Leaving a large firm and starting his own smaller practice has afforded Brisbane-based architect Shane Thompson a host of new freedoms and opportunities, as Ola Bednarczuk finds out.
October 6th, 2011
After 27 years at leading Australian practice BVN, including 24 years as a Director, architect Shane Thompson was keen to return to a more hands-on approach to design, where he had personal control over and involvement in each of his projects.
“My interests had developed more towards being personally hands-on in work; I was interested in new technologies, new media, how they could be applied,” Thompson says of the mood at the time of his sea change.
“I was also interested in a different way of working in terms of the sort of space I work out of,” he adds, explaining that he sought “a different sort of professional lifestyle” – a new environment, smaller studio, smaller group of people, the chance to explore different opportunities and get back to his core driver – design.
The result is Shane Thompson Architects, a Brisbane-based practice numbering between 4 and 6 people, taking on a range of small to mid-scale projects in urban and rural Queensland and interstate.
Current projects include a new boutique hotel which seeks to dramatically influence Brisbane’s still-developing urban lifestyle.
“I have an ongoing interest in tropical and subtropical urbanism, because that hasn’t been done very well in Australia to date,” says Thompson.
“The design of [this boutique hotel’s] public spaces,” he explains, “is intended to capitalise on the best ways of living a modern urban lifestyle in Brisbane.”
Sustainability is another of Thompson’s key concerns, not in the strictly engineering sense but what he calls a “poetic approach”, serving a larger idea of what a structure in a particular location should be.
“It means thinking harder about materials, and thinking harder about the social and cultural aspects of what buildings in that place mean,” he says, “and finding a way that brings them together which gives form and character to the building, the built form and the experience of the place, and also how it contributes to the larger sense of community.”
Working with a developer on office buildings in places like Chinchilla and Charleville in Queensland is allowing the practice to explore and develop these ideas further.
Thompson is not yet overtly committing to what Shane Thompson Architects is ’about’ as a practice, but one thing is for sure – that their work is relevant and has a larger social impact.
“It’s a practice which is not just about doing projects; it’s about teaching, it’s about engaging with not only the architectural and design community, but the larger community where we can make a difference,” says Thompson, who himself sits on a number of advisory boards, holds an adjunct professorship at the University of Queensland, and encourages his staff to engage in community and pro-bono work.
“We can’t work in a vacuum; we can’t work in ignorance of the fact that we’re likely to have lesser means in the future to build the things that our community needs.
“We have to have more insight; we have to be able to develop skills to interrogate the brief more, to evolve new programs, question assumptions, question the conventional wisdom, and take our clients and our work to places that we haven’t been taken before.”
People shots by Alex Chomicz. Studio interior and exterior shots by Christopher Frederick Jones
Shane Thompson Architects
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