Design & Decoration S01 ep13: Robert McBride, McBride Architects, [Melbourne]
Interview with Robert McBride
We allow each other to express ourselves and let the other person's idea to run over over the top of our idea. Most architects have their idea and they don't want anyone tampering with that idea. What we have is a kind of strange symbiosis.
Ryan: Mc Bride, Charles, Ryan is a combination of three people who went to
RMIT and shared a studio together.
McBride: Each day we wanted to discover something new about, about built
Ryan: The way people live has changed and I think that a lot of the old built
form is not relevant anymore.
Ryan: I had fantastic lecturers, Patrick Macacky and Memory Holloway and I
wanted to continue in an arts field, by really how many curators does Australia
KM: So this was your practical way?
Ryan: Yes, this is my practical way.
KM: And Rob you were studying Math/Science?
Ryan: He always wanted to be an architect.
Ryan: Yeah, ever since he was a child and his father was an engineer and he
said don't do it, it's a cartel.
McBride: By the same token he was very supportive and probably kindled a
passion in architecture and form because he bought me lots of books on it.
McBride: It is almost like there are different stages of your life, you know when
you first come out and you graduate you think you know everything, and you
just cannot understand why no one is interested in building anything that you
do. That was a lot of the frustration of our early practice, and it wasn't
until......well we actually had to in a way sponsor a lot of our own projects. One
of our first major projects was one that we put together.
Ryan: our own development
McBride: To demonstrate to other people that we could do it.
KM: What were the projects that really helped you get noticed, so to speak?
McBride: I think that the most seminal in the early days was the three houses
we did in Port Melbourne, in Legon Street, unfortunately it was down a little
lane it didn't have big public presence but it was noticed by a lot of the
KM: What was innovative about those houses, for that time?
McBride: I think that instead of doing what a lot of people encouraged us to do,
is to break all the housing down and articulate it, into sort of higgledy-piggledy
little expressions, we said no. It can be about the big idea.
McBride” It was row housing in essence, it was saying, it was saying....
Ryan: This is one building
McBride: It was saying, you could live in a Palace, this could be like a palace,
even though you only own a little bit of it, you have this collective ownership
over this whole building. So there was that idea and also I think it was how we
tied those together. It was particularly the facade, how we tied it together, how
we used three-dimensional geometry and used the computer to explore that.
Ryan: It was a senior sort of curve and I think that was interesting in itself.
Ryan: I suppose it just came out of our own needs. We wanted to live close to
the city, we had not very much money and we wanted to build something so...
KM: So this was your three houses.
Ryan: Yeah! We built them with my brother and his friend. But I can remember
when I bought it, my father came down and he said, my goodness you have
bought a block of land that is the size of a toilet.
McBride: It was actually quite a lean project. It was all constructed with just
normal technology but then it had this other level where it didn't actually, didn't
look normal. It had, lots of things going for it, which I think was a stepping-
stone for us into further work.
McBride: It was a way of thinking about a building where say modernism, late
modernism was a very much about a system that overrode the whole building.
This was a different way; this was about language, so assembling a building
McBride: I think we have quite strong form, but a decorative sense that a lot of
other architects don’t have. I think the best.....I think it has evolved through our
practice and probably one of the best examples of it is, a house that we are
doing at the moment in Hawthorn. It is a dome building where we have
basically dismantled the dome, so we have got an idea, which actually runs
right from the outside, all the way through to the inside. There is no distinction
between the interior and the exterior finishes, they actually run into each other
so we it have happened differently if the partnership wasn't there.
McBride: We allow the other to express, we let the other persons idea to run
over the top of our idea so I think that what happens with a lot of architects is
that they have their idea and they don't want anyone tampering with that idea,
everyone has to go along. What we have is a kind of strange symbiosis I
suppose where we allow the…
KM: It’s a more open relationship.
McBride: Yes I think that is right, it is not a preciousness it is more…
Ryan: How can we make this richer?
McBride: For some reason in Melbourne we are interested in new ideas, but
we are also not afraid of ah....
Ryan: Going for it. (laughs)
McBride: Going for it and old ideas about decoration and about applied
textures and surfaces. We are interested in those as well and I think a lot of
perhaps overseas architects exclude that from their vocabulary.
Our clients are quite different, they are quite diverse. They range from hands
off clients who basically say, I have given you my basic brief....
Ryan: I have got no time, just go and do it.
McBride: Well you understand me, you understand my personality but I want
you to do... I want you to sort of push the idea. So we have that level and then
we have the other level at the other end which is much more involved, much
more kind of.
Ryan: Frustrated architects.
KM: Oh really.
Ryan: Yes, absolutely. We have one client who has been with us the whole
practice practically. We did a photography studio for him to begin with, and we
are now doing his house but he has said that he really wanted to be an
architect, but decided to be a photographer because he could make more
KM: How did you get on with the young Grollos? I've heard they are pretty
tough to deal with?
McBride: No good, they are no nonsense characters.
Ryan: If you are doing the right thing and they are happy with how things are
KM: You don't want to be buried in some sculptured cement or something?
McBride: Look they respect hard work, and they actually like to be challenged.
McBride: When we come across an idea that we know we can actually do it,
there is great joy, then there is the hard work, and then we build it and then
there is great joy again. There are like two moments and you do it for those
moments that is what you do it all for.
Ryan: I only think we have realised in the last year that our buildings are as
good if not better than a lot of building in the world.
Ryan: One of our first jobs was a cafe in Carlton, which we basically did as a
contra deal for our wedding,
McBride: You think you know everything, you don't really understand how the
industry works and you are just like the worst prima donna you could ever
imagine, so everything went wrong, you just spit the dummy, or you refuse to
do this or you refuse to do that and I think he really wanted to get the
restaurant open but he didn't particularly care, at the end of the day because
he thought he had done enough. So he got sick of me so he grabbed me down
the side lane and he said you don't understand that I could have you killed.
You don't understand who my friends are, and so I yeah sort of shut up after
KM :You became a mild, meek ....
McBride: Which I have been every since.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Robert McBride, Mcbride Architect, Melbourne