Andrew Maynard is the founder and frontman of Andrew Maynard Architects based in Melbourne, Australia. This small practice has brought a breath of fresh air to the architecture community in recent years with their quirky designs and big personality.
Today, the studio boasts an impressive portfolio of projects, each individual in their own right and very different in nature, but all equally fun. These architectural gems have not gone unseen by the architecture world, as the studio continues to win prestigious awards around the world. Most recently, the firm has been recognised by leading architecture magazine Architecture Review as one of Australia’s most talented young studios in the business. Just a few days ago, their project Tower House has received a high commendation at WAF 2015 in Singapore.
Andrew has collaborated with Eleven as one of the judges in our Cambodia 2015 architecture competition.
In this interview, we meets up with Andrew to ask him some questions in order to gain some insight into his architecture world…
Eleven: What does architecture mean to you and how would you define it?
Andrew: Building is the what and the how. Architecture is the why and the what if.
Eleven: What made you want to be an Architect? Does that motivation still ring true for you today? And if you couldn’t have been an architect, then what would you have wanted to be and why?
Andrew: I’ve always wanted to make and build. I assume that we all wanted to make and build when we were young. I simply didn’t grow out of it. The motivation still rings true. I’ve always done my best to keep things simple and to make sure that architecture wasn’t a burden. Hence, I still enjoy doing what I do.
Eleven: Some architects are known for having a very particular visual identity (take Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry per example). You, on the other hand, have a whole range of very different aesthetics. Nevertheless, there is a unique and distinctive Andrew Maynard feel which unites all of them. What would you define this as?
Andrew: I’m told the same by many people. They tell me that they recognise my language/aesthetics. I try to make my work as much about the client as it is about me, therefore I don’t get the same sense of unity (to use your word). I’m not resistant to having a ‘particular visual identity’. However I’d get very bored very quickly if I was knocking out the same buildings all the time.
Eleven: What inspires you? What drives you? What turns you off? And what is the starting point for your designs?
Andrew: The starting point of each project is rather dull. I think about orientation and the sun. I’m old-school. I want to make sure that I make the best use of the site and maximise the use of sunlight. All the fun stuff comes later. I’m inspired by a wide range of popular culture. Comics, music, film, anime, video games all play a part in informing my aesthetic. Within architecture, I am most influenced by Japanese architecture, both new and old. I find the density of Tokyo particularly interesting. Australia is vast and empty. We naturally spread our buildings wide. Thinking, designing and building tall spaces on small footprints is counterintuitive to most Australians, however I find that we can do more with our sites and our space if we borrow clever ideas from constrained contexts like Tokyo.
Eleven: You stated once at a lecture that you are a fan of Archigram’s legendary founding member Sir Peter Cook. He was recently quoted saying that for every step forwards architecture takes today, it takes three backwards. Do you agree with his viewpoint? And if so, then what do think the right direction for architecture should be today?
Andrew: I’m a huge fan of Archigram and Cook. I’m really not sure what he’s referring to when he speaks of steps forward or back. Last week I saw Cook at the World Architecture Festival. He spoke a lot, yet made very little sense. I don’t think it was senility. I suspect that it was intellectual complacency. He’s playing the part of Peter Cook without the rigour of his former self. I’m going to stick with the optimistic 1960’s version of Cook.
Eleven: Do you have a secret bucket-list of buildings you would like to design during your career?
Andrew: I’ll be a bit disappointed if I don’t get to build a library, museum and/or gallery. I assume that every architect feels the same. I’d also like to design a skate park.
Eleven: A few years ago, in an interview with Archi-ninja, when asked about who you thought was the most overrated architect you mentioned it was you, and that there seems to be an unrealistic expectation on your small firm. A few years down the line now, do you still believe that is true? If so, how do you deal with the balance of positive attention and overwhelming expectation which seem to go hand in hand?
Andrew: My firm has not changed since that interview. We continue to design small things, and thoroughly enjoy doing so. I am no longer being called ‘the next big thing’ which is ok by me. The label ‘next big thing’ doesn’t really work when you are happy doing what you are doing. I’ve never been interested in trying to fulfil the expectations of others.
Eleven: What’s the most important skill you need to have as an architect in today’s world?
Andrew: Perspective. We are taught that what we are doing is very important (its not) and that we must suffer for our art. If architects took there foot off the accelerator then they’ll probably enjoy the ride more, and be exploited less.
Eleven: What do you think is the most pressing problem which architects and designers need to focus on in today’s context?
Andrew: We need to address housing affordability. We need to explore ways of (beautifully) housing a growing population that has an ever decreasing access to affordable homes.
Eleven: What’s next for Andrew Maynard Architects?
Andrew: Dunno. We are having fun at the moment and are in no rush to change. We don’t enter competitions, nor tender for projects. We simply wait for the phone to ring. Therefore the nature of the work will change as project enquiries differ. I’ll let things change organically.
Eleven: Ok, now for the final question. If you were interviewing yourself, what question would like to ask yourself and how would you reply to it?
Andrew: Lol. Interesting question. I don’t know. What’s for dinner Andrew? Lets have pizza and beer, again.
Eleven Magazine would like to thank Andrew Maynard for his time. We look forward to seeing what his studio produces next! Click here to visit their website and have access to their ever growing portfolio of quirky classics.