Brad Swartz Inteview Feature | Yellowtrace

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 

Chances are, you’ve probably seen his work over the last couple of years, even though you may not necessarily be familiar with his name. established his eponymous architecture practice in late 2015, following the completion of his own highly accolated Darlinghurst Apartment.

Brad has a knack for maximising small spaces. Let’s face it–given the rising cost of real-estate, coupled with a lack of inner-city dwellings–many of us are faced with needing to make the most of what we have and embrace the concept of living large in small spaces. So he is definitely onto a winner.

But don’t be fooled – this young main isn’t just your classic one trick pony. Having honed his craft working with Kelvin Ho at Akin Creative, and also at , (all this while completing his Masters of Architecture at UNSW, mind you), Brad become a registered architect in both NSW and Victoria. His background with high-end residential projects with some of Australia’s top design firms has taught him a systematic approach to projects, giving him a solid understanding of intelligent space planning and a purposeful approach to materiality.

Brad Swartz Architects is currently an agile practice of three, and while there is no doubt they still have a way to go and a whole heap to learn, it’s quite clear Brad is a young architect with his eyes on the prize. With a simple but powerful manifesto aimed at inspiring people to choose living in small, beautiful spaces, where design – not size – determines the quality of life, I can only wish him well in his quest.

Take it away, Swartzy!

 

Darling Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darling Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darling Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darling Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darling Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Darling Point Apartment. Polar White & Natural/Flint colour finishes were used in this project by .

 

+ Hello Brad, welcome to Yellowtrace and thank you for taking the time to e-chat. Could you please give us a quick introduction. When did you first become interested in the world of architecture? And what path lead you to start your business?

Probably my first interest in architecture would have been as a kid when my parents were building their house with an architect. At the time it seemed a little like building lego but on a much larger scale.

After designing my own place, getting some publicity and finding other people in Sydney also wanted to live in beautiful apartments and inner city sites starting my own practice seemed like the right thing to do.

+ What is your main priority when starting projects? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

We bring a very architectural approach to all our projects whether, they’re interiors or a new build. That includes a complete site analysis for light, cross winds, outlooks and orientation and privacy, and really discussing with the client their brief and understanding what they’re trying to achieve. Then, consistently in our projects we look look for ways to increase the sense of space and quality of light.

 

Macquarie Street Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Macquarie Street Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Macquarie Street Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Macquarie Street Apartment.

 

+ Your portfolio focuses on delivering clever solutions for compact residential interiors, servicing clients who generally want to maximise their homes through spatial solutions that enable living well in small spaces. How did you become interested in these types of projects? And what do you love the most about working with tiny spaces (and often modest budgets)?

It’s driven by a desire to show a better way of living in our cities, than expanding to the brim, and trying to live in a house on a quarter-acre block. Much of the rest of the Western world lives in apartments and they don’t think of it as a compromise. So we’re focussed on creating spaces and places that will inspire people to not see apartments as a compromised way of living.

 

Macquarie Street Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Macquarie Street Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Macquarie Street Apartment.

 

+ What role do materials and finishes play in your design development and final selections in creating hardworking dual spaces, that are also affordable while designed to last? In addition to material selections, are there any other key areas you pay extra attention to in your projects?

One thing that’s pretty important to us is to work within existing buildings and create spaces that are durable enough to past the test of time. When we’re doing that, that’s the most sustainable way we can contribute to the city developing. A byproduct of that is the materials become extremely important in what we do. Whether the place is rented or owner occupied, it’s going to last and five the ability for the next occupant to come in and make that their own, instead of needing refurbishment. That might mean combining something like Laminex which might be cost effective, and pairing that with a natural stone or timber, creating a combined effect that’s durable and beautiful.

Another key area we pay attention to are planning – which is key to the experience of place. It drives a balance between efficiency and just enough circulation space to define rooms or separations between spaces – even if they’re minor. Along wiht that is working out how we can use every corner and leftover space within a plan such as spaces left after the relocation of a major room like the kitchen. Often these are tight spaces that we have to figure out a use for – it could be display space, or something designed to house a particular object of the client’s – it could be a suitcase, or it could be designed around the dimensions of a plate.

