjoy our residential and community projects as we get to work so closely with our clients to understand how they want to live and work in a space. Private homes are so personalised and it really is a joy to be able to work with our clients to create a place they will inhabit and enjoy every day.  We are also fortunate to have established great relationships with builders and consultants.  On many of our projects they are just as committed to achieving a brilliant built outcome as we are and it is fantastic to be able to take clients with us on that journey.

5. Who or what inspires you?

Thoughtful, well composed and well executed design. This is only possible when we are working with clients who understand the value of good design and are committed to achieving it.  Not all our clients have high budgets and the choice to employ an architect is a big one.  It is inspiring when someone engages us and goes on the journey with us even though their budget is tight and they could easily have gone to a draftsperson or builder to do their project for less.  They are willing to pay more for good design, and these are the people we never want to let down as they put their trust in us to help them create something special.

6. What does a typical day at work comprise of?

Coffee.  Emails.  Phone Calls.  Talking with our design team.  Sketching and drawing.  More coffee…

7. When designing a project, what draws you towards using hardwood timber? 

Hardwood timber is such a beautiful and versatile material. We often use it to bring warmth and character to a space.  It is also durable, cost effective and sustainable.  We used Victorian Ash extensively our residential project in South Melbourne that you have published, as it not only achieved a wonderful design aesthetic but also meet the client’s requirements in terms of durability and budget.

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8. How can others incorporate timber into their design?

We find it is never hard to find ways to incorporate timber into a project as it is such a versatile material that can provide natural character and richness to any building.  But in order to do this successfully and achieve your design intent we think it is important to have a sound understanding of timber species and products for treating timber.  Over the years we have gained a lot of experience working with various timbers species and timber products.  We have become very particular about which timbers we use and what products are applied to them.  At the end of a project we want to look at the timber components and know that we have managed to get the right look for a space and that we have treated the material with respect.

9. How has this industry changed in terms of creating sustainable projects for clients?

Architects have been thinking about the sustainability of buildings for a long time, and it is great that sustainability has become more of a focus for clients as well, and that there is generally a better understanding of what is involved in creating a sustainable building.  These days clients are also more exposed to sustainable building products and technologies.  Sustainable building products and materials are more readily available and generally more affordable than they were in the past. This makes it easier for us to open up a dialogue about integrating these things into the building throughout the design process.

10. What advice would you give architects that are just starting in this industry?

Take the time to get the best work experience you can and explore as many aspects of the industry as you can. Breadth of experience is important to enable you to understand what type of architecture you want to explore and the right type of experience gives you opportunities to really engage with all the different facets of design and construction. Every project is different. Every client and site is different. Architecture is never boring or static. Always have an open and curious mind, and never stop learning!

Take a look at their collection of spectacular projects at www.mitsuori.com

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