Design & Decoration S01 ep12: Engelen Moore, Moore Architects, [Sydney]
Interview with Engelen Moore
I am looking at what it feels to be an occupant of a space, a transition between inside and out. It is so subtle that in many cases it almost does not exist and also you have this extension of space out into something beyond, whether it be a view, a courtyard or a landscape.
I subscribe more to the Italian model that whether you are going to be a
graphic designer, and industrial designer, interior designer or an architect, you
all study at the architectural school.
I am looking at what it feels to be the occupant of a space, a transition
between inside and out. It is so subtle that in many cases it almost does not
exist and you also have this extension of space out into something beyond,
whether it be a view, a courtyard or a landscape. And then structure becomes
incredibly important in achieving that because structure can be very sort of
masculine and expressive and big and gutsy to hold something up or in many
cases it is minute, it is almost not there and you get very large floating roof
planes and it is really about taking the structure out of it.
A lot of the projects that Ian and I are working are really within very tight
budget restrictions and probably quite basic building methods even and so we
are trying to use those basics to create almost sort of no frills good
People buying apartments in particular and houses, they know the difference
between clothes and cars, they should also be able to distinguish between a
good apartment and a bad apartment. And the developers have now caught on
that people do make these distinctions.
KM – But you'd rather have a "Prada" house, now lets be honest about it.
No, no, no.
KM – Tell me the truth, you would really, let me see what high heels you are
I am part of the Nartipora tribe and you do look at things like some of the Maori
buildings - very, very simple post and beam structures. Quite large spans,
quite beautifully done, light weight buildings and I think that that is something
that has been just sort of infused into me over the years and it always comes
We like to be able to use structural technique to actually get things to hover, if
they need to hover. Whether it is just to get cool air underneath the building or
elevate it further so there is a better view. But more particularly because there
are these desires on our part to open these buildings up to the environment.
The architecture should reflect the climate and the way we live and this is why
I have this affinity with the California Case Study Houses. Because they were
so appropriate and are still so appropriate for their way of life and their climate,
which is applicable here in Australia. Unfortunately we inherited this sort of
British Northern Hemisphere, masonry buildings, small openings, all these
things that are wrong for this country.
The people that I supposed inspired me when I was first in engineering and
then architecture were probably the British architects - the Fosters, the
Rodgers. One person in particular that was quite inspirational was Jean
Nouvel. He is not terribly French in one respect and utterly French in another.
But his buildings, the technology that he tries to incorporate in them, his
concepts of the way technology can be combined in a sort of a cultural way are
quite French but his buildings look very British in another sense.
We have got a cowboy culture in some ways…
KM – Really?
…which really helps young people here. We have got a "you can do anything"
policy here. Here they love the young and the new. And our motivation from
day one we didn't want to get out of bed, not for $10,000 a day like Linda
KM – 15,000 $
But to actually come here and do the work we wanted to do and so I think that
the five years, with some starvation in there, was to set ourselves up to that
point. And hopefully in the future we can get to the next point, which is to make
It is never going to be easy. Even talking to Jean Nouvel a couple of years
ago, it does not get easier. He said, "I still have the same fights I had when I
I was very, very lucky that because of my engineering they knew that I was a
frustrated Architect. And when I worked for Arap and Partners in London they
put me into an office immediately adjacent to Arap associates, their
architectural office and there was an industrial and offshore engineering
division at Araps. At the same time Norman Foster won the Hong Kong and
Shanghai Bank competition using the analogy of the North Sea Oil Platform as
the main structural frame for the building. Who does Norman Foster come to
within our empire to do the engineering - the Industrial and OffShore
Engineering group. So immediately I got into a building that was one of the
most significant buildings of the 20th century.
KM – Where you working on that?
For four years, I worked on that bank.
KM – What was Foster like, did you every meet him?
Yeah, I did. He used to just wander in to meetings and say 'what are you guys
talking about' and we'd say lifts. And he would say 'oh yeah, I've been thinking
about lifts" and he would open a sketchbook with pages and pages, right down
to the details of the ashtrays.
KM – In a lift?
Yeah, and this is the sort of way he thinks. You go through all this and so that
was quite inspirational for me at the time being sort of 20, 21 something sort of
like that and sitting in these meetings with this guy who is sort of like…
KM – Like God!
God at the time.
And that is where the ideas sort of come through that you think about the big
and you think about the tiny, tiny, tiny..
But it was particularly a guy by the name of Ken Shuttleworth who is one of
Fosters Partners now who was sort of a young, up and coming guy who was
really driving the bank project. I have got to credit him with a lot of the drive
that then pushed me back into architecture. He told me that, when I am sitting
in the Laundromat on the weekend reading books, the first book I should read
is Charles Jenks, "Modern Movements and Architecture" and I did, and that is
how I discovered the California Case Study Houses and all these other things
that were great.
That is what people do not understand about us, it is simple! It is simple.
Everything that we dissolve our ideas back down to it comes down to simple
KM: Yeah but the simplicity is a difficulty
Maybe everyone else is trying to be so way out there….
KM: No, no
Simplicity is extremely difficult to achieve.
Some projects fly and you have got to look for these flyers.
You always are striving to go somewhere where you haven't been before or
take an idea you had that either didn't come off, or you didn't get the
opportunity to use it properly to develop it further on and keep moving,
developing it, massaging it.
KM – There is a lot to do with immortality - you realise that!
Leaving your scratch on the earth.
KM – Really - it is like cave painting.
I think it is enjoying your time on the earth.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Engelen Moore, Moore Architect, Sydney