 

Boneca Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Boneca Apartment. Photo by . Polar White & Natural/Flint colour finishes by were used in this project.

Loft House by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Loft House x 2. Polar White & Natural/Flint colour finishes by were also used in this project.

 

+ How do you organise and manage the competing demands of modern business and life? Do you have any tip or tricks you could share with us that help you in your day to day (i.e. software, online tools, shortcuts, task management, cheat sheets, advisors, anything!)

We’ve set the business up in a quite a contemporary way where almost everything is accessible online. Our servers are all online using Dropbox and we use an online timekeeping programme so all three of us can work from wherever and whenever it suits the project. It’s kind of allowed work and life to integrate into each other.

+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being an architect today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

The standard of design and architecture at the upper end is so high that it’s a real challenge to make sure you’re pushing the boundary and exploring ideas that uniquely express themselves. Residential work particularly, in Australian cities is phenomenal. The other challenge that architecture has always had is getting the other 95% of people who don’t use architects to value design.

 

Darlinghurst Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darlinghurst Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Darlinghurst Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Darlinghurst Apartment. Anthracite Natural/Flint colour finish by  was used in this project.

 

+ What are some of your methods to staying motivated, focused and expressive? And your top 3 main sources of inspiration and references you are drawn to regularly – i.e. books, magazines, websites/ blogs etc?

Instagram is a big one. It’s hard not to get drawn into it. At the other end of the spectrum, books that focus on one particular architect are great – for getting to understand someone else’s projects really deeply. Travelling overseas and seeing what work is being produced is another inspiration – and even more so is seeing how people live in other cities which are even more dense than ours. Last year I went to Buenos Aries – which is quite dense but it’s developed in a really organic way because of the planning controls. And next month I’m going to New York.

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other architects, peers and creatives in general do you admire?

For me architecture-wise, locally Glenn Murcutt is a big inspiration in terms of planning and design. I’d like to think I try and apply some of his philosophies of designing in rural areas – the integration into place for example, and designing specifically for a particular purpose, into my work in the city. A relevant example of this might be say the design if a child’s bedroom – Murcutt would design that around the size of a single bed, rather than the standard (generic) approach of making it a 3x3metre room for a double bed. Internationally, Peter Zumthor is probably one of our biggest inspirations, particularly in the way he uses materials and light. Inspiration outside of architecture looks to industrial design, because when we’re designing around these tight spaces, we have to approach it with a different scale of resolution.

 

Milsons Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Milsons Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Milsons Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Milsons Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Milsons Point Apartment.

 

+ What advice would you give to other architects who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practices?

Try to do something a bit extreme. Something that makes people question the norm, and what the norm should be. For me, it was doing my own 27 square metre apartment, designing it for a couple to live in. For someone else it might be using a certain material in a different way to how it’s been used before – for example the concrete blocks used by the Archier boys to make their Sawmill House.

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision, some of your goals (and some of your current projects)?

We’ve got a number of residential projects on the go, including the redesign of a 27 square metre apartment in a Harry Seidler building, a few new houses around Sydney— one of which is a heritage terrace house just down the road from our studio. We’re collaborating with industrial designer Henry Wilson on a rear addition to his offices, and we’re also keen to do some high quality residential work at the apartment scale, so we’re talking with a few developers, who might help us have a much bigger impact on living in the city.

 

Potts Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Potts Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Potts Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace

Potts Point Apartment by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Potts Point Apartment.

 

Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

Hmmm…is this a trick question? The best mistakes I usually make are those when travelling. I usually work out my trips as I go and plan pretty last minute – but the places and situations I get myself in to usually end up making for the best stories.

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Start your practice when you’re young, so you bring a lot of energy (and probably some good naivety) to it. That advice was given to me by Viv Marston, who I worked with before starting my own practice.

+ Your most treasured belonging?

My apartment. It’s my home, my original muse and launchpad.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

Despite me doing a lot of work in the city, I actually enjoy getting out of the city and camping, and being outdoors.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Glass bricks – the square ones, oh, and cork flooring.

 

Model by Brad Swartz Architects | Yellowtrace
Model of Eva Lane project.

Interview with Brad Swartz | Yellowtrace
The man himself.

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 


[Images courtesy of . Photography by , unless otherwise noted.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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