Award-winning architecture practice Taylor + Hinds was founded by two University of Tasmania graduates, Mat Hinds (BEnvDes 2003, BArch Hons 2006) and Poppy Taylor (BEnvDes 1998, BArch Hons 2006).
You both studied Environmental Design and Architecture at the University of Tasmania. Why did you want to become Architects?
"We both have very different approaches to the course, but we shared an interest in environments and people, and architecture seemed a good holistic consideration of both."
There is a growing recognition for your commitment to excellence in architecture, including state and national awards. Congratulations. What have been the highlights for you?
"The awards are nice professional recognition of our work, but the best highlights for us have centred upon memorable encounters with our clients. Their awareness expands when they see ideas manifest in buildings, and this is something that we have sought to foster in all our projects. We are often approached to solve spatial problems for people: too little space, a story to tell, or adaptation of existing fabric to new needs. Often the resolution of the work brings out qualities that were never specifically requested, but which help to strengthen the specific response and experience of the work. The highlights come when a client engages with the ideas we are revealing through the work. It can be seemingly simple gestures. We have letters from clients who write to us and express deep gratitude. They tell us we have helped them to realise something that they never thought possible."
What sets your practice apart?
"We are interested in stories and spatial traditions and feel that our Tasmanian context offers very particular insights in this regard."
Mat, you worked as an associate lecturer and honorary researcher at the School of Architecture and Design. What impact did teaching have on your practice?
"It allowed time to consider and articulate a direction, which has become foundational to our approach in practice. Teaching is a great privilege, and I was fortunate to have been taught by some of the most exceptional lecturers in the history of the School, the late Rory Spence primary among them. I also felt that it was important to teach in order to bridge the professional divide, given the School is located in Launceston, but the profession is largely concentrated in the south of the State."
You have a deep understanding of sense of place and respect for our natural environment. What does sustainability in design mean to you?
"Buildings outlive us, that is the measure of sustainability. It is a similar point to the question of heritage. If buildings are meaningful experiences for the community, then there is the prospect of these structures sustaining that experience for generations. If we seek to construct clobber, it is an enormous waste – and it is not supported by the tenets of our field. Making buildings is incredibly resource intensive, so we seek to ameliorate these impacts by designing buildings that are smaller, robust and experientially rich and purposeful."
Your project krakani lumi in wukalina (Mount William National Park) (pictured below in a photograph taken by Adam Gibson) received a National Architecture Award. The jury commended your respectful collaboration with the palawa Aboriginal custodians. Can you describe the project itself and how you collaborated with the custodians of the land during the design?
"krakani lumi is a kind of spatial device which furnishes the larger room of the cultural landscape it is situated within. It seeks to intensify the agency that Tasmanian Aboriginal people have in telling their story on Country. krakani lumi is conceived on a basic spatial principle of concealing and revealing. When not occupied, or attended by the Aboriginal community, it is a shadow in the coastal heath – quiet, protected, and inaccessible. But when it is opened, its interior life expands out across the country, and it is enlivened by story and togetherness. Our work with the Aboriginal Land Council involved a lot of listening. But it was also driven by an extremely strong cultural lead in our client. There was mutual recognition that architecture is also a cultural act, and that its engagement was a way of enriching the cultural story of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people."
Taylor + Hinds has received national recognition for heritage architecture. What responsibility do we have to preserve our built history?
"We have a responsibility to care for our heritage, but at the same time we must live in it and through it. Preservation and conservation are particular types of approaches to built fabric, which tend not to allow us to interpret the meaning of places – just ‘keep’ them. Cultural heritage relies on the shared identification of meaning in the fabric. This kind of engagement is precisely the focus of architectural endeavour – it is essentially a way of telling stories of certain places, over generations. That is why heritage is also something to be considered in terms of new work – because it is heritage for the future. We produce heritage when the architecture we envision has communal meaning, which endures."
When you are not immersed in your work, how do you spend your time?
"We are a practice, and a partnership in life, so our togetherness away from practice is often spent with extended family, generally near the coast. We spend a lot of time at the beach and love Tasmania’s coastal conditions. We decided to live here first, and practice here second. And with all that has occurred recently, we feel that we are extremely fortunate to live in Tasmania."
This article featured in the 2020 edition of the University of Tasmania Alumni magazine.
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